2017: personal peaks and valleys
The greatest blessing and yet also the most terrifying curse of living a nomadic lifestyle is the freedom. It's the liberty of choosing your next step more often than most have an opportunity to do; the rejuvenation of change; the joy of seeing new places, things, and people.
It's also, for me at least, like having an existential crisis every week.
The panic attacks started sometime this past summer. It had been a blissful six months — I'd gotten past the initial culture shock of living in Vietnam and settled into the routine of my new job (teaching English). I'd met some incredible friends and fallen in love. Perhaps most importantly, I'd finally got the hang of ordering food in Vietnamese and could finally feed myself properly, feeling like a normal human again.
I have a family history of anxiety and depression. But for the most part, I had always managed to avoid that burden and lived my life as a blissful optimist. I was the lucky one, the happy one. I am the eldest daughter who lives with adventure and no fear. Until one day, someone decided to fill my head with buzzing bees. There were rocks in my shoes, a weight on my neck; everything was heavy.
Some of this was situational. In the summer, many of my friends moved away from Ho Chi Minh City onto their next adventures. I found myself wanting to do the same for the first time since living there. Additionally, there was a literal construction site next to my bedroom window and I felt that I had no personal space. I also developed some health problems due to my asthma and the air pollution in Vietnam. Anxiety spiralled from there, quickly, in a form that I can only describe as existentialism.
Have you ever felt so deeply overwhelmed by all of the possible paths your life could take that you just want to curl up into a ball and ask your mother to make decisions for you? This was me... for months. See, I went to university right out of high school. I got a job right out of university. I then left it to teach English. I followed the steps I wanted to follow and always felt confident in my decisions. I had never felt so deeply lost before.
It's now 2018, and I look back on this year as one of the absolute best and at the same time, the most intensely challenging time of my life. It's been a year of: Adventure. Love. Growth. Learning. Exhilaration. Confusion. Panic. Questions. Searching. Finding.
My dad told me recently that we can only know the greatness of joy if we experience the lowest of lows. I agree with him.
This week I read Rupi Kaur's newest book of poetry the sun and her flowers. Below is a poem that resonated with my year. Reading it gives me strength for 2018.
Isn't that beautiful and heartbreaking at once? It's okay if you cried. I did!
As I write this reflection in my family home in Canada (where I am for the holidays), I am calm. New Years resolutions are welling up organically. Coming to terms with a rough patch in life, and specifically being able to name mental health struggles for what they are/were, has been the best kind of therapy. I haven't worked out all of my path for 2018, but I'm working on it. The year's going to begin with some extended travel plans; I think that's a good start.
What are your plans for 2018?