For two weeks, I am in Thailand Expat Bliss.
I wake up when it gets light (because for the first two weeks in Chiang Mai the sun refuses to glow) with a huge smile on my face. The smile never leaves. I walk to work like a child seeing the world for the first time.
Huge trees tied with colorful ribbons!
Tuk tuks honking to give me a ride!
Incense wafting through the thick, humid air!
Street cats and street dogs eyeing the new stranger in their land curiously!
Fruit shakes for breakfast! Lunch! Dinner!
An inherited family at my apartment building!
Yes, I am living life with exclamation points. Never-ending exclamation points.
On the way home from work, the night is a story of endless possibilities, mostly which circled around Ciccia’s House, the haunt of those who live in my building. Most nights I sidle up to one of the wooden benches and have an icy cold beer with my new friends.
I meet AG the second night I arrive to Chiang Mai, when I am being verbally jumped by one of the older men, Papa. (Who I have come to fully adore, despite his tendency to proposition me after a day of drinking.) The third night of my new life, the power goes out at the apartment, so I find myself sitting downstairs at the little mart having a beer and chatting with him. Which evolves into dinner. And more drinks.
Just like when traveling, suddenly I have a fast and furious friendship. Whenever I am not at the office or writing, chances are I’m hanging with him. Which is awesome. He’s been living here on and off for years and imparts wisdom in regards to how to blend in, where to go for a drink, how to get around. Quickly, AG becomes someone I can confide in. My friend.
Over nit noi drinks, we sit and talk and laugh and joke and I can’t believe how lucky I am. How fortunate I am to have a friend I can talk to so quickly.To feel so comfortable with in a matter of days. I look forward to heading down the road to my place and seeing him sitting at Ciccia’s and knowing I have someone to talk to for the night over a large Leo (or five).
But, right before Week Three of Life as an Expat, his girlfriend comes to town and he all but disappears; I get sick. And suddenly, when faced with long nights sitting in my apartment — which is really just a glorified hotel room — it hits me.
I am alone.
For five days, my company is my music and I turn into a reflection of whatever song it is I am listening too (mostly sad music about being loved, not being loved and missing people).
Three weeks ago none of these people even existed in my life. I had friends. I had a life. And now … I don’t have anything.
(No one ever said I wasn’t a tad dramatic.)
That’s the thing about being an expat. When you leave America, when you leave your comfort zone, you don’t have anyone to rely on but yourself. Granted, this is nothing new to me, but still … to have it suddenly slam into your face with such a fury, witch such a quickness, it stings beyond belief.
Being an expat, in those early stages is lonely. Lonely, lonely, lonely. Going from family and friends to alone is a rude awakening.
I get mad at myself for thinking I am immune to the lonely. That the glow is permanent. For thinking that I have it all worked out and, thanks to AG, have someone to fight off that alone. Of course, I know better. The entire time, I know better and yet I am so caught up in the moments, so happy to be on Cloud Nine (even for a short time), that I ignore the ever louder voice in the back of my head — “this will have repercussions soon.This is not how your life is going to be here.”
And, when the soon hits, I hate it. Despise it. Get into a war in my mind over it.
Why did you get comfortable?
What were you thinking?
And I relate those thoughts to every facet of my life.
I sit, staring at the window in my room (even though the curtains are drawn) and silently wish for human contact. A phone call from a friend at home. A knock on my door from a neighbor wanting to see how I am. Anything. I just don’t want to be alone because, for the first time in a long time, when I am alone, I start to feel like I am sinking.
For one week, I walk around in a self-induced pity party of annoying, paired with a nasty little bug. I turn on Coldplay and Damien Rice and let their sad words drown me. I stare in the mirror and wonder where the old D went, the one who saw everything with wonder and bliss.
Then, one night, on the way home from work, it hits me.
I am in Thailand. I am an expat. I did this. I followed my heart. I followed my dreams. And, everything lead me here. Maybe a rough patch isn’t such a bad thing. It’s part of life. If you don’t have the not so good, how can you have the amazing, knock-your-socks-off wonderful?
And, as quickly as my life grew empty, my happy came back.