the year of living for me
Big droplets of rain pummel the tar as we sit under the cover of a metal roof, watching the late-season storm cleanse Chiang Mai. Over icy glasses of Sangsom and Coke, and boozy chat about how to not get sucked into the abyss of Chiang Mai Expat-ness, an idea is born: 2014 is going to the year I get my shit together. Like, really get my shit together.

For more than a year living as an expat in Chiang Mai, I was caught up in the tricky social scene here. Maybe one exists where you are, too. It is one where a mass of people come together, not all like each other, but all are this weird mesh of a family. Days and nights are spent together and the one thing in common everyone has is that they are all there. They are all on the Ride of Expat Life together.

It isn’t always pretty, and at least here, in the circle I have, it involves too many nights swapping tales of past moments, cheap beer and being out way past well-behaved.

So, that day last December, over the sweet Thai whisky and brainstorming, The Comfort Zone Project came to life. The goal: to work on becoming a me I liked. Loved.

I’ve always been open about my battle with depression, and even when I don’t feel sad, depression has always lingered over my head, threatening to drip back into me. Last December, it was ready. It was waiting.

Instead of letting it take over my mind again, I made a conscious decision to fight it. To fight for me.

Working out, living for me

For a year, I cut down on the booze, I dropped 20 kilos, I worked out like a mad woman, I dated (read: tried to, this is Chiang Mai), I put down boundaries, I traveled, I started to do things for me. And, along the line, I fell in love with the person I had become.

I looked in the mirror and smiled.

I looked at my jungle streets, my makeshift family, my friends, my animals, my life in Chiang Mai, and I fell back in love with everything.

I opened myself up to finally learn from others. To appreciate what makes us different. To not judge. To be honest and communicate and stand up for myself.

But, most importantly, I learned to surrender the control. To realize every person is fighting their own battles, and how others choose to act has nothing to do with who I am as a person. I learned to not take things so personally. To be mindful that we are all human, imperfect, beautiful. To be graceful. To love. To let go.

Love life, living for me

As my time begins to run ever faster, and my new visa-exempt stamp ticks down the days until my Christmas departure from the city I call home, it has finally hit me how much I grew up here. How this little SE Asia town made me who I am and saved me.

Today, as 2014 is in its countdown, I sit here, in my little teak bedroom, Mr. Lucky sleeping at my side, and count my lucky stars for 2014. For the memories I have made. For the people who have shared my experiences. For the times where all I wanted to do was quit, and for those little triumphs which dot my landscape.

I’m not doing a countdown post (but if you want to relive 2013’s magical moments, here you go). I’m not doing much of anything these days but sorting out the remnants which mark my time in Chiang Mai and living in the moment. If things go quiet here for a few weeks, it’s because I’m out living and appreciating every moment I have in this beautiful world.

Happy New Year!

 

34 comments

  1. A close family member of mine struggles with depression, so I know how hard it can be and how many ways it affects his life. I felt so happy for you reading this post and how you’ve made so many positive changes in your life this year. This is an important reminder for us all to enjoy life more and be grateful. Happy holidays!

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    1. Thank you, Jenna!! Depression is such an ugly beast. I remember times when I would look in the mirror and just cry because I hated what I was seeing. I’ve come along way since then, but it won’t ever go away entirely. Coming to terms with the fact that I can control me and only me has really helped though. Thank you for your support!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your journey. We have to be comfortable in our own skin – it’s all we have. It sounds like you’ve finally found that comfort. Best wishes as you continue your love affair with what life has to offer.

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  3. Great post Diana, thanks for writing and sharing it. I am writing something a little bit similar — and I have also battled depression — but my revelation came recently and I am in the early stages of reclaiming my life, and becoming the person I want to be, the person I aspire to be!

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  4. Chaing Mai has been such an interesting, uplifting, maturing place for you.,it’s great that you truly know & love yourself now. It has also been interesting for me to read your blogs & follow your life in that beautiful place & both Peter & I wish you much happiness & success in all you do wherever you are. We will miss you when we next go to CM & ENP. Love & hugs xxxx

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    1. Thank you so much. I am sad I won’t see you next year, but I plan on being back in the area shortly thereafter. Perhaps a trip to Aus is in order? I love you both. Thank you for your support all of these years.

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  5. London and Berlin shall further the positive changes Chiang Mai kickstarted in you, I’m sure. It’s great you were able to shed your depression and come to love yourself! I’m all too familiar with extreme depression, and I know it IS possible to turn our life 180º even when it seems as though we hit rock bottom and quitting is the only option.
    So you go and rock that 2015, Diana! 🙂

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  6. Love, love, love this post. Well done for taking the initiative to change the parts of life you weren’t happy with and huge congrats for seeing it through. Enjoy every moment of your last few days in Chiang Mai and all the best for an awesome 2015. I think I might take a leaf out of your book J x

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    1. Thank you, Jayne!! Leaving CM was incredibly difficult. I’ve only been in London less than 24 hours and it hasn’t hit me at all that I’ve left my home and created another one.

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  7. Oh well done Diana! Hard to go through the process, especially so publicly but you did it and I am proud of you. So is it a secret what is next? Can’t believe you’re leaving, I somehow thought you would stay longer, like forever? hahaha I had a hard time leaving the elephants after 2 weeks, can’t imagine how it will be for you. What will happen to Mr. Lucky?

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    1. Thank you, Donnae! It isn’t a secret — I just moved to London yesterday and will be here for a few months before I head to Germany. It was a very hard decision for me to make to leave Chiang Mai, but it was the right step to take at the time. I plan to return one day! It was extremely hard to leave; plenty of tears were shed. As for Mr. Lucky, it is my intention to bring him and Penelope to Europe. Lucky needs to get his rabies antibodies up, so it will take a few months, but planning on May if all goes well! Leaving them in CM was probably the most difficult part of leaving, those two are my babies. Lucky was my shadow and it was devastating when I heard he did not pass his test.

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  8. Thanks for re-posting this! Just read it for the first time. I had a year like this, 2002 & the year I turned 32, and I was in Manhattan/New York City. Was a rough year and I did A LOT of self-discovery but I think it made me a better person. Glad to hear you realize how great you are. Funny thing about our lives is that many times others know we are great but it takes a while to figure it out for ourselves.

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