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.
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.
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!