It's been... let me verify really quickly... 8 months and about twenty five days since my last post. No, I'm not in Thailand anymore. In fact, it's not even 2013 anymore. As the days go by, the farther away I get from the experiences I lived and the people I loved while I was abroad. This is okay. This change is beautiful. I'm writing this post on a (Californian) winter day. It's about sixty five degrees outside, and I'm writing from the desk that looks out onto my street. Directly in front of me are three wide windows where my friend and I fashioned a makeshift curtain out of a large piece of Thai batik fabric that I purchased around the days of Songkran back when I was still in Yasothon. It's dispersing the light quite nicely, and there is nothing physical in my life at the moment that is making me uncomfortable in any way. I am in my element-- my little dome of safety and spontaneous yet infrequent creative thought.
It's sometimes hard for me to reconcile and/or compare my thoughts on exchange with the others I have talked to. I've noticed that although everybody gets something different out of exchange, that maybe I get something... strange out of it, or that I have yet to find the people that have gotten the same things out of it that I have. Let me attempt to explain.
Thailand made me physically and mentally uncomfortable every single day. I didn't wake up once and think that I am where I am most at ease. Whether it was in the beautiful room I stayed in with my host family in Yasothon, on a thin matress on the floor of a bamboo thatched hut, tangled among mosquito netting in a dorm-style guest house with no air conditioning, or sleeping beside one of the Belgians after a late night of exploring Bangkok, I never felt quite at home-- but I got used to it, and came both to appreciate and love the excitement of what was impossible to call my own. In a strange way (although, it's really not so strange, is it?), this perpetual discomfort made room for the most insight and imagination that I have ever experienced in my life. Words flowed from my brain and onto blank pages at rates so fast that my hand cramped and my agile movements could no longer keep up with the ideas I had in store. How peculiar that in a country that moves so slowly, my conscious 'esprit' was moving at the speed of light.
Whether it be Thailand or France, exchange wrenched something from inside of me and released the floodgates of my inspirations and creativity. And what I found in puddles of ink and eraser shavings was of a variety that I had never seen before, nor of a variety that I can call upon now that I am back here, in this dome, in this crux of world that has been siphoned off especially for me since the age of four and a half. There is some thing that I can't get back now that I have returned. I am surrounding myself with golden light, warm company, beautiful music and poetry, and yet I can't get this thing back.
The only thing I can perhaps attribute this to is discomfort. It's what I don't have here in America. Everything here is conducive to me creating-- I am sitting at a wide desk, my computer is at my fingertips, and it is in turn connected to a nice radio-tuner-speaker thing that frequently blasts loud and obnoxious music at eight thirty am in the morning when I need some motivation to get out of bed. Pens and pencils and paintbrushes and paper (all alliterations aside) and ink are all here. I have everything I need-- everything I could want. Maybe that's just it. Perhaps in order to do, humans need to need something. Here, in a country that never really sleeps, my senses are bombarded by the latest technology, food, cars, and luxuries that appear in the world. Everybody is moving at the speed of sound. And my brain here, well, it's a little sluggish because of that.
Without having to fight for something it's impossible for me to take advantage of creativity. In Thailand and in France, sometimes I felt that my very existence was a question mark. I grappled with my own presence in the world on a day-to-day basis. Maybe that sounds like mild depression, and maybe it was. Mental and physical isolation seemed to follow me everywhere. These are exactly the things that pushed me not only to survive, but to thrive in the environment I was in. I was bound with regrets that only marked motivation deeper into my skin. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Although the more I know about myself, the more I realize that disillusionment is a very real thing, and the more I understand what I am signing up for. But so many times yes, I would love to do it again-- I want to make something of myself, I want to undergo the difficulties to come out of it as a new and mature human being.
Upon my return to the United States, I fell back into routine simply and without much reverse culture shock after a couple of weeks went by. I was free, independent, and able to harness the energy that had been building up within me for the last ten and a half months in order to make myself into phase V Carly, post-Thailand. A new person. And as this new me continues to blossom, I realize how unbearably lucky I was to have been awarded for the YES Abroad scholarship, because exchange is really just a series of mistakes that you learn from, and nobody can ever be truly prepared for that. I'm so indebted to the people who made this possible for me, because they took a chance on who I was as a person, and hoped that it would change for the better. I certainly believe that it has, and I hope that I can do them all justice in the future.
I am glad to be in the United States for a while-- I am taking advantage of this comfortable life I live to try to create a new identity for myself-- but I can't help but miss the part of me that I lost upon my return. It's lying dormant within me, I can tell. And in times of strife this little thing resurfaces just barely and makes its presence known, generally in the form of art or writing or music. This life can sometimes just feel like a sequence of emotions and attitudes that cycle in and out of me, coming and going, and I am trying to be the best parenthetical (Buddhist) I can be and accept the fact that at this point in time, the work that I put out in the world may not be as insightful or as beautiful as the work that I once did, but occasionally I can't avoid longing for a return to the stable instability of Thailand and France so that I can truly create something new and worthwhile.
I suppose those are my two cents for a while... I wish I could write everything I have been mulling over about Thailand, but it sure is hard to keep track of it all.