It has taken me two years, but earlier this week, I was finally able to leave Thailand. I found myself able to think of the papaya, the fresh seafood and the majesty of the country without feeling eagerness and longing for all that the country represented. It was 4 a.m. on the first day of summer, and for the first time that I can remember, I felt like Thailand was just as common a memory as any trip to Nebraska or Colombia. A grand adventure, but a distant one.
I remember the long bus trip– eight hours– from Ko Samui to Bangkok, and the long wait at the US Embassy and then the Thai consulate; I remember the long waits at the airport before I got a new passport and arrived home. The time spent in between losing my passport, getting a new one and getting back to Chicago felt enormous while I was caught in it, but I had no idea then that it would take me two years to separate myself from the beauty and disaster that was my past and would be my future if I were to spend it with Kyle.
There will probably always be moments in my life when I escape to my memories and find myself sweating, swearing and climbing uphill on our trek through the north country. Or rafting down a river. Or sleeping under the stars, Kyle under my arm. That’s life, I think. We go back to the good times, even the bad because they are familiar. But the trick is to keep moving forward.
For the longest time I couldn’t imaging giving up my thoughts of Thailand. Forget the shitty chicken balls that I almost died on after pulling a half-chewed feather from my mouth? Or the opulence of the temples? Or the craziness of the Red Light District and the Thai mafia?
No, I can’t forget these things. They mean something! I would think to myself. Now I know that each of these things while beautiful and charming, each of these things were just stand-ins for what I really wanted. I wanted the beauty and charm and amazement of this life in my every day living. I wanted to have it all– our relationship included.
But that trip for all its amazement was not without self-inflicted disaster. I knew it then like I know it now, but today I finally know it with a stronger sense of conviction. It’s not that I can’t handle the chaos and the bumps and the sense of baffled wonder (which is unlike grace-inspired wonder) that I was exposed to on that trip, because I can. I enjoy a certain amount of it. But I have learned to think more seriously about my future and what it is I am doing in this moment. And with that comes a sense of understanding. Understanding that reminds me that very little in life in in my control, but what I can control, such as my own actions, is worth it.
The last time I spent the night with Kyle he told me that he dreamt we were going to “make babies,” but I added a bunch of stipulations, specifically that he could no longer do drugs. First, I thought, ahh, resistance to giving up drugs. That’s a problem now, so it would be a bigger one with a new lifestyle. I don’t want to have to deal with that- I want my partner to make his own choices becuase he wants to.
Then I thought, oh the occasional joint would be fine, as long as it wasn’t around the children.
And then I thought aak! babies! At the heart of my anxiety at his dream, however, was that he would leave, be irresponsible, bind me to another potentially challenging decision. Well, since I have the power to make a decision now that will prevent his dream from becoming my reality, I guess I’m acting on it. I can deal with chaos and unpredictability fine on my own, but… not with a child. And I shouldn’t have to deal with that kind of irresponsibility when I’m trying to move forward with my career and my goals.
So in the end, I left Thailand tucked behind another whole shelf of memories. And I’m not sure what you call visions of the future that you leave behind, but I’m working on letting go of these things too. I left Thailand because as much as I can feel happy about that trip and how it ended now, that’s not the lifestyle I want for my future. Even without children. And with or without Kyle.