…because there is strength in vulnerability

…because there is strength in vulnerability

“Choose your thoughts carefully. Keep what brings you peace, release what brings you suffering, and know that happiness is just a thought away.” -Nishan Panwar

Disclaimer: This post is an excerpt straight from my personal journal. I hope it speaks to the positive impact Thailand has already had on my psyche, and perhaps it will inspire some onlookers into taking a leap of faith in their own lives. It may also do absolutely nothing for you, but thanks for tuning in to my self-reflective rants as I straddle the line of my comfort zone. Waterfall Feet

Today I fell in love. In a collection of small, fleeting moments, I saw myself as I am and I began to accept all those parts of myself that used to hold me back. It was all triggered by a foot scrub, in the Gulf town of Hua Hin, Thailand.

I had spent the day teaching Kindergarteners for the first time in my life, and the experience was more rewarding than I could have imagined. It was hard work, mixed with a lot of improvising, but I left that school with a full heart and a group of smiling Thai faces stamped in my mind. As I observed my friends’ lessons, I tried to imagine our solo journeys – only one week away – scattered all over the country with like-minded motives to make a difference while traveling. I was overwhelmed by how far we’d all come in the past three weeks during our TESOL course, but it didn’t settle in until I had settled into that massage chair, gingerly motioning at my tattered and torn feet.

I have always been fascinated by the smallest moments that become monumental to change and growth. I try to absorb those moments for what they are, and capturing them for self reflection has become a very cathartic process for me. For future purposes, I will try to replay today’s “moment” as authentically as possible:

After our long day of teaching and lesson planning, my teaching partner from the summer camp and I decided to get well-deserved foot scrubs/massages. My feet were full of cuts, bites, blisters, and burns, but as soon as I sat in that chair, the lady-boy scrubbing my feet took it all away. I had some major scar tissue/dead skin buildup on my right foot from getting a wart surgically removed in February, and as she scraped it all away, I gave her a genuine look of gratitude and compassion. In one sitting, this person epitomizing Thailand’s accepting culture had taken my pain and lifted it – first by adding to it, then by nursing what felt like open wounds. She painted my nails all pretty, and as dramatic as it may sound, I felt like I got my life back. The very part of my body that has sparked my deepest insecurities over the years became the most valuable to me, and it only took 75 minutes of kind attention for me to see it.

My feet brought me here, to this breathtakingly beautiful country, with a group of people who totally understand my wanderlust and nostalgia for all of the places I’ve never seen. My feet suffered through years of soccer, track, hiking, biking, mud sliding, concrete, bumps, bruises, and falls. They took a hit during the Thai New Year (Song Khran Water Festival) so that I could live up to my own expectations and have a free-spirited good time. They ran into the ocean, dipped into the carp-infested waterfall stream, and sunk deep in the sticky sand. My feet are definitely not the most beautiful part of me, but their struggle for my happiness will never go unnoticed again. My scars were embraced by the wonderful Thai lady-boy who scrubbed them, and her nonchalance relaxed me to the brink of sleep. My comfort level in that state, physically vulnerable, emotionally insecure, and spiritually centered – stunned me into silence. I closed my eyes, and each gentle stroke of the file took away a layer of self doubt.

When we left the massage parlor, I felt like 500 pounds had just been lifted from my shoulders. My heel felt so much better, and I could finally walk like a normal person (weight bearing)- the scrapes and cuts still sting, but the pain only reminds me of how grateful I am to be exactly where I am right now. On the long walk home, Kat and I talked about our love of travel, the places we’ve been, and the many places we have left to see. We discussed the possibility of friends and family coming to visit, and I realized that my happiness no longer depends on the actions of others. I don’t want to live a “reactive” lifestyle, where I’m just waiting for the next thing to happen – for that job to turn into a promotion – for that guy to tell me he genuinely wants to spend more time getting to know me, and meaning it – for that friend to venture out with me in order to discover something much bigger than us – for my parents to actually say the words, “I’m so proud of you, and who you have become.” -> I’m tired of waiting for the next best thing, so I’m making each moment a priority. This life is much shorter than we give it credit for, and the tiny monumental moments add up to a lifetime of fulfillment. I want that fulfillment.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m on my way to exactly that. Today was my first practical experience as a TESOL teacher, and I can already tell that the job itself will be incredibly rewarding. The Thai New Year brought with it many resolutions, and I will make it my mission to stay true to them. Being in Thailand for less than a month has already made me feel accepted in countless ways, simply for being me. It is an indescribable sensation, when you no longer worry about each consequence in your life, but simply choose to be happy in the present. I plan to hold onto that feeling for as long as possible, and hopefully my faith in good things will keep me traveling for longer than I had originally planned. I am adopting the Thai phrase “Mai pen rai,” allowing myself to take things slowly and breath into each moment: good or bad, happy or sad, I will take note of my time in Thailand before it becomes a set of memories.

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