I’m currently going deaf listening to Tyler, The Creator go on a tangent about how he “Ain’t Got Time!” in the midst of an endearingly dingy cafe, another mundane endeavor. My past five weeks in New York City have consisted of attempting to articulate my Thailand experience in a concise yet thorough blog post, but the fact that I’ve been balancing two college courses, college applications, a social life, and upcoming school work makes reflecting on a trip I experienced more than a month ago relatively difficult.
But it’s rainy and I’m feeling sentimental, of course I had to peruse my Moleskine and camera roll in which my memories of Thailand remain transient. Though the hype song-taew rides, authentic Thai food, and sweltering weather present themselves slightly hazy, today the effects they collectively had on me clarify.
I (along with a group of strangers) endured a painful two full days of air travel to Udon Thani, Thailand to partake in community service — I was a nervous freak. Throwing myself in a foreign country with people I’ve never seen before is not something I would always agree to; of course I was enthusiastic about the trip (that’s why I signed up) but I was not used to being uncomfortable. Little did I know, the people I lived, ate, worked, laughed, and cried with were the people who would shape my perspective for the better.
I underestimated the incredibly close relationships that could be formed by hoe-ing the foundation of homes, teaching children how to swim and speak English, and painting Buddhist temples. I think I was too comfortable all my life: I always felt secure and grounded in my domestic lifestyle, but being thrown in a situation with strangers, a new language, and a new home changes things.
Of course, my Thailand trip was not an introspective retreat to “find myself,” it was a way for me to involve myself in community service and make some sort of change in this world, but there was a lot of personal gain attached. It opened up my ability to interact with others; I always had an open mind, but I also always had a hard time opening up to people, especially alone.
The carefree, buzzing energy of Southeast Asia and the culture within it helped me release a sense of exclusivity and rigidity, and understand that in terms of progression, comfort is never key.
As I mentioned, I’ve always been comfortable, I live a privileged life in which I don’t have to worry about affording luxuries, where my next meal is coming from, and whether or not my family will stand behind me no matter what. I mean, obviously I knew, but it’s a much difference experience when you see things firsthand, as I did in Thailand. I can vividly recall handing out a meal to a woman and her baby twins whose home was just burned down and whose husband had passed in the fire. It grounded my prevailing belief that life is not always stable, it gets messy and uncomfortable. Undoubtedly, my “being uncomfortable” is by no means comparable to being homeless and hungry but my “being uncomfortable” taught me that life is not as sheltered as your childhood may be, this notion transcends into my current experience here at NYU.
For the past five weeks I’ve struggled to articulate my thoughts, I’ve also been drifting, slightly insecure. I didn’t always have enough money to do or get what I wanted, enough time to fit everything I wanted to do in a day, or enough energy to experience what I wanted to experience. And although Thailand had offered countless more life lessons, the most currently relevant one is how it helped me understand what the real-world is like…on a way more minute scale.