Monday, August 30, 2010

Tomorrow'll Say If You're Lost and Found

Since being home in the US, I have been inundated with questions about my life as an ex-pat. When am I coming back? Why do I like it? What's my favorite thing? These are challenging questions for me to answer...partially because I don't really have an answer. I don't know when I am coming back, and I find it impossible to put into words what makes my experience so fulfilling and enjoyable. The other tricky bit is discerning between the people who are genuinely interested vs the ones who can't understand why I'd ever leave. My answer to these questions tend to sound like this: "Because I like it there" or "It's an interesting experience."

Maybe this is because I really don't know to explain my existence over in Asia. I know that I am learning something new and great by being over there, but I'm not exactly sure what it is. Some could say I'm learning how to be independent, or living outside of my comfort zone. Yet, each time I try and think about what it is I'm getting out of my experience as an ex-pat my answer changes. I am meeting interesting people and traveling to exciting places, yes, without a doubt. I am gaining a sort of inner confidence and sense of self that I never had before as well. I've come much more accustomed to seeing the world from different angles than I had before but none of these really pinpoint what it is that I am "getting out of" my ex-patriate lifestyle.

The best way I could describe it is that I have learned that there is no such thing as normal, or the "right path." That even though it's drilled into our heads by society, or our families or whatever that we grow up, get good grades, behave with propriety, go to a good college and move out of our house, get a good job, build a career, become financially independent, fall in love, get married, have children etc that it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Everyone is different and sometimes we have to dare to dream, dare to take a walk on the wild side, to search for our passion.

I can't tell you the countless hours I spent stressing that I 'didn't know what i wanted." I had no clue while I was living in NYC, and I still don't. However, since moving to Asia, I've stopped worrying about it. I watch as my friends get promoted, married, or engaged and I no longer feel the panic I once felt. I realize that success is not defined by these acts of "following the path" but more so, how we feel about ourselves. How we feel we are living our lives. I feel more successful teaching in Asia than I ever did as a PR exec living in NYC...not because it's a life goal necessarily, but because I feel happy, content and in control of my own destiny. I don't feel like I am doing something just because I am supposed to be.

People think it's weird that I gave up a great life here. Some have tried to understand by telling me that they read "Eat.Pray.Love" and thought of me. I heard this statement enough that i decided to pick up the book and I guess I sort of see it. On paper, the author had it all, but something was missing and she went searching for it. Now I can tell you that other than that basic theme, our stories aren't very similar.

Living in Asia has changed my perspective on so many things. I still love NYC and the life I have/had here, but I need, for my own sanity and personal growth to keep wandering down this other "path" to acheive what it is that I want out of life (whwich, by the way i'm still unsure of.)I don't want to have it all figured out yet, because to tell you the truth I like being blown away by all the new things I discover and learn about myself. It sounds cheesy and extremely generic to say all this, but I can't tell you how true it is, and how inspired I've felt since I made the decision to break away from the mold and do something against the grain.

Some may feel that I "gave up" a career in PR, fantastic friends, and a serious relationship, but don't feel like I've lost anything...I can get another PR job, my friends still love me, I'm pretty sure I'll love again and for the first time I'm not freaking out about the unknown. I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Forever and Always

I'm still in a state of shock when a good friend of mine gets married. I am always really happy for them, of course, but it's like I can't believe it's actually happening. I don't feel old or mature enough to be in a position to commit the rest of my life to someone. Throughout my college career, I lived/blocked with sixteen girls and an ASTOUNDING 7 are married (1 with a baby and 1 pregnant) and 2 are engaged leaving the single ones in the minority. A fact that I am completely ok with, yet still causes me to question whether or not I am normal.

Even dating someone for four years I still never felt close enough to settle down and be an adult. Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe that's part of the reason that I took off to Asia, because over there, the sense of responsibility and duty seems to be non existent. Everyone there is more concerned with their own personal mission and growth and appears to shun the formality and institution of marriage. Living in NYC with my perfect boyfriend had my head spinning, i constantly would wonder why I didn't have the marriage itch, whether he was the one, ad when I'd be "ready"...I truly believed if I had stayed in NYC we would've gotten engaged in the next year or so, not because either of us would've been ready or prepared for taking that next step but because it would've seemed like the obvious next move. Since moving to Asia, my brain isn't even programmed to think in those terms. I have become so completely selfish, so absorbed in the pursuit of my own happiness that i can't imagine being responsible for contributing to someone elses. I don't worry that I'll never settle down or that I'm getting old or that maybe I should grow up, I'm too busy enjoying life.

Anyway, that was a long rampage intro to my amazing weekend in Sonoma, where some of my best friends from BC all gathered to celebrate our former roommate, Annie, marry the perfect guy for her (who we all adore as well). It was a perfect weekend, because not only was I able to see some of the people i love the most in the world after seven months of being away, but I was also able to do fun things like go wine tasting and be in a stunning location to celebrate the happiest day for my good friend Annie.

The setting was perfect, on a vineyard, beautifully decorated and free flowing wine that kept us all dancing late into the night. As i watched these two soulmates join together in their life together, I felt a combination of sheer joy for them and panic that (as I mentioned before) I don't know if I will ever be in the mindset. What if I'm alone forever? These, I think, are semi normal thoughts when you're single at a wedding with no obvious prospects. What bothers me the most though, is that 99% of the time i do't care, it's just th !% of the time when I feel like I should care that i get upset.

Anyway, Annie's wedding was beautiful, we all had fun ad are very happy for her. She deserves nothing but the bext. My other good friend and college roommate, Diana also got married on the same day and I was seriously depressed that i couldn't slice myself in half and be at both places so i could've toasted them both.

Congrats to you both. I'll join you in the ranks of martial bliss one day. We all know that I am a complete and utter sucker for love. I want nothing more than to be head over heels. I am a hopeless romantic and believe i soulmates and can't wait to get to a place where my whole life is intertwined with another. It just hasn't gotten there yet. I clearly have a lot of growing up to until the i'll be runing wild all over Southeast Asia.

On a side note, my taste in music has drastically declined since coming back to to the US. Here's what is on repeat on my playlist
1. Just the Way you Are-Bruno mars (this is my new favorite love song, and think anyone interested in dating me should play this or send me the lyrics)
2. EMINEM's "RECOVERY" ALBUM which is so amazing. especially the songs: Seduction, So Bad, Space Bound, and Not Afraid.
3. If it's love-Train
4. I like it-Enrique Igeleseas
5. Ridin Solo-Jason Derulo
6. Illusions of bliss- sarah McLaughlan
7. Jeff Buckley's "Grace" cd
8-My First Kiss-3Oh!3

ps-Viet, I told your rhyming joke. I gave you credit

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

If You Only Knew...What I Went Through Just to Get to You

I am not going to blog about Bali. Not that I have nothing to say about it, there is plenty to say, but I just don't feel blogging about it.

I arrived in Florida at 2pm On Thursday July 29th (EST) but it was quite an ordeal getting me here. There were many moments that i thought I wouldn't make it here.

1. My wonderful and generous parents were kind enough to use miles to get me from Hanoi to NYC. Above and beyind and extremely appreciated. However, they used the miles through a partner airline and never received the confirmation from the airline. Apparently the airline needs to 'release: the info to the partner airline and I was standing in hanoi airport surrounded by my bags being told that there was no record of me. Then that there was a record of me but it couldn't be accessed because American Airlines didn't "release" the info to Cathay. I also knew that all the flights from HK to NYC were booked solid for the next two weeks. I literally stood in the airport feeling defeated thinking, "Well August in Hanoi can't be so bad." Luckily, my ROCKSTAR father took charge and got me on the plane last minute. Thanks, dad!
2. My flight from Hanoi to Hong Kong was the bumpiest flight I've ever been on. The plane kept nose diving and then coming up quickly to recover. I am a frequent flier, and usually pretty calm, but found myself in a but of a stomach lurch situation. I then thought to myself, 'Ok Alice, if the plane goes down, it goes down. You have no control. There's nothing you can do." Strangely enough, this worked.
3. The weather in Hong Kong was atrocious, flights were delayed and canceled left and right. This was upsetting because I wanted to go into HK and hang out and see friends and also because my flight from HK->NYC (with a stop over in Vancouver) would inevitably be delayed and I had another flight once I got to NYC that was unrelated to Cathay and that I'd miss. So I spent the whole time worrying about that.

The point is, after 40 hours of travel I made it. And I did it in style.

My amazing parents also were told that all miles flights were booked until August 15th. How could they get me home they asked? The airline responded with an option..."well you could upgrade her to business class." Much to my joy and surprise, they agreed.

Despite all the of the bad things that happened on my journey they are all counteracted by the fact that i flew business class. Yeah it was a shame that I had a 12 hour layover in HK in which going into the city was impossible, but I had access to the Business Class lounge. This BCL is a magical place...a place where all food and drinks are free. Where there are showers, sleeping pods, an internet and game room. I contemplated not leaving. Where else could I drink two bottles of wine, eat cheese and noodles, shower in luxurious showers and then order ice cream after ice cream while sipping Black label on the rocks? I enjoyed myself thoroughly and definitely took full advantage of the amenities at my disposal. (Come on, wouldn't you?!) Perhaps, I shouldn't have sent a barrage of drunken emails/haikus to my Hanoi friends...

I then stumbled on the plane (I lied to myself saying it was fatigue but in retrospect i think those drinks might have had something to do with my bleariness)ad discovered that my seat was one of those seats I've always walked by and stared at enviously. You know the seats I mean. the individual ones that turn into a flat lying bed. I'm not joking, I was totally horizontal, with a fluffy blanket all to myself. I was asleep before they even made the safety announcements. I slept for almost nine hours, waking up in the middle to eat some of the fish, mashed potatoes and vegetables offered to me. When i woke up, refreshed, I watched two movies while still enjoying the steak being serves (with ice cream) and thinking to myself "I refuse to travel any other way"...a sentiment that, when later expressed to my parents, was laughed at. They selfishly refuse to upgrade my flight back to Asia)

Despite my flight being delayed an hour and a half, we got to NYC at 8am. My next flight was at 10:50am, so I thought to myself...If I can clear customs, get my bag and check in within an hour and a half I'll be ok. You never really know. Sometimes it's a breeze but there have also been times I was at the airport and waited for a bag for 45 minutes. Luckily for me, I was through everything in twenty minutes (flight Gods on my side!)...made it to Jetblue (hideous and slightly smelly) in time to check in and contact my father to tell him that I would, in fact, be in Florida that day.

two hours of flying later and I look out the plane window to see the Florida coast...a sunny clear day, postcard perfect. Half an hour later, we're the ground, the flight God's made my bag come out early and ten minutes later I'm seated next to my father heading home.

At home, my best friend, next door neighbor and world traveler (girl just got back from two months in Cape town, has traveled all over South America and Asia, where she also used to live) had, per my request, gone to Publix and picked me a box of fried chicken, lemon lime Gatorade and chocolate.

Thus was the happy ending to the best and worst travel experience I've had to date.