When I was 19, I had an experience that changed my life. I don’t want to go into too much detail but let’s just say my world as I knew it was shattered. Actually, I’ll go into some detail, it’ll help put things into perspective. I’ve referenced my trust issues in past blogs but never really discussed the root of them. I was betrayed in the worst possible way: I found out that my first love, my boyfriend of more than two and a half years, had been running around all over town with other girls. This is a part of life, but what made the blow so devastating was that seven of the girls were my closest friends. The betrayal came at me from all sides and I never felt so alone because I had no one to turn to, no one to cry to.
Most people in this situation would’ve gone crazy, plotted revenge and done something stupid, but I was raised in a diplomatic household where this kind of thing wasn’t really tolerated, so I went the other way. I internalized everything, rationalized it, and put on a face of composure. I calmly confronted the friends in question and listened to their tearful apologies with tolerance and acceptance. I didn’t get angry and I didn’t lose my cool, instead I forgave them. I told myself these things happen and that I was fine. I was eerily calm about the whole thing. Inside I was a wreck, but I didn’t want anyone to see that, I thought them seeing my defeat was letting them win. Throughout the entire ordeal, I told myself that taking the high road made me the better person, and that by being indifferent, I was in control. (I’m a control freak) My performance was so commendable that I even started to believe it myself. But it was at this time that my trust issues were born
It was also the time when I shut down emotionally. Prior to all of this, I was an open person, I gave love and affection unabashedly, I gave people the benefit of the doubt, I saw the good in everyone. After it, I built this fortress around myself, never letting anyone get too close, never discussing my feelings and always keeping things at a relatively superficial level. I categorically refused to let myself be vulnerable again. Every time a friend or guy let me down I moved on with relative ease, not because I am good at that, but because I simply hadn’t really invested enough of myself emotionally to grieve. My emotional shut down was actually subconscious, I didn’t realize how damaged I was until I moved to Hanoi.
There were inklings, of course, that I had issues. I operated on a relatively secretive level. Not divulging details of my personal life to even my closest friends. I was so good at it though, that a lot of them probably didn’t even realize I was doing it. I always claimed I was a “really private person” but the truth is that I was operating on a level of extreme self preservation. Moments of opening up were few and far between. When people tried to get inside my head and way of thinking, I could never really let them. It was as if that option was switched off. Since, I assumed everyone was going to screw me over anyway, I gave them as little opportunity as possible to do so. As I’ve said before, there are less than a handful of people that I’ve given my complete trust to.
Moving to Hanoi has changed me. Not only was it the first place that I allowed myself to face my demons, but it’s the place that has made me start to feel again. With each day that passes, I feel myself letting go and becoming a relatively normal human being. With the people in my life here, I say what I think, I tell them how I feel and what I want. I’m open about my dreams and my fears, I don’t censor who I am. The transformation is overwhelming to me, and I find at times, that it scares me. I don’t know what to do with all of this emotional freedom. It’s been a long time since I’ve let myself actually feel, that I’ve put myself out there. I’m embodying this new me so reverently that it’s almost as if the locked up emotions from seven years are having a residual affect. I give too much too quickly, I don’t play it cool, I overshare, and I’m always available emotionally. I think, actually, it freaks some people out…too much too soon.
The difficult thing for me now is not handing myself over, but it’s when it isn’t reciprocated. I take it to heart, as a personal blow, and chastise myself for caring too much. It’s times like these that my old self rears it’s ugly head and I close off, I deal with perceived rejection by cutting it off at the source, despite how fantastic that source may be. I have still retained my self preservation warfare tactic that were ingrained in me for those seven years.
The problem with Hanoi is that there is very little to do here other than form relationships with people. It’s the only survival tactic I know, the only thing that makes this place a home, that makes my life here real. Hanoi, while it has many attributes, is isolating, and this can have a stir crazy affect. People think too much. I think and care about things that I would never normally. This can be a good thing, as it’s brought me back a side that I gave up a long time ago, but it also can drive you to a certain level of insanity.
Sometimes, you meet someone so incredible that it’s almost impossible to not throw everything you have into that encounter. The seven year Alice would’ve barely acknowledged the person or situation but the new Alice is a high speed train with faulty brakes. The rational side says not to, that nothing good could come from such an accelerated approach. The fall out in imminent, and the collateral is your self esteem. Somehow, I can’t get myself to refrain though, if someone walks into my life and lights it up, I can’t abide by rationality. I’d like to, really I would, and be able to proceed normally and form a sustainable bond. I just find that I get so excited that I ruin things prematurely. I go from being awesome to being overbearing. I need to learn to practice some kind of restraint, to remember that a little mystery is a good thing. One doesn’t have to be cold but there is a difference between warm and boiling.
Sometimes I hate being emotionally aware, and the fact that the phrase “I have nothing left to give so I give up” has left my lips (or finger tips via text) on more occasions than I’d like to admit.
I am aware that I am at opposite ends of the spectrum. I’m a walking contradiction, hot and cold, with a scale that is constantly tipping in the favor of one end. I haven’t yet learned how to find the balance, how to manage it all. I know I don’t want to go back to the way I was, but I also know I can’t continue at the pace I’m going. I partially blame the Hanoi culture for the latter but most the problem is with me an my inability for self control. Ideally, I’d like these two sides to form a perfect merger. I’m hoping that this is just an adjustment period, and that in a few months I’ll be a perfect blend. Just like I am in every other aspect of my life. :-P