I’m often asked by friends and family back home why I’m still in Cambodia. What was meant to be a year long stint in Southeast Asia has speedily turned into almost two and my plans to move back to Washington (while I think of it often) aren’t actually something I foresee happening any time soon, and dare I say it, ever?
When answering, I will usually stick with my go-to spiel: the opportunities for growth are rich in Phnom Penh, the people and country are beautiful, the ease of living is wonderful: mani-pedis every week! a maid! dining out every other night!, the ability to propel yourself forward in a small pool (big fish syndrome) is quite easy to do with just a bit of hard work even without a “proper” university education. Recently though I’ve been really peeling back the layers of exactly why I am still here and while all the aforementioned are true, are they really the reasons I’m still in Cambodia? I don’t have a clear answer, and maybe never will- but like a great mentor told me yesterday, “do me a favor and live one day at a time.” Oh, what a task!
I was watching The Hobbit for the umpteenth time a few nights ago and during this viewing specifically Bilbo’s adventure struck a chord with me. With Sting slung at his hobbity hip, orcs trailing him on their vicious waugs, and Gandalf leading him with the pack of dwarves Mr. Baggins’ situation couldn’t be further from mine, well obviously it could: he lives in a fictional Middle Earth and I in “real life”. Yet his movement into being a burglar on an adventure, something so uncomfortable, so unlike him, and so inexplicable reminded me a lot of myself at this point in life. After pondering on the film for a few days and reflecting on some of the quotes that resonated with me, I delved back into the actual words of the book I haven’t read in years to find a few that were especially striking.
Firstly, “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” Considering that I always feel like I’m searching for something, whether it be my future home, career, travel plans, connection to something bigger than myself, whatever it may be- I am always looking. What I realize though is that looking isn’t a bad or negative thing, it’s vital to continue to search and plan and try to create something to surround me that will give life and well being, but in the end I may not find exactly what I was looking for. In my experience, most times the thing that I’m looking for finds me- and ends up being better than I had imagined.
The second quote is another that particularly speaks to me:“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.” It seems that my fear of leaving the comforts of Cambodia, while I may still be here for some years to come, have for some months put me off thinking of what may be next. South Africa? Scotland? South America even? I thought I was taking a relatively “safe path” by continuing on living in Phnom Penh, even with my mom leaving and close friends bidding adieu, that with a stable job, comfortable apartment, and cushy lifestyle things were just as they should be- and maybe right now they are. But what I do see is that I’m not even on a technically safe path even now. The Edge of the Wild is something different for all of us, not necessarily an actual place but what it represents: the fears, the setbacks, the worries. Yet when you’re past that Edge, you have the chance to experience life in a way with arms open wide and ready for what’s next. So maybe I just take the next path and figure that I will get over the Edge of the Wild and have all the opportunities to experience fun in the truest form.
Life throws us all curve balls, the difference between failures and successes is how we deal with them. You got fired from your job? That’s really too bad- but you may have had it coming. Now instead of pissing things away and drowning in self pity, get up and find something to support yourself or the people who rely on you. Your clients are being frustrating and refuse to sign a contract they’ve been promising for months? Time to buck up and get over it and move onto the next with just as much fervor if not more; there are plenty of village idiots in this city and wasting too much time and energy on them for the sake of a sale isn’t worth your time or your company’s. Your boyfriend broke up with you? I’m sorry, I know it hurts- but there are literally billions of people on this planet: you’ll eventually find someone else who can make you just as happy, if not more, and maybe you should look at two things regarding your breakup. `1. Did you actually deserve the drop because you were acting like a psycho hose beast? 2. Is it for the better because maybe, actually, you were dating an asshole who was holding you back and treated you in ways you had never imagined you’d put up with? Maybe taking a step outside of the situation will give you clarity and teach you exactly what you don’t want for your next relationship.
We can’t lay out a map of our lives and tap exactly where we want to end up, who we will be with, and what we’ll be doing. What I do know is that the paths that lead us to our various destinations whether they seem near or far, glorious or downtrodden, boring or thrilling- are there for the taking. How will we know where it leads if we don’t at least start the journey?