It’s already been a month since I made my first trek to Phnom Penh and experienced this well-known yet no less easy twelve hour layover in the McDonald’s-less Incheon Airport in Korea. The last time I was here, only a mere hundred feet away from where I sit now as I finished another entry, I was crying my eyes out. It was after a long night of slamming Soju and Asahi with Yoshi and our new friend, Misato, hashing out all of our frustrations and navigating through feelings of our impending work trip. I had experienced a restless six hours in the airport hotel, I was feeling anxious and disoriented, not knowing what to expect as I went back to the country I had left so recently and simply exhausted physically and emotionally.
Tears at the airport are something I’ve become rather familiar with. All types of tears from gentle, fleeting ones quickly brushed away as I leave a place I’m not quite ready to, but looking forward to the next chapter. Heavy, thick ones that wrack my entire body as I toe the line of a panic attack. Ones filled with delight as I reconnect with people I love and miss. There are the tears of people around me, too, to consider. Whether from someone I know, held back slightly behind a calm veneer to make me feel at ease for leaving. There are those of strangers, sobbing with stories unknown to me- ties being severed, or at least pulled, in the direction of what feels like a million miles. Now, just recently, I shared a teary three-person hug at the gates of the Phnom Penh airport with my friends Yoshi and Michelle after a stint in Cambodia.
Here I am again, in a very different mindset. I still have little clarity for what’s to come; that certainly hasn’t changed. I am, however, in a sweeter space internally. That isn’t to say I’m not frustrated with some things. That there are changes that should be made and that figuring out what they are exactly isn’t something I’m thinking about. That my future is on an unknown and uneasy precipice that makes me feel discombobulated and edgy. That I’m always seemingly gathering intel on how to move forward in the most proactive, fulfilling, and interesting manner. This past month has been taxing for its own reasons: balancing the separation of work and personal time, maintaining connections with friends and family both back in the states and in Phnom Penh with a restricted schedule, and generally trying to reintegrate into yet another location. But still, it has been wonderful.
Wonder arrived in many forms, both positive and negative. I have had my will tested. I have seen how much I’m willing to accept from other people in different capacities. I have seen how much I require from other people in different capacities. I have seen what other people are willing to give, and how meaningful it can be. I have learned a few things that I really dislike from a number of situations and I have learned of a few things that I really appreciate. I have seen sides of people that I would have never seen if I hadn’t been traveling. I have experienced Cambodia in a new light, yet it’s still the place I’ve known and loved. I have found some extremely wonderful traits in myself that I’m grateful for and want to utilize in my future career and with my future family. I have also discovered traits of mine that I rather dislike too that I’d like to improve on, to better myself and for those around me. I have dealt with people who don’t know how to handle themselves, how to treat others or act like adults. I have felt love from peers who are supportive in every single way. In such a short span of time, I’ve witnessed a lot.
One of the most memorable things working abroad has been the strong connection made with my coworkers, and even more than that: friends. Yoshi, Michelle, and I have torn up the streets of New York, spent many a 12 plus hour day in offices around the globe together, argued, laughed, judged, accepted, and everything in between and now we can add Phnom Penh to our list of brilliant moments we’ll never forget.
Sororities are a concept I haven’t ever quite been able to grasp as something I’d personally like to experience, but the girls and my living situation and the way it brought us together is something that seems close enough. (See: Commune Life) I’ve written about how we’re extremely different individuals, but the more time we spend together I begin to touch on the frequencies that are the same. I only hope that I can glean from their strengths as we continue on together, wherever we may be.
Yoshi, even at her most exhausted, lends to the group the most energy and a high profile ability to work through almost any condition, situation, and state of mind. I’m continually amazed at her ability to power through and handle a situation when many people would throw the towel in or let their emotions steer their decisions. Not only is she going to be the next Steve Jobs (or whatever the equivalent is of Jobs in whatever industry she’s in) she’s ridiculously fun. She’s one of the most whimsical people I’ve been around. Yoshi takes moments that most people wouldn’t even notice and runs with them with arms wide open, eyes shut, and screaming; there are few people as comfortable in their skin as she is. I love how we’re able to pick up on situations and scenarios that would generally go unnoticed and start laughing at the same moment about the same minute detail, just from a memory or a reference we know from another mundane moment that we found hilarious. All of that, and she can dance better than your whole high school dance team.
Michelle has the calm collected façade that I can only dream of achieving. She’s going to write the books you see on the New York Times Best Seller list or make history as one of the most revered arts curator from the Millennial generation- whatever she puts her mind to you had better believe will happen. You can put this girl in a pot of boiling water and she’ll coolly tell you how you’ve going the boil going wrong and that she could do it better by herself. And she could. Her thirst for knowledge is unending and she’s willing to impede the amount of rest and relaxation she received to continue to build her repertoire of understanding daily. Her focus on all aspects of life is nothing if not microscopic and it’s something that I can’t fathom, but admire greatly. Even as more of an introvert like me, she manages to pull up her bootstraps and try things that I shake my head “no” to, not letting her tiredness stop her from having a night out on the foreign streets of Phnom Penh or swimming at 3 in the morning in our salt water pool. Her gusto for wanting to experience everything and anything is invigorating and in that, her charm continually shines through.
I can’t recount every hilarity-infused or deeply moving moment we had together: there were too many to begin to note in the short span of one month, but I can say in one sweeping reference that they were all absolutely golden. From dancing like maniacs on the floor of Vito to our morning breakfasts before heading to The War Room to singing from the back of a tuk tuk to skipping down the Riverside under the lights of the Royal Palace to sitting in verbal silence at work with our headphones in working dedicatedly to each of our own projects: these are times that I’m going to remember for a long, long time.
We all agree that for the duration of time we’ve spent together, we know more about each other than many: current relationships or lack thereof, hopes and dreams, hates and loves and fears, strengths and weaknesses, habits, bodies, and all of the intimate things you only really learn about friends when you give up on caring what they think about you.
So maybe we’re going through the equivalent of graduating and leaving our little sorority as we each embark on our different journeys that are similar but different, but just like all Greek sisters say: we’ll be friends forever.