One of my favourite sayings is ‘wherever you go, there you are’. It was my internal reminder when I decided that life was just too tough, the job wasn’t what I wanted, that city just wasn’t for me. Whenever I sat at my desk, staring into the computer screen, eyes and mind slowly rotting from dissatisfaction, I would tell myself under muttered breath that ‘wherever you go, there you are’, so basically don’t even think about running away from your problems when all you are doing is running away from yourself.
I did that a lot. Throughout my early twenties to fairly recently, its what I did best. The grass was always greener and I was constantly searching for ‘something’. In fact my Dad said to me before I packed up for another adventure into the unknown ‘I don’t know what it is you are searching for, but I do hope you find it’. I am now in Hanoi, which fills me with immense uncertainty. The air is filled with adrenaline and chaos. If you have been to Hanoi then I am sure you understand the terror that comes from crossing the road. I was brought up as a kid to look left and right before crossing, always keeping your eye out for any cars that come into view and of course always cross when the green man is showing. Now I find myself looking left and right and just walking – looking straight ahead – at snail pace, hoping and praying that I get to the other side in one piece. Don’t run – was the advice I was given. Slow and steady wins the race (or in this case, keeps you alive). The constant stares and comments that are thrown at you by locals have my irritation levels soaring. The constant street sellers who shout for their donuts, books, fruit, and various other random items that need to be bought only adds to overwhelm me. My travel companion is slowly deflating in front of me. He is so cultured shocked and overwhelmed that the two of us together is like a ticking time bomb of irritation, just waiting to happen. Today I watched a guy on a moped carrying a plasma TV on the back with one hand on the handle bar and another holding the TV. There was another with a family of 4 on one bike with the man texting as they swerved through various bikes, cars and pedestrians.
Although I feel I have been slapped in the face with culture shock, as I walked around in a state of fury, exasperation and mental exhaustion from constantly being alert, I said to myself ‘wherever you go, there you are’ and suddenly I though of that saying in a whole different meaning. I am here so therefore its ok as I have myself. This crazy environment is neither good nor bad. It is neutral. I am making it into an overwhelming experience. It is all my own doing. Suddenly, with that in mind I felt a certain peace come over me amongst the beeping horns and swerving wheels. I am here and I have myself. Wherever you go, there you are and suddenly its not about deciding to run away from yourself. Its not about what city, job or situation you’re in. Its about knowing that you have yourself and that its up to you how you ‘paint’ your surrounding. It whether you take all the negatives and let them eat at your insides or you see things for what they are in that moment.
Of course I am still trying. I have come back to my hotel room exhausted while my travel companion is practically having a break down in the other room. It takes time to adjust but if you just observe your surroundings and try not to label the experiences with good/bad or get attached then everything becomes a little easier, a little less intimidating and you can finally say ‘wherever I go, there I am…thank heavens for that’.