What If My Dreams Don’t Come True?

Just two words can leave me in a cold sweat. Two words that have had me tossing and turning throughout the early hours of the morning, putting those dreams on hold or shattering them and most importantly, having me doubt every cell that swims flippantly through each and every vein in my body. So, as I come to the last year of my twenties, I look back at my ‘what if’s’ with an arched eye brow and an eye role here and there.

What if I don’t get the job?

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It happens. Sometimes you lose out to someone with more experience. Sometimes you realise that you had completely fucked up in the interview process through nerves that made you come out in a rash that looked ‘medical attention’ worthy (just me then?). Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know. Some you win, some you lose but I think you always end up where you are supposed to be. It sounds easy to say ‘just have faith’ and that I’m flippantly putting that statement out there with no thought. But that is not the case. I have certainly lost out on many jobs. I have also been hired for many jobs that I now wish I had lost out on. Still, I completely have faith that I will end up in a job that makes me happy. One that doesn’t leave me crying silently in a cubicle, having sleepless nights and generally losing my mind. Have faith that all will work out as it should. Keep working on projects that utilise your natural talents and above all keep trying. The wheel has to turn the other way eventually.

What if I get fired?

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This did happen to me and unfortunately it wasn’t when I was a teenybopper, shovelling greasy chips into paper cartons at the local fish and chip shop. Nor did it happen when I started a sales career knocking on strangers doors trying to force a brand new gas and electricity supplier down their unsuspecting throats. Nor did it happen when I was dodging responsibilities in my last job. It happened when I felt I had found the ideal role. Right in the heart of Sydney, in an office block that revealed views of a city that took my breath away. My new role was to create documents for the bankers. A role that would have me exploring the depths of the Microsoft office suite to create visually pleasing masterpieces. The high-flying bankers would then use the documents to close various multi-million dollar deals. I got the job through a friend. Someone who helped me through the interview and a 3 hour Microsoft office test to secure the job.

I felt I had hit the jackpot. Finally I could stay in Australia – my dream place and build the life I’d always wanted. It wasn’t to be. Barely a week into the new job I was gently told to hand in my pass and make my way to the exit. Quite rightly too as I had no idea how to navigate through Excel never mind create a fancy technical graph that would leave members of the boardroom drooling. I also wanted it so much that I couldn’t concentrate, preferring to beat myself up over every single mistake that I made or the fact that I was just so damn slow. I left feeling like such a failure that my words here cannot do the crushing, overwhelmingly disappointed feeling justice.

Now I look back and see a small glitch in the road. Something that I barely think about and if I do, it no longer matters anywhere near as much as it did. It wasn’t meant to be and yes, I could sit here and think of what could have been but that really is a fruitless act. Sometimes your hired and sometimes your fired. Sometimes you resign and the boss loses out. Sometimes your fired and you lose out. As long as you tried your best and gave it your all then that’s what really matters. You never know, perhaps a few years down the line you will realise that it was the best thing that ever happened, which is certainly the case for me.

What if he leaves me?

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When I look back at my past relationships, I usually cringe. Reason being is that I was so desperate, it was embarrassing. Falling in love is wonderfully painful. With it brings a certain madness to the mind which can leave you being extremely unreasonable at the best of time. Sometimes, when you are least expecting it, that nasty soul sucking worm will start whispering to you that all is not safe and your loved one will be making their grand exit shortly. With the worm now nibbling slowly at your sanity, you throw caution to the wind and begin to latch onto your loved one with smothering force.

It not clever and it isn’t pretty. There is nothing worse than a desperate lover. He may well leave. It could be because the grass seems greener. It could be because the relationship has run its course or it could be that your insecurities are driving them away. Relationships end and relationships begin. The sooner you let go, the easier it will be…For you. As the saying goes ‘If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, its yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be’. Also, you may be surprised that when you are out of ‘that’ relationship and recovered, you may look back and think ‘my god he was a prick. What the hell was I thinking?’ Or something along those lines.

What if I’m single for the rest of my life?!

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Many people are single and more and more people are choosing to stay that way. Take a dear friend of mine who is maybe in his 50s. He has been single for the entire 12 years that I’ve known him and has resigned himself to the fact the he is going to remain single. Comfortable in his routine, it has now become harder to let someone into his life. For me, I believe that it is far more important to be comfortable in your own skin than to search for someone to fill the void. If you can’t be alone, truly by yourself in your own company, then you will have a hard time really flourishing in any relationship. Work on yourself, no matter how painful that may be. Make yourself into the best You possible. If someone does come along and sweeps you off your feet then hopefully they will have worked on themselves too and together you would make one unbeatable team. If someone doesn’t come along then at least you can say that you enjoy your own company and actually LIKE yourself. That you can fulfil all your dreams and ambitions without hoping that someone else will do it for you. Take control of yourself. Make yourself happy. Once you have achieved that then whether someone is in or not in your life will be irrelevant.

What if I can’t make friends?

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Ah, the joys of making friends when you’re an adult. Gone are the days of wandering through the school corridors rubbing shoulders with your greatest fans – your friends. When you’re an adult taking on the pressures of the working world, making friends becomes a little (a lot) less straight forward. Yes, there are going to be people who just don’t like you. Sometimes on sight. Just the mention of your name could have people kicking the office bins over in a frenzy. Sometimes there are valid reasons that you have people vividly plotting your death. Other times it really is their problem. As they say, you can’t please everyone and why the hell should you. Life it tough enough as it is without having to try to please people who will never appreciate your uniqueness. That’s not to say you run around with your head up your arse, practically choking on your own ego. Be sincere, listen to others and show kindness. People love people. It’s human nature to be social creatures. Be the one to break the ice and introduce yourself. New and amazing friendships are waiting where you least expect them to be.

What if I don’t have it ‘all together’ when I reach my thirties?

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I have a list that had been created when I was in my early twenties. It pretty much went as you might guess with emphasis on the house, car, great job, great man, holidays and money. Pretty much a fancy pants lifestyle. Now I sit in my parents house as I wait to see if the job I want (and one I know I will be good at) will come through. I have no house or no mortgage to speak of, no car, no man in sight and little savings. If you had told me that when I was writing my dream list and crossing my fingers for the days to come I would have felt severely deflated. My stroppy younger self would have thrown the tantrum of all tantrums while asking the big question ‘what the fuck is the point then?!’ Well, I can safely say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have one year before reaching my thirties and I may or may not tick off all my to do list and that’s ok. As long as I grow a little wiser, a little happier and a little kinder then that’s all that matters to me.

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Another Brick In The Corporate Wall

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It seems to me that my new-found path in life never fails to leave people with endless questions, mostly with a regard to my mental health and whether I have lost the plot. Take for instance a repeated conversation with my brother.

‘So what are you going to do with your life?’

‘I’m going to teach English as a foreign language and travel the world….’

‘Yes but…..What are you going to do with your life?’

This seems to be the reaction from most people. A mixture of envy with a dash of cynicism topped off with a large dollop of disappointment. I get it. For years after my first TEFL contract in China I swore I would never dip my toe into the world of teaching again. Fuelled by the various comments bashing English teachers as ‘avoiding responsibility’, ‘unaccepted by their own country’ and ‘wasters and hippies with no ambition’ I gave up on teaching altogether. My 20-year-old mind had been firmly polluted by the endless jibes that come hand in hand with TEFL. Instead, after completing my degree, I pushed myself into the corporate world with dreams of a flash wardrobe and an even flashier car. And this is where I lost ‘myself’.

Hired and jumping up and down in my parents kitchen I thought my new-found success would pave the way to management heaven. Having received my contract and welcome letter as a new employee of a global IT company I could not conceal my excitement and satisfaction. The girl from the bleak council estate was well and truly on her way to success. I began my role with the enthusiasm of a new puppy, all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed but still shaking in my boots at the thought of using Excel and numbers as they certainly weren’t my personal strengths. I got to work an hour early, always first to arrive and usually last to leave. Lunch times would be spent at the desk trying desperately to hide another Excel formula fuck up as I watched the days pass in a blur of pivot tables and numbers, adding and subtracting. Sometimes I would bound out the door, satisfied that my day was full of small successes. Other days I would cry at the thought of messing up another report. A report that barely anyone ever read.

You see after a few months in the role I realised that no one cared. Reports and new websites that I fawned over and spent countless hours trying to perfect were pretty much irrelevant. I realised that I had become part of the furniture, another brick in the wall of a massive corporation and that no amount of trying was going to get me anywhere. Hushed discussions with other disgruntled employees furthered my suspicion that I was going nowhere fast and the only way up was to leave and reapply for the desired new role. When I was a fresh newbie I listened as my trainer spoke about a woman on another floor who hide all her ‘to do work’ under her desk. This woman did sweet f.a for 6 months before she was caught out from the growing mounds of paperwork forming under her desk, trying to escape. At the time I was horrified. How lazy and inconsiderate. Now I realise that no one gave a shit, and for her laziness (or cleverness) to go unnoticed for that amount of time must have meant that she was both invisible and irrelevant. Something I was to become familiar with.

Once the rose-tinted glasses had been removed and I was no longer breaking into a cold sweat on report days, I found myself slipping into a cubicle coma. For 8 hours a day I sat, clicking on the mouse creating documents that would be sent into the black hole of cyber space. I had mentally left the building. The silence would descend over the office as each of us punched in numbers and wrote out endless emails, while I tried desperately to find some sense of fulfilment in a job that I should not have been in. A job that I had no natural talent for. But that didn’t stop me from pushing and forcing myself to fit the mould, unaware that I was depleting my spirit with each day that passed.

After I ‘woke up’ and realised that I had no business being in IT, never mind an office, I slipped out unnoticed. No one saw me place my plant in my bag and forage around for my shoe collection that had been gathering under my desk. I cut my notice short and left, walking out into the grey sky and damp air without (so much as) a backward glance. Now I look back at all the years I spent chasing the money signs and all I see is someone wanting to conform. Someone desperate to have a desirable CV and endless Linkedin contacts. Someone who wanted to go to work in smart clothes, reeking of success. Someone who wanted a nice monthly wage, with an even nicer bonus and a mortgage to boot.

Now I’m no longer that somebody, but it took me years to wake up from wanting that dream. I now wait to begin my English teaching role in Bangkok where I can go back to the hustle and bustle of the uncomfortably humid streets. Where the various smells of the street stalls attack my senses and where everyone seems to be on ‘Thai’ time, walking at snail pace and coming to classes late. And as for people who question my dreams and ambitions I say simple to mind your own. My dreams, wherever they may lead, are none of your concern. Let me enjoy the fact that at nearly 29 years old I may have found my calling and thank fuck for that as it has taken me to hell and back trying to find it.

Reviewing the suitcase

I have temporarily put a pause on my wanderings in order to obtain the documents needed to teach in South Korea. Filled with promises from various people claiming South Korea to be just ‘awesome’ I have decided that’s my next port of call, even though it looks colder than anything the UK could possibly fling at me. My partner in crime (well, my gay travel partner) could not stop going on about his obsession with k-pop and his need to find a Korean husband….Immediately. Not one to interfere with such a fab goal, I have decided to help him in his quest for love, and maybe find a hot guy in the process myself. So as I unpack, back with the parent and the promise of Tesco’s delights, I have decided to review my suitcase, mainly the ‘what was I thinking’ items.

Shoes

After spending the entire duration of my trip in either flip-flops or canvas trainers, it is a fact that I really did not need to be lugging those wedges and black work high heels around the world with me. Did I throw them? Hell no. Once you find a good pair of shoes – especially the wedges – that are pain-free and go with anything, they are with you for life. Or until they fall apart in over wear which doesn’t bear thinking about. I did, however, wear the wedges once. This was purposely so I could justify them taking up room and weighing my suitcase down. And no I did not care that the roads in Hanoi do not cater for wedges.

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Bikinis

I took four and wore none. Dreams of soaking up the sun on a Thai island, sipping cocktails were non-existent. Being a person that tries to ‘go with the flow and just see what happens’ I just seemed to travel north throughout the duration of my trip. My shorts, bikinis and summer dresses didn’t get a look in. Instead I wore the same grey jumper for the entire trip as this was the only ‘winter’ wear that I had managed to bring. By the end of the trip, I was sure it was ready to sprout legs and make a run for the door.

That dress

I have a lacy little number that always makes me feel good, covers enough whilst sucking everything ‘in’, sexy but classy. That too came along for the journey, never to escape the suitcase. Thoughts of great bar scenes, eligible gentlemen and fancy restaurants was replaced by chanting in a Temple, shivering from 4.30am winter mornings starts, 21 hour bus journeys amongst questionable body odours and dribbling noodles over myself. Wearing every layer of my suitcase to shield off the cold ensured that not only did I not bother with any beautification ritual or fancy outfits but I also didn’t want to. You could barely get me change out of my multiple layers.

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Nail Varnish

Taking at least 5 bottles in my favourite colours, I assured myself that I would mix it up, colour coordinating and generally making my nails look pretty. No need to be a rough and tumble traveller, I said to myself. Just because you are ‘backpacking’ does not mean you don’t put effort in. Bahahaha. Oh the lies we tell ourselves. The majority of the journey was trying to get the damn stuff of my nails, particularly when I was living at the temple. Forgetting the nail vanish removal, I spent my time picking at the colour in a bid to rid myself of any sign of beautification (which was not allowed). Finally I manage to use some removal at the monks wife’s home and breathed a sigh of relief to finally be rid of it. Moments later M looks at me all excitedly and tells me she wants to paint my nails. Not one to dash someone’s delighted and hopeful expression, I proceed to let her do her worst, which was to paint my nails in garish colours with added flower prints. So much for looking natural.

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Ah, I said natural….

Those skinny pants

Yes, I admit it. I took my skinny trousers in the hope that a few months hauling my luggage around South East Asia would melt inches from my thighs. Who knows when I would have the opportunity to eat, therefore bring the pants! Well its true, I managed to get into them and apart from being a bit snug, they did fit. Although by this time in my travels and with a whole new perspective  to boot, I suddenly thought – arse catapulted into the pants, why the hell am I doing this to myself?! Yes life is far too bloody short to spend my time wanting to fit into a pair of trousers! How absurd that a piece of material could have such a hold on me. So I bravely left them behind – to be donated of tossed, free to make someone else just as miserable with their unforgiving lack of elasticity.

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They fit!!!

Now, I am back to parents house with all its questionable odours such as mould and dog farts. My days will be spent curled up on the sofa, devouring Netflix like a pro and in the process observe my mind as it turns to mush. I will indeed relish the art of doing nothing.

The moment I ‘weally’ knew

When I think about it, I know I should have done it sooner. It was always meant to be but something I shied away from for a long time. Reason for this is I always thought I would never be any good at it, with my past experience leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. I believed that I would not be able to make any difference, however small.

At 20, I made my escape from the UK to the smog filled Beijing. I was running not from home but mostly myself, not wise enough to realise that wherever you go there you are. I was riddled with loneliness and culture shock that gradually became worse with each day that passed. My days were filled with DVD’s in a bid to escape my reality and I slowly but surely lost my mind. I was also a terrible teacher. So completely absorbed in my own pain and misery that I could barely fathom a smile, never mind provide entertainment at a school that relished an all singing and dancing foreign English teacher. The grey sky and the sun – which was barely traceable through the polluted air – added to my constant state of melancholy. I tried desperately to ‘stick it out’. Ashamed to admit defeat and have family view me as some sort of disappointment, I continued to go through the motions, teaching a few short hours a day and rushing back home to climb back into an unmade bed. As one of the only foreigners in the entire area, having any social interaction was difficult and as the days went by, the urge to meet people diminished. I finally cracked and went back to the UK – tail between my legs – promising myself that I would never go into teaching again as I was awful and no student should have to suffer having a teacher like me.

Fast forward eight years and I am sitting in the ‘farangs’ Temple living room area. The table we sit at is made of solid wood, carved with various elephant figures wandering the Thai jungle. The seats that we sit on are so heavy to move that usually I don’t bother, and merely slide myself between the table and chair. They are solid and are also carved into elephant heads, each detail finely perfected. It is bitterly cold and we are both wrapped up in our scarves and woolly hats. I – with my great suitcase planning and bringing mostly summer wear – am wearing every layer, including my pyjamas under my 8 precept whites. Nursing my coffee to counteract the cold we begin our lesson. It’s all about grammar and today is all about the should, shouldn’t and couldn’t. I had managed to scrape together some sort of lesson from the paperwork I had lugged from Bangkok to Fang. Using this we sat, starting with general conversation before getting into the nitty-gritty.

My lovely student – a 41-year-old Chinese woman who has lived in Fang all her life – is able to hold a conversation at elementary level and has no idea how to use these words – should, shouldn’t and couldn’t – in a sentence, never mind their meaning. We get to work, with this being the opportune time to put my CELTA training to work. We sit side by side in the cold. Two Temple dogs sit, nibbling their flees at our feet and looking up at us expectantly with their big brown eyes. I hear the other ‘farangs’ chatting away under hushed breath. The sweeping of the hand-made broom echoes through corridor into the meeting area. With each completed task my student looks up at me, needing reassurance. I tell her that she is indeed correct. ‘Weally?’ she asks, eyes widening in disbelief and a glimmer of hope. ‘Yes. Really’. And in that moment something happens. I begin to fill with a warmth that starts from my head and runs right through my toes. I have never felt so good. Better than any night on the town with the promise of more alcohol. Not the dancing or flirting with random guys. Not the belly aching laughter of a night with friends. Not grabbing the last ‘must have’ item in the sale. No, nothing compared to this feeling of knowing that my student was ‘getting it’. Feeling her hopeful energy that lingered in the air. We both looked at each other – glowing – and in that moment I knew that this was what I was meant to do. I am meant to teach.

Welcome to Lonerville….Population? You.

I have and always will be something of a loner. Maybe its having brothers and sisters who are much older than me, so as a child they were pretty much making their way into the world, getting married and settling down, while I was playing ‘teacher’ with various stuffed animals. My parents had me late in life, my mother being 45 when she went into the doctors complaining of weight gain and feeling under the weather only to be told that she was indeed expecting. Of course I was an accident (a lovely surprise, as my mother will say). The doctors advised her to abort as having a child at her age – in those days, was just risky and opened up many possible health risks. My mother, already having 5 other kids under her wings decided against the doctors orders and thus added another sprog to her brood.

Growing up, I was a very quiet child. I could play alone for hours and hours without needing company from adults nor children. I would collect the figurines from kinder eggs to create armies which would entertain me for days. Stuffed animals would be marked on the ‘teachers’ register, with grades given to the best ‘students’. Art classes were held where I would hold the toys hand/paw and guide the crayon across the paper to create various images, and of course there was a competition for the best drawing. I look back and wonder how on earth I was able to entertain myself for so long, with these ‘make believe’ games. If I knew the answer perhaps it would certainly help me right now.

I decided to escape Hanoi and travel to Ha Long bay. I have gone from holding my breath and being constantly alert to the various sights, sounds, people and traffic to just sheer quietness. Ha Long bay is apparently sleeping. The sky is completely grey and with the thick fog the sea blends into the sky. It has gone passed the ‘romantic, dreamy mist’ state in which you can immerse yourself in the beauty to just not being able to see anything, never mind picturesque, rugged mountains. I already feel pity for the hoards of tourists that are getting off the bus only to be shuffled onto the cruise for a night of sightseeing where you will be hard pushed to see anything.

So now I find myself alone. My travel companion is waiting in Hanoi for my return where the offer of employment as teachers awaits us. I sat at a café where a herd of Chinese tourists chatted, comparing purchases of coffee and nuts. One by one they took the chairs around my table. All but the one I was sitting on. I felt my vulnerability levels peak, sticking out like a sore thumb with my blonde hair everywhere. I tried to immerse myself in a book but felt the eyes of the locals on me. I sneaked glances as a local man watched my every move, from drinking my coffee, opening and closing my book, paying the waiter and gathering my change. I quickly scuttled off to walk off the insecurity that had begun to brew. Throwing my hood up to ‘disappear’ I walked and found a secluded spot overlooking the sea. Looking at my watch I noticed that I had been ‘out and about’ for just over an hour and suddenly I felt the dread that comes with ‘what the hell am I going to do for 3 weeks here?!!’

A person who is bored is bored with themselves. I read that somewhere many years ago and at the time I could not have agreed more. I agree with it now and am trying to ‘pull myself together’. I walked the stretch of the bay, continually trying to calm the feelings of uncertainty that comes with the unknown. Then I remembered that I could entertain myself for hours on end when I was a child, not needing a single soul to entertain and reassure me. So really I should embrace the solitude, the misty landscape, the sleepy beachfront with the wide roads that are not cluttered with mopeds beeping their horns frantically and missing running over my toes by inches. As I looked out to sea in all its murky grey glory, I asked myself ‘Here? Or at your corner desk staring at the computer screen?’ Here….Definitely here.

Calm in the chaos

Chaos in Hanoi

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’.

Fang district

Sitting crossed legged with a bowl of suspicious breakfast food, I listen to the wild life that hums around me. The breakfast is eaten in silence. The focus is on the food only, not on what others are eating or wondering what will be your next meal. Your focus is on the now. Fuelling your body and being mindful of your thoughts and actions. I cradle the bowl and bring a variety of flavours to my mouth. Chilli, fish balls, rice, unusual vegetables with sharp flavours, pork and green leafy spinach. I try and eat slowly to savour the variety of flavours that assault my senses. Behind me sit the monks, dressed in their robes, silently savouring their food.  I have arrived at the temple.

I am easing into the routine slowly. My friend and I arrived in Fang after a 12 hour bus journey. We did not have VIP which was recommended, as I was so flustered when I arrived at Mo Chit bus terminal, I simply forgot to ask. We took our seats at the top of the double decker bus and were not disappointed with our seats. There was plenty of space, free water, cookies and lunch. We waved goodbye to the hussle and bussle of the city before entering the country side. Mile after mile of vibrant greenery, before we steadily made our way up the mountain road. We could feel the bus struggle as we climbed further and further, passing the lush green forest and the mountains that became increasingly intimidating as the darkness enveloped us. Soon it was pitch black with not a light to show us the way. Me and E looked at each other giggling nervously, grateful that there were two of us. I was certainly thankful that I had not made the trip alone!

12 hours later the bus stopped in Fang. I was expecting some sort of bus station but got a bench instead. We sat and waited….And waited. Knowing that there had been a communication breakdown with G (the monk who would be looking after us) we found a hotel behind Tesco (oh, Tesco you make homesickness bearable) for £6 each. We climbed into our beds, exhausted and the next morning made our way to the Temple, catching a bus that would take us to the temple 15 minutes away from the centre of Fang.

Here I am, living in the Temple grounds, surrounded by forest and nature. Each morning there are a variety of unusual noises, echoing from the vast mountains. Each morning the gong sounds and the temple dogs howl in delight, sending shivers down my spine. Roasters crow their morning song and the crickets hum steadily in the garden. The air is so fresh and warm in the day time but come night fall the bitter cold seeps through the wooden rooms and into my bones, causing me to wrap up with multiple layers. The silence here is something else. So peaceful that my mind and thoughts seem so loud and powerful that I have no choice but to ‘watch’ them. Wondering if they were always this loud, rude and selfish. It makes me wonder who I’ve been living with for the last 28 years, and why have I allowed my mind to run wild and mischievously, causing havoc not only to those around me but also myself. Always criticising, bullying and generally causing pain. Needless to say I am worlds away from my previous life in an office, staring at the screen, watching my life slip away minute by minute. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to whatever force pushed me into resigning and taking that leap of faith.