I realized some time has passed since I last reflected on my experiences abroad, and although I’ve been journaling almost every day, I suppose it might be worthwhile to also share online what I’ve been going through.
I’ll keep it brief.
I’ve honestly been feeling both alone and lonely, and this whole conundrum of loneliness is actually something I’ve been trying to unpack. I’ve been attempting to confront it, to get through it, to learn about ways in which I can feel less of it. But these attempts have almost been entirely futile.
It’s nearing four months since I moved to my province. I still haven’t made any friends or found people to talk to (like actually talk to). The language and cultural barriers have made it practically impossible for me to communicate with people without having to simplify my sentences, thoughts, and feelings. When teachers and students find time to meet with me, our conversations are surface-level at best. I feel quite disconnected from the communities around me.
Prior to Fulbright, I was accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle of college. Whether it was studying (or cramming), attending classes, hanging with friends, leading meetings, attending events, partying, whatever—I was doing something. Here, though, my life has taken a 180, and I’ve been swept up in the mundane, in the routine.
After spending the first few months adapting and getting ~comfortable with my new home, the feelings of excitement and thrill finally subsided. I eventually began to feel unstimulated, unmotivated, and uninspired. I’d wake up, skip breakfast, head to a cafe, lesson plan, grab lunch, teach a few periods, head to another cafe, grab dinner, and return home. That was it. I’m usually in bed by 8 PM on any given night. The following day, I’d repeat the same thing. (Note: I usually eat 1-2 meals a day because I don’t exert enough energy to need replenishment.)
Coming to Vietnam, I hit the breaks real hard on my once fast moving life. I had no choice but to relax, and I had so much freedom and time on my hands. Most people would swap places with me in a heartbeat. I mean, who doesn’t want to trade in a full-time job for a ~prestigious abroad opportunity, have financial independence, and take a step away from the hustle and bustle?
But I sh*t you not: having copious amounts of free time can actually—and will—exhaust you if you don’t find (productive) alternatives. It’s debilitating and crippling, ironically. For me, things got old pretty fast. I started to sleep in more than usual, getting on average 10 hours of sleep each night. I happily snoozed my alarms because I didn’t want to wake up to repeat the same old schedule I had assumed. I didn’t have any excitement in my life, and in many instances, I felt lost, confused, questioning my presence here.
I’m still trying to figure out what I can do (better). I continue to grapple with my loneliness, though now, it comes in waves. And I can’t swim (that’s a known fact) so I find myself drowning. I can’t stay afloat, something’s weighing me down.
* * *
Maybe I should return home.
Maybe I should stay.
Maybe I should return home.
Maybe I should st-
Tây Ninh | Photo Credit: David Thai (2018)