beautiful trees and blue sky

When life throws you a do-over (and you return from where you left)

During one of the darkest moments in my adult life, I failed to reach out. I didn’t really tell friends and family what was happening. I think part of the reason was I couldn’t explain it, I couldn’t get my hands around it, but mostly I was ashamed.

This time around, I didn’t make the same mistake. True, the circumstances were different, but when I spoke with my friends, they became lifelines tethering me to a balloon of hope. Our conversations were reminders that: I was not going crazy, my situation was insane and that I was loved.

You know how Arya from GOT has her list of people she wants to kill? Well, I have my list of folks I want to thank. I’ve been blessed by how quickly friends have paid for meals, offered their places, help, gifts, jobs, you name it. They’ve come to the rescue in a variety of ways, and even the seemingly smallest acts of kindess bring tears to my eyes.

I don’t want to wait anymore I’m tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter
I don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on

The BF has remarked on this. I suppose I have a rolodex of friends and that’s why returning to Thailand made sense. I can’t carry a lot because of my nomadic lifestyle these days, but I can keep my contacts. This has been something that I’ve tried to cultivate for as long as I’ve been aware that wealth can take on different forms. But this is not to say that I haven’t let go of friends or made bad relationship decisions.

Sometimes I wonder what I’ve done to deserve such nice friends, but that’s just something weak/mean we say to ourselves. If I’m honest, I know I try to be a good person and I hope that shines through.

And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on

When I first moved to Thailand, I was with my then-much-younger-boyfriend. I was full of excitement. I was ready to live and work abroad. I was naïve. Long story short, we broke up. After six years together, Thailand was the turning point. Yet, I should mention that new friendships had been forged, it was pivotal in my teaching career, too. Then after nine months, I left.

I returned after a handful of months in Ecuador, in an attempt to get back together again. But by then, he was already with another woman (unbeknownst to me). Yet, my second attempt at Thailand stuck, it had staying power. My friend Julia (who I had met during first attempt) taught me how to ride a motorbike, something I feared after my father’s death. She got me an interview which led to a job, and essentially helped me start over all before she returned to Canada. And the funny thing is we met a garden center when I approached her, asking if she spoke English because I can be fearless at making friends.

Things just started to sing after that.

I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road

Then after about five years in Thailand, after I picked up another boyfriend (you just pluck them off the trees here, hahahaha, watch for thorns), we moved to Cambodia, and boy, was that challenging. But now that we are returning to Chiang Rai, I wonder why I left in the first place. Why do we leave to return to where we were?

I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am
Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining

– First Aid Kit, “My Silver Lining”

Of course, I want to say ‘no regrets’, but that doesn’t roll off the keyboard as quickly as I’d like. If I had stayed, I would have everything I gave away. I’d be stable, secure and none of the drama that happened with my mother would have occurred.

Most likely though I would have gotten bored and restless. Isn’t that horrible? It wasn’t until I left sleepy Chiang Rai that I appreciated it, like down to my bone marrow, appreciated it. For all its problems, there were new ones that I hadn’t even imagined in Siem Reap. I missed Thailand and was annoyed because I thought I was so ready to get away from it.

I returned to the Land of Smiles twice to see friends and family while I was in Cambo, enjoying the best of both worlds. But now that I’m back where it all began, in Chiang Mai, I’ve been left to contemplate why I’m here again.

Naturally, I know that Cambodia was more than a resume booster shot, it was a unique experience that connected me to a whole other universe. It gets under your sunburned skin. It’s a special place and I miss my students and colleagues more than I expected.

With each passing day I’m getting a better hold on “Why did all this happen?”. Now I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully understand, but I do feel changed. My goals are sharper having had time to whittle, fall down and scramble.

And so it goes…

P.S You’ll be happy to hear that my mom and I are talking again. She’s been calling her sister in Lamphun everyday asking about me until finally, she could come out with my cousin, who speaks some English.

When I called my mom, the most lucid thing she said was, “I was mad at you and mad at myself for getting mad at you”. I don’t know what will happen next as it’s not a question of forgiveness as much as tentatively trying to rebuild our relationship and trust.

P.P.S. If you carefully read (who reads these days?), then you might have noticed that we’re moving to Chiang Rai. My amazing boss and friend asked me back so I’ll be teaching up there soon.

Thank you for your words of encouragement and understanding. They were wonderfully uplifting to read in airports, hotels and in transit. xxoo

21 thoughts on “When life throws you a do-over (and you return from where you left)

  1. 1. Thank you for introducing me to a new band, First Aid Kit. I didn’t even know of their existence. My last girl band that worshipped was/is Indigo Girls.

    2. Chiang Rai is actually one of the place I thought of staying long term as I have some friends/connection there (although I haven’t been in CR for over 15 years). My friends/connection don’t think I’m cut out for full-time in CR due to slowness of the town though (they know me from BKK and Singapore). I just gave the middle finger to my meaningless job in Singapore (will definitely miss the paychecks!) and will be giving retirement another shot. We might actually meet up!!!

    3. All the best on CRR (Chiang Rai Redux).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 1. Happy to hear it! For more all-girl band goodness, check out HAIM, too. They’re great.

      2. CR is defintely not for everyone. It’s a quiet town that gets a little routine-y. But I do well in small towns having lived in them most of my life. (Let me know if you’re in the ‘hood :P)

      3. Thank YOU! I’m going to make the best of it.


  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences so honestly. They resonate with me. It would be relatively easy for some to write a superficial blog celebrating the adventure of travel and new experiences and skirting over the less heartwarming underside. However, it takes courage to be open about how vulnerable some of the challenges can leave you. I really love your writing style and the integrity with which you talk about your life. It sounds like it has been turbulent for too long, I hope Chiang Rai wraps you up in a healing hug whilst you reflect on ‘what next’. Good luck in this next rich adventure in life! Lx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Lucy for your kind words! I have to admit, I’m still scared to share my posts on FB where a lot of my friends are. I used to be okay with it and then I got too scared of other’s good opinions. So, while I may look brave – I’m selective. Hahahhaa.

      Sending hugs right back!


  3. There is only so much we can bottle up. And when we unleash, that’s when we know who are really there for us. Kindness is kindness, and it really is kindness when no one expects anything in return. Moving back to Chiang Rai sounds exciting. I guess it will be familiar to you, and probably nothing much would have changed – but you just have to get used to the routine again 😛

    ‘Why did all this happen?’ is such an interesting question, especially when you been through something like moving back and forth, and so much uncertainty. It could be poor choices, could be no choice on your part, for someone, part of your values, or maybe just a coincidence that you can’t explain. Good luck, Lani bear ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Since I’m not in CR yet, I haven’t allowed myself to feel excited. I think that’s not quite the right word. Although I probably will feel that way when I walk into the classroom again.

      It’s around the corner, but feels far away. I think because there feels like much to do and I’m trying to relax and be here before being there, if that makes sense.

      I’ll mediate on ‘why’ and in my own good time, I’m sure things will make more sense. Now that I’m not in it, I feel better because the stress of everything hitting the floor at once has subsided.

      Thanks Mabel!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing your playlist and your journey. I’m glad your mom was at least a little reflective? With some parents, even partial awareness is a big win.

    As for your redo, well, you can’t know you loathe a food unless you try it, right? So try everything and don’t make a face. Then you know what you really like — for now, because your tastes may change as your tastebuds die off. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right. That’s a good reminder, coming from her, I suppose it’s a big deal. I mean, for some people being reflective and admitting they were wrong or acted a certain way does require a lot of work.

      I’m the opposite, I’ll say ‘sorry’ even if I don’t mean it or just to be agreeable, you know? I don’t like conflict, I’d rather move on, but I pick my battles for sure.

      The analogy works. I think my taste buds have changed and they’ve changed in ways I never could have predicted had I not gone back to Hawaii. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to take the long way though, you know? Less expensive. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sometimes I feel like certain people are boomerangs. They fly off somewhere, convinced they’re an arrow, ready to conquer the world, only to return, and realize that was their job all along. To return. I’m speaking of myself here, but I wonder if your boomerang trip was Thailand. You were there, it was good and bad, you left, you’re coming back. Maybe this is another boomerang for something else. Maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t matter, and the fact that you can look at the old with new eyes and new experiences and new people (and old, good friends), is all you need.

    I understand hiding things. I understand confessing them and being overwhelmed by help from friends you feel are too good for you. I don’t have any advice there because I don’t know how to handle it myself. But I can offer empathy. I know it’s rough.

    But you’re tough. That’s what I’ve always thought, reading your blog and your emails. You’re so strong and cool, and I admire you in so many ways.

    I’m glad you can share, and I’m glad things are (maybe) getting a little back on track. Back to okay. I hope so.

    Love from Texas~


  6. No matter where you are, I’m eager to read both your challenges and triumphs. Although you wonder why you left, there is no doubt you left a strong mark in Cambodia and I’m sure your students and colleagues miss you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My former students and colleagues are making it harder to say good-bye! I must say the Khmer people have definitely made an impact on me.

      Thanks, Sophie. Hugs from the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m so happy for you, Lani! It sounds like you’re exactly where you need to be.

    Oh man, I think the more shit we go through in life, the more we learn to respect our friends and communities. They take years to build up, and travelers like myself don’t learn to fully appreciate it until I leave it and come back. I feel that way every time I go back to Utah.

    You are loved, Lani! I’m glad you found the place you need to be. We all need a place that makes us feel grounded and comfortable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your sweet words! Yeah, as far as returning, it’s like, “Really? Here again? What? I don’t get it?” I think there’s a bit of pride mixed in because I’ve always moved forward, or felt that way, rarely back, but sometimes we return (mentally or physically) to a place because, like you said, it’s where we need to be. xxoo


  8. It sounds like things are falling back into place after being so up in the air for a while. I’m really happy for you, Lani. You’re the truest embodiment of the nomadic lifestyle, that I know. And really rocking it at that. Something to be proud of. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG. Don’t say that. Hahahaha. I can’t take the compliment.

      But YES! things are falling back into place and I’m so so grateful. Whew!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there–or here online– for you when you needed encouragement, Lani. I mean that sincerely. I know those feelings you have felt. I can relate so much to your story, some of the good, some of the bad.

    I wish for you a great life in Thailand and in anywhere you’ll choose to go to in the future. I know you can do it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks dear. No worries. I know that sometimes we can’t be online as much as we’d like, reading and catching up on each other’s lives.

      And based on what you’ve been going through, I understand. I’ll take the encouragement now. 🙂 xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

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