I’ve been living in Thailand for 1.5 years already, quickly approaching 2. My dream destination for all my life, if ever there was one. No doubt, a dream destination for many people in the world.
I moved here to work at a beautiful Montessori school that I found online when I was looking to escape the horrors of the international school where I worked in Shanghai. This was supposed to be my big break away. I would have it all. The perfect school in the perfect destination, after an amazing heart-opening month in India.
So why haven’t you heard about it?
Because people like to complain. I couldn’t come on here and go on and on about how perfect my life is and how lucky and grateful I am and how I’m living out my every fantasy. (Even if it were true.) Of course, if we’re being realistic, it’s not that way at all.
There is no such thing as the perfect anything. And we all know that. But as far as perfection goes, I’ve come pretty damn close. I’ve been out of the rat race matrix for almost three years now. I moved from the biggest city in the world to one of the most popular tropical tourist islands in the world. I went from a 21st floor view of mostly smog, to an infinity pool a step away from my back door. The school is as laid back as any job will ever be and I have a bunch of sweet children who love me dearly.
When I first came to Phuket, I wasn’t sure any of this would happen. I stayed in a bedroom with barely any view for the first few weeks. I had replaced the school tyrant, who they didn’t fire, and who assumed her new role was to be my overlord. And as far as tropical islands go, I was severely underwhelmed when I looked at the place in the day time. Phuket is nothing like the photos you see of Thailand, and when I was house hunting it seemed I would be hard-pressed to find anywhere comfortable, let alone a place with a kitchen. But it didn’t take long for the universe to provide, as she always does. I manifested the tyrant to leave on her own accord. Peace started to settle at MHP as soon as she took her madness away from it. I took less than two weeks to find a place with not only a kitchen, but also a washer and a saltwater pool, all within walking distance of the school. I was guided. For my comfort, I found Montara. For my loneliness, Charles (my house mate)—who quickly gave me Stas.
In what felt like no time at all, I started a relationship I was not ready for and committed myself to a project I should have been thrilled about but never without this underlying hesitation. I was obviously starting my life. This was it.
So why didn’t it feel as good as it should?
Why wasn’t I reeling at the idea of being able to spearhead a project EXACTLY like the one I had found at The Source, but with an already established Montessori school. Is this also because people like to complain? Or was there something else. Is there something else, beneath the mirage. It’s hard to say. But I came back this school year feeling calm and resolute about my decision to stay another year. And that quickly came tumbling down as the reality of the lack of community came back to remind me of just how lonely this place is. I had prepared myself this time though. I recruited a friend from Jamaica to work at the school and also share the house. I thought for sure that this would make all the difference. It hasn’t. As I should have known from Stas, one person isn’t a community. Of course it is better than zero, but those two people would still need to socialise and engage with the outside world in a meaningful way—especially if they are already living and working together. Slowly came this second realisation. Slowly awakened my discontent at school. Little everyday nuances started to chip chip chip away at my “perfect scenario”.
Our house flooded. We were forced to move over night. We had to stay with Stas and his friend for over a week. We desperately signed a lease for a new place that in addition to not saving us money, would actually cost us more. Now we needed a car. Now we needed a washing machine. Now we needed WiFi. Now we needed to buy bedsheets and other little essentials and to coordinate all our moves with each other because there’s no more walking to school or BigC or the market. Still, all of it was welcomed because the energetic shift of the new house was tremendous and palpable and now the dogs would have more space outside and the evening wind would come in and we could hear the noises of nature from the forest next door and be able to walk 2 minutes to the beach.
If I take everything into perspective, I can’t say I really have much to complain about (though I could surely find something). But what’s important to note here is that I am very often unhappy. Or, if not unhappy, just existing. Nothing much has changed since this post except that it has perpetuated and become more glaring and unbearable with time. In therapy I was asked to describe my perfect day, when I’m free of depression and have energy and everything goes my way. I did. And when I got to the end we both realised that I had described my perfect day in solitude and ending with being in the womb. Aside from interactions at work, I hadn’t included any socialising. No family. No friends. No gathering. In my perfect, ideal day. That was when I realised how deeply I’ve sunken into solitude. As I described to her how my house used to be the hangout spot for all our friends, the place of many games nights and sleepovers, I realised how far removed I am from that person and that space. I wasn’t able to imagine anyone at my dining table eating and laughing. I didn’t picture any company with me at the beach. I cooked dinner for a house void of people.
They always say a big beautiful house means nothing without people to share it with. And I’ve never truly felt the full expression of that statement until now. In choosing between this empty peace with two friends to lean on, and the fullness of Babylon, with family and friends to help me endure it —the decision isn’t so far leaning to one side as I expected.