What am I doing?

Note – This is the first in a series of posts from my notebook. I’ve recently discovered the cathartic power writing can have so I keep a Moleskin in my pocket and let the words flow whenever I feel the urge. The writing brings the feelings to the surface and I hope the act of posting will release them into the ether, the harmful ones to dissipate and the joyous ones to be shared and find other minds. Also I’m terrified of losing the book  after a friend’s experience, so this blog is acting as my backup. I’m not really looking for an audience with these, not announcing them on Facebook, but if you stumble upon them I hope you take something from it. Even if it’s just thinking “holy fuck, he can’t write for shit…”. If you do like them I’ll be categorising them as ‘journal’.

The slow, painful countdown has begun. In 16 hours (less now) I leave South-East Asia, my home for over a year – but god, it seems forever – and return temporarily to the grim reality, the cold, grey streets of Edinburgh. Thoughts are cascading through my brain, jostling for attention like demanding children, the most persistent, vocal and irritating being “, the hell are you doing?” This one mantra, careening around my consciousness, clanging its cymbals like some demented, perpetual-motion, clockwork toy.

How do I answer? What justification can I give for telling the puppy-eyed, innocent child inside that there’s no Santa Claus and then stealing all his sweets? I’ve got to be tough and above all I’ve got to be honest; this was always a one-year deal and I knew that from the beginning. Some sixteen months ago I made myself a solemn promise, swore an oath that I would not get tied down to the first place I laid my head. Settle down, find my bearings, establish a warm, fuzzy comfort zone and before I know it life is passing me by again; it’s an old pattern and my promise was a tether, a safety line securing me to reality.

Then why the problem? To use a worn cliche, “you don’t know man, you weren’t there”. My mind boggles at everything I have experienced since crashing headlong into this land of surprise and smiles. Rutger Hauer’s monologue at the end of Blade Runner worms its way into the theatre of my thoughts – “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…” – only my personal version is all the more powerful to me because every last second was real, experienced by a real human being, me.

I’ve trekked through tropical jungles, scaled marble mountains, bathed in the greenest oceans and showered in towering waterfalls. I’ve been scorched and blistered by a naked, vicious, unforgiving sun, soothed and cooled by monsoon rains and lulled to sleep by violent yet strangely comforting storms. I’ve kept company with the strangest creatures, from monkeys to geckos, lumbering bull elephants to entrancing fluorescent algae. My tastebuds have been assaulted by flavours ranging from delicate to divine, subtle to satanic, and under siege from salted sweets and sugared soups. My eyes have feasted on azure skies and kaleidoscopic flora, on architecture from the regal to the ramshackle, and on some of the most alluring, sensual and enchanting women (and, I must admit, former men) to grace this planet.

And throughout it all, a constantly changing stream of companions, friendships in flux all around. I now proudly count among my acquaintances denizens of every corner of this globe. Most are no more than the most casual of contacts, fellow drifters thrust by the tides of circumstance onto the same shore, but transient or not they are welcome at my door (wherever that may be) any time they please. Other encounters blossomed into deep and lasting friendships which will endure any break and span any distance, and to these souls I am eternally indebted for allowing me to share the past year. And then there are my Thai friends, those who welcomed me into their country, their town, their homes, always with open arms and honest hearts. I truly leave a piece of myself behind with them.

This year defied expectation and belief. It has affected profound changes deep within me, altering and refreshing my jaded outlook on the world, life, work, other people and, most significantly, myself. It has seen me fall deeply, insanely in love, sacrifice my strongest principles to sustain it and start slowly crawling out of the pit of rejection on the other side. Most importantly it has seen me rediscover a sense of purpose, a feeling of worth and connection with the world around me and an overwhelming love of life.

This year was the year, the one to redefine everything before and shape everything after. But time moves on, a promise is a promise and new experiences loom ever larger on the horizon. What am I doing? I’m looking forward.

(Written at Petronas Towers, Matahari Lodge and Reggae Bar, KL – 17th and 18th Nov, 2010)

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