Walking Away From It All

I’ve always had to restrain myself in relationships – they always remarked that I was too intense.

They never got me. I could explain and express myself as plainly as I could but they never really understood what I was saying.

I always felt alone in some way. Even when I was physically with them. That was us too by the end, because you pulled yourself away.

None of them, bar one, could entertain the conversations that I craved. The philosophical questions about consciousness and self-awareness.

I quickly outgrew all of them, leaving them behind because of some way that I felt they were immature.

Until I met you.

One day someone will listen to me talk about you and when I’m finally finished, they will ask “so why did you love him?” and I will answer “Because I got to see who he was and I just loved him.” Simple as that. And it will be the truth. But it wasn’t enough. I finally met someone who I didn’t have to restrain myself with, who could challenge my thinking, who I could explain myself to and understood why I meant what I said. But he was too young to see what I could see.

You hate being called a boy, because you think to use the phase “boy” or “girl” is disrespectful. (I don’t agree, I think they’re purely cultural but you were never really open to listen to me on this point). But I have to say, by the end of our relationship all you proved to me was how much of a boy you still were, how sheltered you had been, and how blind you were. If you ever find someone like me, never let her go. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else in the same breed as me, overly rational but still in touch with just enough emotions to be able to function. Especially to hear the things you say without over-reacting. There’s only so many times I can hear “whatever I’m looking for, you’re not it” without letting myself fall apart from the feeling like whatever that was left intact was being ripped to even smaller shreds (what even was that? You tell me I’m not it but then progress in the same piece of prose to tell me that you could see that our future if we were physically together right now would be incredible?? What a load of garbled mess. You have a lot of thinking and growing up to do).

No I don’t see our relationship in that movie because the guy asks the girl back near the end – although I find it interesting that’s the part you picked up on and reacted so strongly to. I relate to and aspire to be like the heroine who finds her independence even though she deeply loved and shared a unique connection with the boyfriend who abandons her. Does that seem somewhat familiar?

I will continue to cry about us for a long time. You may have to live with your decisions (and it was more or less wholly your decision), but so do I. For me, I can take some small solace in the fact what you think and decide is outside my realm of control, but I still have to live with your decision to starve our future out of possibility. I can see there may come a day when you regret this decision. Or you may not; again this is completely out of my domain of control. I will move on from this with acceptance that I did all I could, I loved fiercely, proudly and without restraint. It was beautiful and it hurt like hell like I’ve never known – deeper than I could’ve imagine. I’m not sure I would do it again but I’m proud for the fact I did.

You were surprised by my breaking up with you the morning before I left (know that I chose to only because I could see that you had exited the relationship already and my integrity refused to let me continue). You were also hurt when I told you that even if you asked for me back, I’d say no. This highlights your immaturity, you’re not used to someone who might actually stand up for themselves. And there are plenty of people who wouldn’t, who would stay and stick it out rather than choose being alone and facing the unknown. But just as what you choose and feel isn’t within my control, nor am I in yours. You may think I’m predictable but you underestimate me. You tell me that I’m so much more emotionally advanced or that I’m incredible in communication or whatever, but you don’t actually believe it. I see it in your actions. You try and paint yourself as this anti to the male ego, that you’re so much better than that. But at the end of the day, what you did was no better than any of my exes. You have a high opinion of yourself for someone who lacks the self-awareness they claim that they have. This point, I really hope that you read one day and really reflect on. You are just as self-serving as any of them, which is ironic given how your aim in life is so community focused. On a wandering tangent, I wonder how selfless it can be counted if you orientate your life around giving back to the community if it’s to make you feel fulfilled. Get off your high chair, maybe then you can learn real self-awareness.

I am going to stop talking about you after this. Hopefully at some point in the near future I will stop thinking about you too. I took a chance and I gave it all I could. And it’s likely that I will never love anyone like I did you, but I don’t think loves like that are meant to happen multiple times in a lifetime and I’m making peace with that. If you had any sense, you’d fight, but you don’t and nor will you if you ever realise the gravity of this in future. Men in general are so scared of hurting themselves and their egos – no matter how hard you want to believe you are exempt from that, you are not.

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Back into the Fray

A week back into working in the urban jungle that is London. Things feel different – I guess largely because I’m different.

One difficult thing that I’m still coming to grasp is my hunger to do everything. When I’m out backpacking in the beautiful landscapes of SE Asia, I miss the mammoth menu of things to do, see and eat in London and cities. When I’m here, I miss the wilderness, the anything-goes attitudes and the pushing limits and horizons. I want it all; it’s incredibly hard to reconcile. I think it’s the main reason that I’ve never been able to specialise and focus on one thing. Because to focus on one thing means sacrificing the breadth of your experiences. This has always never been an appealing trade-off for me historically.

Being back has led to some interesting questions being asked internally. Do I want a focus? Is that why life feels lacking? If so, what is it? What is important to me? Money – I don’t need much. Success – completely subjective. I’m good at what I do, but reaching the top doesn’t appeal to me – it’s too egoistic to me. Family – don’t really want for one. Relationship – I’ve never met a person who can quite keep up. So what should I seek? When I think through all that I’ve done, I want to create a life where I feel the most alive, at peace – that makes me the most happy.

I don’t subscribe to the mass-prescribed modern life template. Be educated, go to uni, get a good job, find a partner, settle down, buy a house, have a family – in varying order but nevertheless the same milestones. Once you blow the template out of the water, then what? You get to decide what you want to do. 80 years of life where everything you choose to do is accountable to your decisions. And that’s terrifying – too much for some people. I still have trouble grappling with it but it makes the most sense to me.

Question everything. Why do you do the things you do?

Self Reflection

The future is so uncertain and at times frightening, I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know who I’ll “end up with”, I don’t know where I want to settle down and be. These thoughts would’ve been overwhelming and so heavy in weight a year ago, but days of recent times it’s not had the same influence.

To the person who I was this time last year, I know you’re in immense pain. The last couple of months and the months following will be the hardest and most heart-crushing pain you will have ever gone through. You will learn some truths that goes against some fundamental principles you held dear, but you will grow from it. Don’t try and hold tightly on who you were because that Louisa is dead and gone, all you can do is look forward. The new you is not worse or better but just is. You will be pushed to the furthest edge of the mortal cliff, you will come back having gained a better idea of where the drop-off is and make peace with it. All of this will be a trial by fire which will give you a new skin of cold, hard steel when you finally emerge – a process that is slow and not a quick transformation by any means. Well done on being you Louisa, I’m proud that you are still here and have made the last year what you have. Shit happens all the time. People will do awful things intentional or unknowingly, but do them they will nonetheless and that’s not within your control. You are the master of only your own actions.

One thing that I did learn about myself in the last year was the existence of my anxiety which has always accompanied me and been an obstacle in many situations. Living in London did not help things, being in such a high pressure city where there’s little love for strangers on the street, where there is little time to get from A to B it feeds anxiety and sometimes it would make me feel and act small. The new skin of cold steel has been priceless in gaining clarity on when this affects me and helps me challenge why it is I should feel small (to which the answer is always “no real reason”). It’s a big but subtle change. The best way of explaining this is to liken it to how Evie changes in V for Vendetta after V tortures to “free” her from her fears. I suppose when you’ve stared into the eyes of something so dark, nothing feels as bad anymore.

My lowest point last year was being unable to answer what my motivation was in life, what I wanted to do, what direction I was to have. When I rationally thought it through, I rationally saw that there was no point to my life. My life (as with all other lives, it is not special) is an accumulation of moments, relationships and knowledge learnt. But without feeling a reason (and I still don’t, this is not something I think I can change), nothing I do matters. It got to the point where I saw logic in ending my life – although I have to stress that I was not suicidal. There is a distinction, albeit nuanced, between feeling like you need to end your life and seeing the logic in ending life. Being the latter, it also allows me to carry on to see what the alternative is, because what else am I going to do otherwise? As dark and possibly twisted this post is, I wanted to be brutally honest about how I felt, what I continue to feel. I am still alive and actually doing really well. I have a new job and a new house lined up, I’m about to go visit my boyfriend in the US. I don’t need help, and I’m currently not seeking help. I feel perfectly in control and at peace with who I am at this moment in time and what happened. The purpose of writing this was to point out that no one needs to be happy 100% of the time. That’s not human. Dark thoughts happens in all of us, but they need to be conversed with. Why are you feeling the way you feel? Don’t try and shirk from it – the most unhealthy thing here is denial.

The event that threw me into the existential blender of the past year was atrocious. It is heinous, despicable and should never have to happen to anyone. But having spoken to people who have had similar if not worst tales to tell, and having had time to process, I’m glad it happened. I am who I am today because of it and what I did after. How much I learnt is something that I’m fiercely proud of which no one can take away from me.

How Far I’ve Come

I’ve now been back in London for two days. It’s been interesting to see the lack of change in the city contrasted against the changes I see within myself. I feel a different person and it’s made much more obvious being back in a familiar environment. Part of the changes are due to the travelling I’ve been on – I wonder whether if these will be long term, but there are also changes which I can imagine are due to what happened last summer.

Looking back on the person I was, it seems a lot of the stresses and anxieties I had came from the expectations and how tightly I was gripping on life. I no longer have the tension I had before and that in itself feels so different.

I was not in a good place before I went away so it’s kind of comforting to hear my close friends say that I seem happy and better when I stayed with them. But the pain still sits there and still hurts, I don’t think it will ever disappear and I’ve accepted it. Moving on isn’t necessarily to reach a place where things no longer hurt. This last year has taught me that it’s about making peace with what happened, fully accepting that it changes you as a person and having the courage to take the next step without letting it hinder you. It’s been a long, difficult process but ultimately I wouldn’t be the person I am today without everything that’s in my past. I have no insight on who I would be had things panned out differently and there’s very little use in wishing for things to have turned out otherwise. I love myself enough to not waste any time dwelling on that.

Anxieties of a Long Distance Relationship

It’s bizarre to think we’ve only been together for three and a half months. I’ve never been with someone who I know like I know you. It’s not that I can claim I know you like the back of my hand (or maybe it is because I don’t know the back of hands that well), but it’s more that I can read you – you make sense to me. I spend my time in relationships deciphering the other person. Each one is like a puzzle and up until now, working it out leads me to boredom. But with you, you just get more interesting and I can’t put my finger on why that is. Maybe it’s because I genuinely believe you could leave me at any point and not show any remorse in doing so. I have experienced it and it hurt like hell. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There won’t be a third time. I love myself too much for that. But even though the possibility is very real that you might break up with me again, and even though it lies there like an exposed nerve, I still want to make this work.
A small part of me is quietly convinced that this will work out. And I’m past the point of knowing whether this part is my gut (which is pretty on point) or whether it’s a ridiculous hope I have.
It’s like the world’s most tense game of chicken and the prize is priceless but the forfeit is tragic.
All this is part of my anxiety I know, and it makes me into this flustered mess that feels like I have no control over anything. I hate that feeling, like I’m spinning wildly out of control and might end up doing something wrong. And that’s why I know I need to calm myself down and compose myself, even though that’s the last thing I want to do.
You need to snap out of it Louisa. You’ve been through too much to let this affect you the way it is. The tighter you try and hold on the more you’ll smother him and the relationship. You want to be with him because he chooses to be with you not because you convince him or nag him into it.
If it ends, it ends. There is very little you can do about it but you know you’ll be alright. That tattoo on your leg saying “this too shall pass” was to serve as a reminder that nothing is permanent. Everything single fucking thing in this world is transitional and temporary. And there is no happy ending because your life is not a story. So take a deep breathe. It is what it is and what will be, will be.

Blink of an Eye

I can’t believe it’s September already. Time really does fly with the blink of an eye.

The last month has been a little of a whirlwind, with a quick exit out of Vietnam to see family and then back to Vietnam and starting three weeks of travel. Back to it!

We first made our way towards the South of Vietnam, I’m glad I made time to finally do so since I didn’t really get to whilst I was working at Asia Outdoors. We did an overnight train to Hue, biked from there to Hoi An, flew from Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh city and then bussed from HCM to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The bike route from Hue to Hoi An was definitely one of the highlights with some really cheap options to get there. 450,000 VND (~£15) for bike hire for the one way journey and they transfer any big bags you don’t want to take to your hotel for you. For a day of riding around on a 135cc automatic scooter, it was totally worth it!

Hoi An was definitely very beautiful with all its signature lanterns glowing at night, painting the old streets in a gorgeous soft lighting. It is very touristy though teaming with visitors both western and Asian (there were a lot of Koreans when we were there).

In HCM we took an evening to have dinner and then go to the cinema. It’s the first time I’ve been since travelling and it was really good fun to do a coupley thing that was more familiar territory with both our backgrounds. Mission Possible was an excellent choice for it.

Phnom Penh was largely spent inside as I was ill (how I managed to contract a cold in ~30 degree heat, I’m not sure). We did manage to visit the genocide museum (S21) which was pretty harrowing, I had no idea Cambodia had such a violent, heartbreaking recent history.

Generally the city seemed like a pretty uninspiring sprawl. It definitely wasn’t very pedestrian friendly, particularly around where we stayed. I also nearly got robbed by some guys on a motorbike which was fun. Otherwise, Cambodians seem really nice and friendly.

We are currently in Siem Reap. Yes, we will be going to see the Angkor National Park tomorrow but I can’t believe it’s $37 to get in just for one day. I do really want to go see Beng Mealea too but we won’t have time.

One of the things that’s changed this time travelling is that I’m not longer solely travelling, I am also remote working. It’s bizarre, and it’s definitely taking getting used to but it’s an interesting new lifestyle. I certainly don’t earn enough to sustain a life in London but if I were to stay in SE Asia, it would provide a good amount of income. It is tiring though moving around, travelling and working as well. It’s a lot to juggle to then make sure you make quality time for your boyfriend which is the reason you went on this three week trip in the first place. You gotta do what you gotta do. Hopefully I can get this set up and rolling so that it can sustain me in future.

The Corner of Lost Souls

I’m sitting on the bus on my way off Cat Ba and out of Vietnam after 90 days in this country. It feels so weird. It’s the longest I’ve spent continuously in any country after UK and HK. I certainly would’ve never envisaged that I would be doing that here and certainly not that long in a small town on a small island. I remember arriving here in May (which feels like a lifetime ago) and thinking “shit, I’m going to spend three months here”?. It’s funny how quickly that seems to have passed.

Usually Asia Outdoors only give out six month contracts, but as luck would have it, through disorganisation of outgoing and incoming hiring people and their needing staff quickly I managed to negotiate a three month contract. I don’t regret my decision to leave after three and I’m glad I didn’t impulsively extend. Some people have been here over a year and I don’t quite understand how. Being here during the progression into rainy season probably doesn’t help much as it has made it such an effort to go climbing on days off. I can’t remember the last time I went to Butterfly Valley on my personal time. Climbing out in the bay is stunning but also expensive as you need to hire boats for the day. And going out DWS with the company on days off is something I didn’t enjoy too much. The fear of falling and jumping into water from high up severely hampers my enjoyment of the activity. So for me, my time here has felt like a time of being lost and trying to experience more, whilst lacking any real direction. And perhaps that’s where I come from so I’m projecting but I see a lot of people in the same boat as me – particularly those who have been here for over six months. The Corner of Lost Souls as I called it in a conversation with one of my past colleagues.

It’s been an interesting social experiment to see how people react to me. The locals and even westerners would often think I was local or could speak the language. Even this morning on my last office shift I had four people try to speak to me in Vietnamese and one westerner ask me if I can ask the Vietnamese staff of the neighbouring tea stand for some ice. It’s often quite amusing, particularly the embarrassment of the westerners sometimes. There would’ve been a time where it particularly bothered me – a time when my sense of identity was more fragile. Nowadays, I can shrug it off pretty easily. Of course I don’t expect you to know that I’m not local, I am Chinese after all.

I have missed long travel times alone like this when I usually default to escaping into my thoughts. There has definitely been a lot of distractions in Cat Ba. But also, the idea of sitting in a room by myself never seemed that appealing and neither did I find anywhere external to the hotel that I felt comfortable enough to relax.

The butterflies here are exquisite. That’s been a pleasant surprise that I’ve really enjoyed. I remember there was a particular week period around the end of May when Butterfly Valley really lived up to its name. I got distracted regularly whilst belaying by the variety and how many butterflies there were. Even now, there are still some beautiful and vibrant ones around.