It has been one week since leaving my home in Thailand. As my departure approached, I wasn’t anxious or upset. Instead, I found myself at peace as I packed my bag to head back to the states. I had finished my time with Elephant Nature Park, and knew I would be back to Thailand as soon as possible. It wasn’t until today, as I comfortably switched my laundry over into the dryer, something I have lived without for four months, that it hit me hard. I have been non stop since returning to the United States, and the moment I found myself alone and relaxed, the inevitable adjustment period came with a vengeance. I immediately started feeling immense guilt for merely using the dryer before me. The guilt rapidly grew inside me as I remembered my hot shower just hours prior, the crushed ice from the freezer to go with my easily accessible drinking water, and the binge watching of Law and Order SVU on a real tv while I sat on a real couch. Such luxuries that once may have determined my happiness have turned into a burden on my heart. For these luxuries only further put salt in the wound of where I am in the world. I am no longer in the comfort of my third world country home. I refuse to use the saying that I have come back to reality, as I don’t believe that to be true. Your life and reality is wherever you choose it to be.
When I chose to go to Thailand, it wasn’t escaping a life here, but plunging forward into something uncomfortable and unknown to change the world in my own way. It wasn’t a vacation that was given to me by anyone, it was a mission that I made happen to help the helpless. A mission I never wanted to stop, but only had to to put myself in a better position to do more; to be better for the animals. So, now I find myself back here. Don’t get me wrong, I am grounded in my soul and elated to be home with family, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that although my mind is in the moment, my heart is residing in the past.
On top of it all, I know exactly what lies ahead: the ongoing journey of the inevitable adjustment. We all face it. Every globe trotting, world changing, road less traveler goes through this adjustment in their own way. I had only been gone four months, and I can only imagine what my friends who have been gone far longer went through upon returning. Considering most return to Thailand (or wherever they lived and traveled), I think my assumption that many feel the same way I am right now is correct. No overpriced meal at a chain restaurant will compare to your favorite street cart food you ate standing up as motorbikes and people from around the world hurried around you. No hot shower in a tiled bathtub will quite match up to the single hand held nozzle you used that shared the same floor as your toilet…that is of course if the power doesn’t go out, then you’re screwed. No über ride with easy communication in English to your driver will hold a candle to waving down a tuktuk and negotiating in a new language a price that seems fit, and then proceeding to fully trust your driver to take you to the right place as he weaves in and out of oncoming traffic going the wrong way. Aside from daily activities that seem normal to most, you have the painful task of communicating with friends and family that have not been with you in your other life. As you listen to others complain about how their new iPhone hasn’t come in the mail yet, or that the barista at Starbucks got their order wrong again, you have flashbacks of rural villages with children throwing machetes at dogs and power being out for days leaving you with no communication to anyone in the outside world let alone hot food or a shower. Most importantly, and quite possibly the most difficult, how do you live in a country filled with such hatred for each other, such need for materliatic pleasure, and such scewed view that the grass is always greener when the most kindness offered and happiness exibitated came from those living in the most deplorable conditions with just the clothes on their backs…but never without a smile.
Personally, I want so badly to be able to relate to conversations around me. To be able to focus on life as it is right now, but my heart is desperately pulling me back to those I left behind. How can I sit here doing nothing while so many others are still fighting to change lives. Nothing will ever fuel me the way animal rescue does. This line of work looks different for many. For me, it’s running in between and through the dirt covered properties behind the shacks that house families of 12 in rural communities as I search for a dog with a severe wound that we need to treat. It’s holding a fading kitten in your hands as it takes its last breath, knowing you did everything in your power to save it. It’s laying on a cement cage floor with a dog you have spent the last 90 days with as she awaits her diagnosis from the vets you begged to look more closely at her case, because you knew in your gut something wasn’t right. I will never not do everything in my power to better the lives for those that can’t speak for themselves. So, until I find myself back in the place that needs it the most, I will adjust to my home here. I’m sure the adjustment period looks differently for many, but as for me, I’ll be working through it as I enjoy the ride of being with those I love here. Here’s to all the others going through their adjustment period. It’s not easy, but you aren’t alone.