03 December 2012

stay: in the moment, in cambodia.

I've tried relatively hard to adjust my mindset this past year.  I even wrote myself a little letter this past August to remind myself to stay present in the moment.

If I'm being honest, I pretty much spent the first few months of living in Cambodia, when not working, thinking about life after the Peace Corps.  I think, if many PCVs are honest, it's a rather common occurence.  Once a person decides to alter their lifestyle completely and live in an entirely new country and culture, there is a bit of "what if" remorse- what if we'd stayed? What if we'd kept working at the job we loved? What if we'd decided to say yes to our July 1st departure date and ended up in the Philippines? What if we'd tried to have kids instead? What if we we'd been placed somewhere COLD?!

And then there's the bit of "what will I do next?" that is at the back of mind when doing nearly everything- especially in those moments when you can't fathom another minute uncomfortable in nearly every way possible.  What will my job be? Where will we live? What is our plan for kids, careers, life, when all of this over?

Then, it hit me. Right after my lowest point, around Christmas last year- the only time I cried during my service because of my service- it hit me.

After spending so long thinking about what was next, I wanted to be entirely present in the now.  A few months spending spare time thinking about something two years away is a waste.  Instead of turning frustration into thoughts about the future, I wanted to feel those frustrations and allow myself to get deep in with them, and find the source.  Instead of turning daily joys into the joy of what's to come next, I wanted to let these joys - of learning a new language, of becoming truly immersed in a new culture, of adapting and changing- have them help me grow and mature and learn.  

I did this in a variety of ways.  I tried to take daily pictures for a while of the big and small things that made my life in Cambodia what it is.  I stopped obsessing over our life plans post-Cambodia.  Instead, I mapped out what I wanted the rest of my time in this country to look like, and began actively working on making the bigger projects happen.  I read more, in the places I've learned to love most in my new home.  I've gone bike riding just because I can.  I've sat and just drank a coffee, for no reason.  I've had conversations with strangers, with people who started out staring at me and ended up laughing with me.  I started wishing the days here didn't pass so quickly, and I stopped thinking about what was going to happen in a year, or two, or ten.

And, frankly, it's so much better this way.

Capturing the daily life, in a mirror at the hotel we stayed at this weekend in Siem Reap.
Do you struggle to stay present, like me?

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