At age 30, one receives strength. – Talmud
Today, I woke up in my childhood bedroom in my grandma’s house, which I’ve gotta say is not where I have ever imagined waking up on my 30th birthday.
Honestly, I don’t feel much different from being still 29 yesterday, but now I’m officially a 30-something (oh gosh, I hate the sound of that!), which means that I’m expected to have it “together” now. I feel like at the age of 30 is when you officially become a “grown up” because you’ve spent your 20’s learning and experiencing and making choices and now you’ve got to take all that and create the Rest of Your Life.
I wanted to say that I’m still pretty freakin’ clueless (which is true as I’ve had no good answers for all the questions everyone keeps on asking me about my plans, my love life, my job, etc. etc.), but as I reflected back on all the choices I’ve made and what brought me here to waking up in my childhood bedroom, I realized I’ve already learned the most valuable lesson of all.
When I started traveling, my biggest fear was that D and I would break up and I’d be left alone in a foreign country. This fear was because I didn’t believe in myself that I could do it too. I didn’t think I could be strong enough or smart enough or confident enough to sustain myself.
So I became wholly dependent on him, not just financially, but rather in the sense that I needed his confidence to carry us through this crazy journey. I’m not naturally brave and so I needed his strength, his smarts, his drive.
Well that did end up happening. And guess what – it sucked but I didn’t fall apart. I found a way to earn the money I need to stay on the road and to have a happy (even happier) life without him.
But I didn’t do it alone.
I still needed someone to lean on.
Friends (and my mom), I’ve not been honest with you. You may know that I’ve spent the better part of this year settled in Kuala Lumpur. But you may not know why. Again, it circles back to insecurity and a boy.
I didn’t set out to meet anyone in Malaysia (aside from the general need for some friends). And when I met him (a born and bred local), I never expected to actually feel a connection or for my life to be impacted in such a major way.
I told him he can’t fall for me, but he told me he loved me.
I said we couldn’t become anything, but he said he wanted to try.
I was completely lost, and he wanted me to stay.
And so I did.
Over these past months, I found myself leaning onto him for everything – from finding a rental to Ikea runs to the (seemingly impossible) hunt for authentic Mexican food. He showed me a kind of caring I’ve never before experienced. As I settled into KL and a beautiful relationship blossomed, my past hurts and fears slowly faded away as he restored my faith in pure and unselfish love.
I’m sorry for getting all sappy, but this is where the story ends. Due to circumstances neither one of us could have predicted, I’m finding myself going through a second heartbreak this year.
I wanted to keep this part of my life private for a bit. To be selfish and enjoy the budding of a new romance to myself. And now after it having ended, this pain still seems too private to share, but at the same time, it seems somehow not right to keep this significant phase of my life bottled up like a dirty secret (which it definitely is not). And I don’t want to trivialize what we had by just letting it pass by silently.
He came into my life at a time when I felt so lost and untethered. He helped me find my way and gave me a reason to call somewhere home. He never judged me and still loved me even when I was homeless and jobless (a real catch I was, huh). What did I ever do to deserve such a kind, generous soul? I still don’t know.
I know I was a difficult girl to date. I was needy because I didn’t know how to care for myself in a foreign country. And so I held onto KL and him like a security blanket. Because wrapped up in his love, I was adored and safe and didn’t have to figure things out alone.
And that, perhaps, was our downfall.
It has been such a confusing – yet beautiful – phase of my life. I will feel forever so grateful that such a wonderful person walked into my life at such a difficult point. I’m not religious these days, but maybe Someone up there sent him to me when I needed the support.
And now, maybe that Someone is telling me that I’m ready to tackle life on my own.
So I find myself entering this new decade of my life in a strange position (that quite frankly, terrifies me). For the first time on this journey, I’m truly alone and must find a balance and contentment – and perhaps even adventure – in the aloneness. This is going to be a trying period where I must push myself out of my boundaries of comfort in order to grow, where I must learn to be my own hero.
I don’t feel strong, not yet, but I
hope know I will be given time. In one sense, I feel even more clueless than the 27-year-old me who left the U.S. to travel with her boyfriend. But in the other, I am stronger already because I know this now:
I am capable of being independent and responsible for myself. I am smart and resourceful. And love still exists and I am worthy of it.
So what are my plans now? Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m working on cultivating the strength I need to go travel alone. There’s still a lot of the world I haven’t seen and there’s no reason why I can’t take myself to see them. At the age of 30, I want to be able to give myself everything I want, so that a man merely fulfills me and not complete me.
As for this lost romance, I’ll forever remember this time affectionately and with gratitude. Though it may always be tinged with a bit of sadness too. But I’ll learn to move on and instead give myself the love and support I crave.
After all, this is what all this travel business is all about, isn’t it. Falling in love (sometimes with a place, sometimes with a person) and then saying goodbye. But you always take something valuable away and become a stronger person for it. Sometimes you go on to discover something even more exciting and the past love becomes a distant, but comforting, memory. While other times, there will always be a sense of longing and what-if. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll meet again. :)
I may have started the day in my childhood bedroom in Beijing, but I’m ending it in Tokyo! I’m on a short trip with my family to visit one of my aunties, and as you’re reading this, I have just arrived! 30 is looking good so far. :) Soon after we come back, I’ll be leaving the safe cocoon of Beijing. If you have any tips on traveling + being alone, I’d love to know!
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