The morning after I arrived at the new hostel, I stood outside where I was just far enough for no one to hear me and just close enough to still be connected to the wifi, and called my sister. I was in a new place, on a new island, and was taken aback by it all — the lush greenery, the hipster coffee shops, the hot men on motor bikes with surfboards in tow. As I talked to her, a man pulled up, shirtless, smiling at me, and I whispered into the phone, “I wish you could see the guy who just drove up right now. I think he’s the most attractive man I’ve ever seen.”
Two nights later I’d be lying on my top bunk painfully listening to the sounds of the other guests partying and eating and drinking outside my door, as I lay motionless in bed in the throes of one of the worst migraines I’ve ever had.
I tried to tune them out and focus on my breath, but eventually had to scramble down and run to the bathroom that was connected to my room.
I vomited for what felt like hours.
The overhead light was off (hello light sensitivity) and in my haste to get to the toilet I hadn’t even shut the bathroom door. If anyone were to walk in just then, it would have looked like I wasn’t even there.
And of course, someone did walk in just then, and came to the open bathroom to retrieve a plunger.
And there I was in the dark bathroom, post-vomit, tears streaming down my face, snot everywhere, body shaking.
Naturally it was that hottest man I’d ever seen, the one who rode up on the motor bike while I was talking to my sister.
He stopped abruptly and was at a clear lack for words, as it looked like I was just standing in the dark crying, and I quickly said something about having a headache and being unwell. He asked if I was okay and grabbed the plunger and left.
I quickly turned to the mirror to see just how awful I looked and, only after I was sure he was gone, had to laugh. (Not too hard though, as my head was still pounding.)
Never in a million years did I think I’d be almost 30, staying in a hostel on the other side of the world, alone, vomiting in a shared bathroom, being interrupted by hot men who did not belong to me.
No no, almost-30 looked very different to me at the age of 16, or 19, or even 24. It looked like a solid career and clear life path and loving partner and chubby babies and stable home.
It did not look like that night in the hostel.
I remind myself that the grass is always greener, we all have things we wish we could change about our lives.
And yet I think it’s all about expectation — what we expect of ourselves. How we treat ourselves. What values we hold ourselves to that maybe don’t fit anymore. (Or maybe never did.)
I have to ask myself not How can I get the life that I always wanted? but How can I embrace the life I have now? How can I honor those past ideas I held so dear? How can I hold space for all the versions of myself that exist in the future?
I have so much love and compassion for those younger selves of mine who imagined life so much differently. And I have a lot of love and compassion for the selves I am not, the ones who never materialized.
And mostly, I’m taking a close look at who I actually am, this woman I’ve become who has lived for almost 30 years. I want to wrap her in a blanket and make her a cup of tea and let her tell all of her stories. I want to write them down. I want to know what she values and holds dear, what she envisions for herself, what her priorities are.
I have eight days left in Bali before I begin the journey home, a journey that’s been coming for 16 long months. I’m attempting to process all the new layers I’ve grown since I’ve been away, and also attempting to shed any layers that I didn’t realize I still had and don’t need. It’s intense and emotional and slightly confusing, and I’m so glad that I have this safe space of Ubud to hold me while I process.
Time goes on and everything changes and nothing changes. As for me, I’ll be here in the tropics writing like mad, drinking coconuts, mentally preparing for the USA,
and sending all my love.