Today marks a full month in Ho Chi Minh City and I have to say, I honestly feel happy.
Now I’m not the one to lean on first impressions about people/places/things because too frequently, these initial opinions are quickly upended. I’m that type of person who needs a lot of time to pass judgement and will stay open about something or someone, long after the “grace period” is up. But that’s the funny thing about my response to Vietnam. In a country admonished for its chaos and general lack of stability on a day-to-day basis, I am wholehearted convinced that everything will be okay here. They say Vietnam is the type of place that needs to be avoided by people with expectations since there are no promises or guarantees about anything. And maybe that’s why I’ve fallen in love with it so much. I love that I’m free of the burden of wanting to be in control of everything because here, you honestly can’t be. I love that when I make a wrong turn down a street, I discover something incredible that I would have totally missed if I wasn’t okay with getting lost. I love that more than 75% of the time, I don’t know what food I’m eating which is how I’ve learned that there is a great big world beyond phở and bánh mì. I love the patience exerted by the locals and the help they offer when I screw up simple phrases instead of having my attempt laughed at or brushed aside. Ironically enough, I feel at peace being immersed in this world of disorder and imperfections.
I’ve always been attracted to the chaos of uncertainty. What do I mean by “the chaos of uncertainty?” Well, based on my dealings with people, I’ve discovered that most individuals find uncertainty to be highly stressful, if not inconvenient. However, there are a small minority of us invigorated by the idea of the unknown. For me, being thrust into uncertain situations gives rise to positive emotions as opposed to negative ones. Uncertain situations make way for discovery. That’s probably why traveling is greatly appealing to me. Traveling is uncertainty at its finest! There’s no way to truly prepare yourself for a new environment or situation unless you’re experiencing it firsthand. Now, someone once told me that experience is when things don’t go your way. Maybe that’s why they say traveling gives you the most life experience, more than anything else in the world. It teaches you how to roll with the punches, to learn that we are not control of our fate any more than the next person. I’ve learned this lesson too often: expectations only lead to disappointment.
Being in Vietnam has been a huge experiment with uncertainty. Since the beginning, the decision to relocate to Vietnam had been surrounded by an air of unpredictability. Will Tim come with me? How will the work environment be compared to Korea? Should I go to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City? Should I look for jobs ahead of time or apply in-country? I mean, the list of concerns went on and on. Yet, I never found myself getting anxious about my total lack of security on the subject-at-hand. In fact, I felt more enlivened by the thought that the answers would present themselves to me at the appropriate time. For once, I didn’t have to pretend I knew everything. Also, we have more to gain from the challenges posed by uncertainties. When something goes awry, you learn to think quickly on your feet. Or in the instance where one makes a mistake, you learn how to be more forgiving of yourself and of others. I don’t know about you, but I feel more alive having to figure things out for myself. It’s as if I’m relearning my strengths and weaknesses, as well as discovering new things I never new before. In the span of thirty days, I’ve begun to trust in myself and my choices with unwavering conviction. Being immersed in chaos helps you to build order in your life. It’s a great teaching tool if only you choose to see it that way.
Coming here to Vietnam has revived a weary spirit I’ve been carrying around for too long now. Before Vietnam, there was a backpacking trip that was more exhausting than I imagined it would be. Before the backpacking trip, there was a year in Korea that left me emotionally downtrodden and stuck in a negative headspace. And before my year in Korea, there was a girl too innocent and naive about the world outside of home. My arrival to Vietnam feels like I’m finally stepping out of a skin I should have shed long ago. Being in an environment where imperfections are the norm has put a lightness into my being. It’s here I believe, that I will decide on the kind of person I want to be(come).