Funky Town


Caitlin Navratil, 131 YinD

When adversity is external, I think it’s easier to handle. When it’s a bad storm, a too-friendly community member, a miscommunication, gecko poop all over my home, or… you name it. In those instances, I’m able to take a deep breath, address my problem head-on, and sort of just power through it.

Unbearably hot outside? I commiserate with my friends and family or take a cold shower. “Caitlin,” I’ll think, “You knew what you were getting into.” I can do this.

Open my retainer case only to find ants crawling all over? Shudder and make an immediate beeline towards the sink. Wash the retainer the best I ever have in my life and try not to think about it when I put the retainer in my mouth that night. I can do this.

Guy at the local shop thinks I asked for the “beautiful person” instead of me asking, “How are you today?” Laugh along, realize that miscommunication is part of the learning process, and ponder whether I should find a new shop. Realize that’s ridiculous, shake my head, and bike back home. Weirdo, you can do this.

All that, I can handle. I know I can’t control it, so I have more patience reserved to deal with it. I give myself more grace.

But these last few weeks, the adversity hasn’t been external. Sure, the external adversities still bug me, but it’s been the things I thought I had under control that get to me.

Things like:

Attending work. What do you get when you cross food poisoning, sun poisoning, tonsillitis, and a virus? Unfortunately, this isn’t just the start to a bad, medically-themed joke. All those combined were my August, basically. I didn’t go to work for two weeks, and I spent the time either in my bed, in my bathroom, or at a hospital in Phayao or Bangkok. It was a long two weeks.

My attitude. I feel a tightening of my throat and a tug on my heart. I had just gotten home from school, and I needed to go to the market to buy eggs. But going to the market is literally the last thing I wanted to do. I didn’t want to see people; I didn’t want to leave my house. What is this? Social anxiety? Or just a desperate need for alone time? I mount my bike anyway and go buy eggs. Small victories. That’s enough socializing for today.

I snooze my alarm again, knowing that it means my morning run won’t happen today. I tell myself that I’ll start running again next week. I give myself some grace and go back to sleep for a much-needed additional hour.

Introvert balance. I had planned September as a month of no travel. My host family wanted to take me to their farm, so I was excited to spend chill weekends at their home. Instead, a consolidation drill was called – I had to practice the route I’d travel to Chiang Rai and back in case of emergency. As lovely as it was to see fun friends, my introvert tank was running on empty, and it was getting harder to ignore. At least I’ll have next weekend, I figured.

Except, the next weekend, I went to Chiang Mai to attend the funeral for my landlord’s dad. I have no regrets about going; he and his wife are so incredibly kind to me and I want to support them however I can. But it’s another weekend where I won’t rest, recharge, or spend time with my host family.

Sense of purpose. As I try to complete the VRF (a form to report on what we’ve done at site), I wonder if I’ve taught anything meaningful. I sure don’t feel like I’m doing anything meaningful or important. I’ve spent so much time just figuring things out; I feel a little hopeless. Am I wasting everyone’s time? “No,” I think to myself, “Next semester will be better. Give yourself time to figure this out.”

So, not sure if you can tell, but I’ve been in a bit of a funk. This all feels like things I should be able to control – snap out of it, figure it out, power through it. But I haven’t been able to quite yet.

Instead, you know what I can do? I can reassure myself that this funk will pass. I can have confidence that it’ll get better. Next week, tomorrow, next term. I can know that I’m here for a reason. Now that I’ve found my footing, I’ll hopefully be able to feel like I’m making a difference soon. I have big dreams and high hopes and both the patience and perseverance to make them happen. I have three more school terms to make things happen. Calm down, Caitlin.

I can also invest in my own well-being. Watch that Disney movie that I’ve been wanting to watch for awhile now, guilt-free. Spend time with my host family and hang out with the kiddos that make me grin from ear to ear. Take naps. Get out of bed and go for that run even though I don’t want to (I will never want to, might as well go anyway). Talk to my parents. Buy limes and fried rice and eat the food I want to eat.

I can invest in being content and make compromises on some things that drain my bucket… and then say no to some other things. I’m in it for the long haul; my emotional health is important.

So I can’t pretend that I’m not a little disheartened right now. But at the same time, I recognize that I’m living in an incredibly beautiful community, have an incredible job, and have so much for which I can be thankful. I’m also having a hard time getting out of bed this week. And I think I need those feelings to be able to coexist.

Because this, too, will pass.

Read Caitlin’s previous articles and contributions.

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