Note: This post is a two-parter and to surprise us both the next post with be up immediately. And, because you can’t have too many surprises in life, immediately actually looks something more like 1-2 days!
“I’m really excited to go to Thailand!” If you heard me say that in the last 2 weeks, but three days before I left, I was definitely lying to you. It is never too late to be honest! In some circumstances. But, being honest now, I was terrified, I was nervous, and I was second guessing my decision to come to Thailand about every 15 minutes everyday. I questioned if I was ready, if I made the right choice. If it was the right time. If there was still time to say no. Then I would panic. “But people are counting on me. They have already supported me on this trip. I can’t turn back now. It’s too late… but I’m not ready.”
It seemed so easy saying yes to God when I was still on an emotional and spiritual high after my first mission trip here surrounded by friends. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. I was confident that nothing and no one could stop me from getting to Thailand no matter what they said or how they felt. “You’re so brave for going on your own!”, “you’re not getting paid? That’s a waste. And you have to raise all the money yourself?”, “there’s a lot of human trafficking in Thailand you know? Make sure you’re careful!”, “that’s amazing! You’re travelling to Thailand! That’s so exciting!” I am not sure there was anything I did not hear every time I told someone about my future plans and how I would be spending my gap year. During the application period when I was waiting to hear back from the school I was applying to, Impact School of Mission, I was trusting God the whole time believing that this was what he wanted for me, so I started calling things as if they were.
I would stop myself from saying things like “if I get accepted” or “if i go to Thailand” and would correct myself and say “when I get accepted” and “when I go to Thailand”. I had so much faith in God that he would bring me to Thailand to dive into what he had for my life here. Even through the month and a half of confirming where I would be, what I would be doing, and what it would look like, I continued to trust in him. Even when it had been one month and donations were not coming in and I was stressing about how if I worked this amount of hours, made clothes for friends and family and sold them, I could close the gap for what people needed to donate so that they would not feel like they needed to give so much. When the school I applied to could not run because they did not get enough applicants, I still chose to come because I did not feel that God was saying no and there was not anything I felt I wanted more or would fear losing if I chose Thailand over whatever it may have been. When I reached my donation goal the day I had to have my money sent in and more. When even after announcing that I raised my goal and more than I needed, that people continued to give.
But then the reality began to sink in. I am leaving all of my friends. All of my family. Everything and everyone I have ever known. All for something I thought, 6 months ago, was all that I could have ever wanted. There were days when I would wake up crying because I was so scared of what I had said yes to. There were moments where I could not think clearly, or was completely shut off to everyone around me because I no longer knew if this was what I wanted. And the weight of everyone who had been supporting me that I would then let down and disappoint would feel like an elephant sitting on my chest. I had become so used to friends leaving from my life that I used that as a kind of switch, to turn off any hurt, or pain that I would feel. “Well I’ve only been in their lives for a year. It won’t be that hard.” was my go to excuse. I did not feel as if anyone really cared about me so much that they would even know I was gone. I had vocalized it to friends and they would disagree, but I did not listen because it did not matter. 5 months is not long, but it started to look and feel like an eternity. I had finally made strong friendships in the month before I was leaving. I actually felt like people would notice that I was gone and care. So a wall collapsed, and I caved in. I was more terrified than ever. I was finally getting somewhere and now I was leaving. Everything that I had built up would come crashing down. And I was not ready. I looked at my last month, January, with friends and family as a time to spend with them, but I was almost wishing that God had made ISM work so that I could leave the seemingly more shallow friendships I had at that time. Even though December I would have left more stressed than January. I may not have been ready then, but at least leaving would have been a little easier.
Or I think it would have.
Then I threw a going away party where I invited those who I considered my closest friends and who would actually truly care that I was leaving to my house. And all fears of lost friendships fell away. I do not think that many people have ever been in our house at once. Even people who I never thought would even want to be there showed up. I had no idea how many friends cared. No matter how many times they said it before.
Then there was the morning I left. I cannot say I have ever had a worse morning in my life or experienced anything worse than this. The day before was a complete 24 hour day. I was awake at 4:30am and fell asleep at 5am the morning I left. Some may say “psh that’s nothing” but everyone’s body is different, and everyone reacts to stress differently. I was genuinely excited the whole day before I left. When someone asked, my response was honest. And then the day to leave came 2 hours later. I was up finishing a set and costume design for my sisters film to get into university which was a priority. I then went on to finish making skirts and a shirt for myself for when I came to Thailand because I bought the fabric with the intentions of making something to wear for my trip. I told my friend that we would be picking her up at 7 so we could be at the airport for 7:30. I woke up and my head was throbbing, my vision was blurred, and I was dizzier than ever. Nothing felt real. I felt as if it was the ‘morning of’ in video games when the character wakes up and you see from their perspective. You see them pick things up but you are the one controlling them. You imagine and know what the object would feel like, but you can’t actually feel it. They mentally vocalize all things that are going on around them. “I left the lights on again. It’s 7:00?! But I told Maddie we were picking her up and would be leaving by now!” They rush around the house still not fully conscious. That is exactly how I felt. Like someone was controlling me. That they could see things from my perspective through their eyes. I felt disconnected from all of my senses. I texted Maddie telling her how I was feeling and what was going on. I was petrified. I did not know what was going on and I did not know what to do. I was leaving on a plane in 3 hours and this was not the time. My breathing was shallow and to make things all the better, I was convinced that if I did not come around I would be hospitalized. Which could be an exaggeration but, as Maddie identified it, I had never in my life experienced an anxiety attack. She gave me a trick to calm me down. To name 3 things I could see, 3 things I could feel, and 3 things I could hear. But it was not good enough. It was not working. I went back and remembered a word I was given a year ago when friends from the church I go to were prophesying and giving me encouraging words about my first trip to Thailand.
“When thing seem impossible the greatest way for you to get out is through worship. When you worship it’s the greatest force against all forces of evil, so when you find yourself in those situations just your ability and reflex to break out in praise will make everything drop.”
So that is what I did. I stopped everything and started singing Sinking Deep- Hilsong Y&F. It is not as if in that immediate moment as soon as I opened my mouth and the first word came out the anxiety dropped, but I gradually started calming down, and could at least focus and breath properly again. I still felt like I was going to throw up at any moment, and felt somewhat distant, but the fear was falling away. Instead of relying on worldly things to help bring me back into reality where the worldly did not feel real, my reflex to know that God is real and to worship him when coming under an intense attack, was what I really needed. Saying goodbye to family (including Maddie) was hard. Really hard. They were my strongest support. Especially my younger sister. When the school accepted me and I was unsure if I had really heard correctly, she said “I never doubted for a minute”. Also leaving her to be ‘an only child’ made me feel somewhat guilty, but as I grow apart from everyone, I know she will too with her own little bit of independence.
Flying out, going through airports, the greatest thing to ever stress me out, and making it to Thailand, could have never been harder without the people who care and value me more than any before. And when I came to realize that, it actually made leaving easier. Knowing that I had a massive support group behind me back at home moving to a new one. People who never doubted in my ability to follow the call God has on my life, and to step into the craziest thing I will ever do.
With much love and thanks,