I hopped on a plane a year, to the day, that I arrived. Not quite realizing it until I looked at the passport stamps side by side, I took a deep sigh of relief, now trusting that the time I was taking away from site was truly right. That’s right, I look for signs, or I find signs, rather. I find them in the 42 that shows up repeatedly in my life somehow knowing that my father is supporting me. I find them in patterns of numbers that constantly show up from locker combinations throughout school, to identification numbers of my adulthood. So, as I sat, letting my monkey mind question myself for leaving “selfishly” to be with family when my grandmother passed, I was given this wink.
I love order, organization, and dates that align, from anniversaries that coincide with first kisses on through to the rest. Great moments live on great days, and they welcome company, at least in my mind. This day of return was no different. I left as the shutdown of Bangkok began to return to the open arms of my dearest family and friends.
I planned to write about what has changed about me after being in Thailand a year, but the real story turned out to be what hadn’t changed. My deep love and admiration for my parents is as intact as ever. My devotion to my family is as strong as before. My joyful and meaningful connection to friends remains, no matter that a year has separated me from everyone I knew.
I didn’t see one person from my life before Peace Corps during my first year of service in Thailand, except through the use of technology. I left with a duffel bag over my shoulder, a backpack on my back, and dreams of positively impacting my new world while being impacted by it. I was ready to grow and explore.
Coming home, I was ready to know what I had missed so much in the previous year. My father’s arm over my shoulder, my mother’s hand in mine, spiritual delving with my closest of companions, my friends sharing laughter, my sister and I cracking poop jokes, my brother and I digging deep into conversation, and so much more. I was ready to walk the beaches, drive the freeways, hike the hills, and not have to ask for permission to do as I pleased. What simple freedoms I had missed.
The trip left room for reflection of my grandmother’s beautiful life, and all the lives she touched along the way. Room for reconnecting with old friends and relatives that I’d lost touch with. Room for processing a year of service in a foreign land from a distance. I saw the impacts I had made as I shared stories of challenges and growth that I hadn’t allowed myself time to appreciate. I saw steps I had made to adapt to a culture so different from my own. I shared the good, the strange, the uncomfortable as I hadn’t felt free to from my isolated room in remote Thailand via the Internet, and felt the loving hands and hearts of my friends and family reach out to support, acknowledge, love, and encourage me on my way.
There is no doubt in my mind that my grandmother’s passing was not perfectly placed in time. I see the joy and beauty of her legacy living on in her husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on. I see her slowing and letting go as painfully clear as I can her love living on. I see the gifts she gave me, from my passion for music that she shared with my father who then passed it onto me, to my love of the stage which she insisted came from her mother, on to those secret gifts that keep popping up as reminders along the way.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to return home to honor the life of Grandma. So thankful that it allowed me the time and space to gain perspective and return refreshed to this gift and challenge that is Peace Corps Thailand.