Before I had spent a month in the Summer travelling and volunteering in Vietnam, I was under the impression that a person could only be shaped by the trauma and bad experiences they had endured. After all, my 2017 could be hallmarked by a series of bad relationships and toxic people, illness, and in essence, a lot of bad luck. I believe, that some experiences are too grand to ignore, working their way into our bone marrow and demanding their presence be known. Our experiences can and do change, fundamentally, who we are as a person. And it was because of this, I thought, that I would light up like a Christmas tree while travelling overseas, my experiences etched across my skin, from my femurs to phalanges.
It wasn’t that I didn’t like who I had become. I was proud of my conscious choice to choose kindness, even when the same had not been shown to me. But what concerned me was my vulnerability, and willingness to put others first, to the detriment of my own being. I was certain people would be able to tell immediately in a foreign country, you can spot a soft person from a mile away. But while travelling, I quickly realised I was not alone in what I had endured. I met truly remarkable people, who had not only gone through the unfathomable but came out stronger on the other side.
However, I write this article now not to discuss how to avoid getting scammed by taxis and uber drivers more than once (or three times) in Vietnam, or where to get the best coconut coffee. I am writing this now because I truly had an amazing time. For the first time, in a long time, I had a good experience. I know this, because one of the first things my mother said when I had returned home was ‘you have been through so much, but now, you’ve finally been through something good.’
Before this trip, I had been mistaken. Our good and wonderful experiences can shape us just as much as any bad one can. In fact, it is the good experiences, however short, which teach us to be strong and brave, and accept only what we deserve. And it was because of this, the town in which I had left was not the same when I returned. I was no longer willing to put energy into unrequited friendships. In particular, I realised that when a person lets you do nice things for them, this should not be mistaken for friendship.
I finally began to put myself first.
I realised that through our experiences we become who we are meant to be and sometimes, this person, does not fit into the life we lead, or have led in the past. I still wish to choose kindness but it is no longer something I give so freely.