First Pangs of Fear

I’ve been off-line awhile because I decided to take a quasi-impromptu vacation to Brazil with Sunil shortly after Independence Day.  I suppose holiday was a bit unwise considering it’s officially crunch-time now (still don’t have the exact departure date yet, but have been told by the CUHK admissions folks that my acceptance package is in the post).  Worse, I seem to have contracted a dreadful cough that isn’t too helpful either.

Sunil and I met not a year ago, just after I’d come back from Brazil the first time, which was an important trip for me.   I had been suffering terribly with the Great Sickness.  I effortlessly lost about 7 lbs in a two-week time span, weighing less than I ever did as an adult.  My insomnia was continually getting worse and worse, to the point where one night I did not sleep even one minute. I was being pushed from all sides.

My AmLaw100 law firm job (for laypeople, that’s just your stereotypical giant corporate firm) was not agreeing with me, and I was desperately seeking an escape for something that suited me better.  The IRS was pursuing nearly half a million more dollars in penalties and interest for my mother’s estate (and we’d already paid out nearly a million dollars in total taxes by that point).  Life at home was also very stressful, and tension between all four of us left us far from the ultra-tight-knit family we were always well-known for.  Oh yes, and let’s not forget the real estate business I inherited (which was still losing money even though I had hired new professionals that should have performed better than the mom-and-pop agency I was using before the primary owner died unexpectedly in May 2008).

Just about everything was difficult.  I was working three full-time jobs as administrator of the estate, real estate manager, and lawyer, on top of some stressful personal matters at home.  So thinking that getting away for 16 days would be a wise idea was a challenge.  Nonetheless I decided to go for it  and made plans to attend Jojo and Paul’s wedding in Rio, followed by adventures in Paraty, Iguassu, Bonito, and the Pantanal.

Heck, I needed a break, and nothing was really going to change in my absence anyway.  I’ll never forget the moment I stepped off the plane.  It was bright and early, and all of my friends were still fast asleep after a long night of partying.  I headed straight away to buy a couple of those world famous Brazilian bikinis and headed for the beautiful sands of Ipanema.  That night,  I had one of the best sleeps of my life, even though I had nowhere to lay but this tiny couch in our rented flat.  I woke up feeling like a human being again.

So when Sunil suggested he’d like to visit Brazil during his own personal sabbatical, I jumped at the opportunity to revisit this beautiful country with him, hopeful of re-experiencing all the energy, beauty and inspiration brought to me the first time in 2008.  I’d also agreed to this trip well before I had decided to leave the country, and being one who avoids backing out on commitments, I carried on with the plan.  Over the course of nearly 2 weeks, we’d visit the Amazon, Salvador, and Rio.

I saw plenty of amazing things (my favorite animal in the Amazon was the sloth!), met many interesting people (was particularly impressed with this highly entrepeneurial couple from Houston that toured with us at the eco-lodge), and  experienced people in a way I never had before (one night in Salvador we had to be escorted to our car by the near 7-foot tall bouncer because this hothead I did not want to dance with earlier was waiting to start a fight with us).

As interesting, educational, and enjoyable as it all was, it was there in my precious Brazil that I had my first pangs of fear about my upcoming changes.  It happened towards the end of our trip in Rio de Janeiro.  We were taking a little power nap in our miserably lit hostel room in Leblon.  For some reason, I just felt too agitated to sleep more than 10 minutes.  I realized I had been feeling homesick at last.  I just missed being able to communicate with the people I loved, or speaking the language I felt I could express myself best in, or being in a bed that I could truly call my own (potable tapwater, reliable hot showers, and toilets I could throw the paper into were also sorely missed).  The feeling was palpable and rest heavy in my chest.

My mind wandered further.  I guessed this painful feeling would be inevitable once I moved.  I felt scared having to deal with this all by myself in Hong Kong some day in the near future.

Worse, I had been missing and thinking about Mom more than usual during the trip.  I can’t recollect specific thoughts, just knowing I missed her badly.  During our trip, Sunil asked when it was she died.  It felt awkward to admit it had been nearly 4 years.  He remarked it sounds like it was just yesterday.  It’s funny how sometimes it still can feel that way.

My unkind mind went on to contorting my ill feelings further, and I began to think about this great change I’m about to embark upon, and why I was doing it.  I started a dangerous path of self-blame:

What a loser I am! I am so incompetent I have to run away to chase some new adventure that is utterly unnecessary in my life right now.  Look how educated you are, and yet you are so completely useless!  What would Mom think knowing you were taking advantage of your inheritance to effectively become some trust fund baby, recklessly going wherever whenever, doing nothing to earn your own keep, only taking.

It went on, and tears began streaming out from my eyes.  I was embarassed.  I couldn’t let Sunil know how I was feeling.  I went outside to this little terrace that overlooked the residential buildings of Leblon.  All were indistinguishable rooftops.  The sun was setting.  I thought the air would help me, but I was still stuck in the negative loop, feeling worse and worse and worse.  A part of me wanted the tears to end, another part wondered if I just might need for them to exhaust themselves.

Eventually I stopped myself.  This was ridiculous, I could go on crying forever, it seemed.  And why should I cry? Great, now I’m just a bratty crybaby!  When I returned to the room, Sunil asked what that was all about.  He’d heard me through the shutters.  I admitted to him my ill feelings, but without raising my eyes to meet his.  There was no way I could let him look at my tearful eyes.

Sunil has more than once been supportive of my decisions to make drastic changes.  Not only has he been supportive of my decision to move to HK, he was also there for me when I was considering unemployment last Fall.  With regards to HK, he pointed out that should I stay in NYC, I should be more disappointed with myself – because I was not doing anything new there, really just languishing in the lack of change.  In contrast, in Hong Kong I’d at least be learning a new and useful, marketable skill, and from there find all kinds of opportunity.  He was right.  He is right.  I’m right.

Now back in NYC, the feelings of listlessness have magnified post-vacation.  I feel uninspired in the mornings (perhaps because my throat is killing me), and I wonder what to do now… At least once I get to Hong Kong, I will be up and running with new goals and aims.  More on those later.

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