For me, Chiang Mai embodies the so-called “follow your bliss” mentality. As soon as my feet hit the tree-lined pavement, and my gaze falls on the ever-present mountain, the whole world seems to bloom with possibility in a way not so complete or full anywhere else.
I am very much a possibility-focused person, for better or worse. I can feel very connected to a moment, with a bursting heart and a head full of thoughts buzzing with life, but often the same moment, instead of having solely a stand-alone quality, has me pulsing with all the ideas of what it *could mean* or *could bring* to enhance my version of self, or align me on my authentic path, or how it will open me up for the next new experience.
Or, conversely, a moment can make me shut down, or retreat inwards, or feel unable to attach to my surroundings. In that case, my brain shouts urgently at me to run (!) to move on(!). My body physically might feel drained, uninspired. It might retract, shutting down to the idea of anything but finding that new life high, that new corner of the world that *could be* where it all finally comes together.
In some ways, I very much appreciate this about myself. It has led me on a journey of discovery I never would have landed on had I not so often asked myself, “What if?” or “Why not?”
If all signs are pointing to feeling stagnant or unfulfilled ...
Why can't I move somewhere new every single year and feel grounded, to a degree, with myself, let's face it *in my own head*, but not really in any one place, or with any one person because commitments make me feel stuck or scared? If the possibility for movement, or change, is cut off, the brightness of wherever I happen to be in that moment, loses a shade of illumination, regardless if the place, in and of itself, is magical.
I like who I am when I am in a new situation, when I get to figure things out in a fresh and new way, but only specifically when that situation offers me some control, the ability to reflect fairly obsessively about how it *makes me feel*. Does it feel like I can be myself, or does it feel like I have to change or disguise myself in some way to fit into the atmosphere, environment or soul of the place?
As anyone who has talked to me in any real way the last few years probably knows, I have idealized Chiang Mai and made it into this nearly mythical location where it all just falls into place. Where I fall into place. I can be myself, yet the possibilities for growth and connection seem to be around every corner as well.
It's a physical feeling, and hard to deny.
However, at this point of my life I think there is something to be said for not necessarily *following your bliss*, but instead, *finding your bliss*, creating it, where you are. Even if where you are seems somehow out of alignment, not so easily in sync with who you are, or who you want to be.
This has nothing to do with the actual physical place, and all about what the place is for you. I always have, and still do, think there are certain places that bring out better versions of people, versions where they can blossom, find out what it is in this huge world that speaks to them most truthfully. It is okay, and probably imperative to give yourself the chance to explore a variety of styles of life, especially if something is consistently gnawing at you telling you: self, there is more...there probably is.
I realize that for everyone, or even most people, this doesn't mean moving your life to a new place on a cyclical basis (though it can!), and can be as simple as trying to change thought patterns, letting go of toxic relationships, or finding a new job, or starting a new hobby, or whatever. I've always felt like these changes have to be a bit more dramatic, but I know for everyone, they don't.
My point, and why I needed to write this to sort through some of those *shouting thoughts*, is that, I think my current challenge is not to run back to what feels easy.
[Obviously, this is very self-indulgent, as I live in southern Thailand, and I'm having an inner crisis about whether I should move back to northern Thailand because of the difference in *how it makes me feel*, but if you can't indulge yourself in finding what makes you happy, or what you need, what is the point? Of course there is something to be said for living 'selflessly', but I think the best way to do that is to enrich your own self first, so you can best have a positive and helpful effect on others, even if this is just to listen to people and have real conversations that might have some meaning along the way (maybe rationalizing a very self-focused lifestyle here.. but still think true)]
For whatever reason, something is telling me to stay where I am now, though if I were following my natural pattern, I would probably impulsively come back to where there are a bunch of yoga studios I like and a general *spiritual/personal growth/meditative/creative* vibe, and tons of amazing food and cafes, and where the city itself is greener and there are more flowers. And where there are more people, and where I might feel less lonely, and where I might find people to be more open with, and where I might not feel like I just don't necessarily fit...
BUT those are all mights, and it has been good to just sort of do my own thing this time around, and be okay with just kind of figuring out who I am now, because I'm not who I was when I first came to Thailand, and I'm not who I was when I left Thailand to explore the possibility of going back and maybe falling in love, and I'm not even who I was when I decided to come back to Thailand two weeks after getting broken up with because of those voices in my head telling me to leave leave leave, because that always feels like the most natural option.
I'm just me now, and haven't had a lot of distractions; it might be the time when I've felt the least connected to people, whether that means a group, or even individuals, but the most okay with that, like it was necessary. It's been uncomfortable at times, but that discomfort has dissipated and brought with it a sense of peace and a desire to just be, and let life happen for once, instead of chasing it and trying to mold it.
Chiang Mai is shiny and easy for someone like me, who likes to be introspective in an environment that really encourages introspection, and offers a community where it is valued to be on a constant journey of 'finding yourself' 'or whatever', and I might very well be much more of a “Chiang Mai person” than a “Surat person”, but sometimes you just need to stay...
and not chase your bliss from place to place,
and just find it inside of yourself
especially when something is telling you to