10 years

December 31st, 2013. After months of brainstorming, quitting jobs, tying loose ends, slimming down material possessions, and locking up a few things that would end up decomposing in an overheated locker in St-Henri before being painfully thrown away with the rest of our relationship memories three years later, we sat and ate leftover broccoli and English muffins in a surreal state.

January 1st, 2014. We locked the door of our beautiful 1440 Tower Street loft apartment in Montreal one last time and dropped the key in the mailbox on the way out for the new tenants to pick up. It unceremoniously thunked to the bottom. We each had a backpack, a train ticket to New York, a flight to London, and another one to Bangkok. The long-awaited trip of a lifetime I knew would be transformative was finally here. I was 32.

I naively chronicled our two-year-long Southeast Asia trip from day one, first on a blog without a name living adjacent to my graphic design portfolio. I don’t think I had much of an agenda (a lot of it has also been taken down in the wake of a post-breakup depression) other than maybe making others jealous of this out-of-the-norm path we had taken when everyone else was either making babies, buying houses, or otherwise feeling the discontent of another harsh Montreal Winter.

We had escaped.
We were in love.
We were free.

Thailand

Time and seasons stopped having any meaning for what would be two years. We had no plan of returning home, no place we exactly called home anyway (Montreal had been an artificial home for the six years that I was finishing my studies). There was nowhere else we would rather be. I experienced for the first time in my life what it was like to truly live a stress-free life and be fully immersed in the present. Because the present was the best time of our lives. For two full years.

Until that trip to India. Until everything started to fall apart.


Related: Saying Goodbye to Southeast Asia

In the years that followed the breakup, after I retracted to a youth hostel in Malaysia for four months to figure out how to continue life on my own to finally decide this would be in the form of buying a used bicycle in Kuala Lumpur and cycle to Germany to start anew, I often regretted dropping that damn key in the mailbox and taking that trip to begin with. I blamed travel for expediting a thought process that led my partner to decide he needed to be alone without really knowing what that meant for either of us after ten years of what I saw as The Forever One. I blamed myself for willingly taking him into a space of perspective where he could choose the unknown over the comfy everyday life we had built.


Berlin.

Those two years in Southeast Asia were for long the latest reality I had as an anchor, my point of reference, so to speak. The last time I had lived. As the years clocked by in Berlin, I drifted closer to my 40s, depressed, single, childless, an immigrant in a place where I didn’t really want to be. The breakup, and the depression that ensued, became my narrative. The second half of my 30s was a blur of cycling through various depressive holes, climbing back out of them, falling back down, etc. I saw Berlin as a parallel universe I’d fallen into and never wanted to know existed. Every new year that passed never took me any further away from 2014-2015. I just became older.

I returned to Asia for three months in 2018 to do an Ashtanga retreat and somehow try to rewrite history and put a lid on the past. It helped a bit. I was able to cry, feel my pain, and let it happen. It served the purpose of making it plenty clear that the only way out is undeniably through.


Trying to live independently for the first time in my life, having a lease to my name, and building a career were all done through very poor mental health, on autopilot, and out of survival. A year had turned into eight, I was a 40-something who had worked hard to get herself out of a hole through therapy, yoga, time, and psychedelics. Time slowly started taking back its normal shape.

To this day, still, 2014 sometimes feels like yesterday. I am the same yet so different. I found a way to balance my baggage and understand that everyone is more or less dragging the same shit along, in some shape or form.

Aging is a gift not everyone is given. Statistically, the more you live, the more you expose yourself to pain. To think that yours is special or more vivid than that of others is ego talk. The real task at hand is to make space for pain yet eventually move on, and accept that all of that is part of the gift. It’s all so arbitrary and that is kind of amazing. One day in 2005 I met a British boy in a youth hostel in California. We built a life, left it behind in Canada, and then he dropped me out of the rest, and left me a broken empty shell.

Almost 20 years on, I am 42, childless, single, and immensely grateful for having made it this far. And still not very fluent in German. We’re dealt the cards we’re dealt and it’s how we bounce back from not playing them best that matters. I left Canada 10 years ago and it still feels like yesterday, with the added juiciness of being thankful for the mistakes I made and having both experience and plenty of time ahead to play the next ones A-OK.

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