I haven’t yet written about the time I spent working in Mad Monkey Siem Reap because I haven’t quite been in the right headspace for that but I will, eventually. I often scroll back through the photos I took during the 6 weeks I was there and become blissfully unaware of my surroundings. I look at how happy, wild and free I was during that duration and I suddenly become sad that I don’t feel or look that happy anymore. Towards the end of my time working as a rep I grew tired and uninterested in constantly striking up new conversations with travellers and having to take them out to places. Perhaps that’s because I was caught up in the intimate feelings I had for a guest who had departed 2 weeks before and longed to be with him again. This annoys me. It annoys me that this current was dragging me from the shore and out to sea and holding me in deep waters so that I couldn’t enjoy myself. 4 months since my return to England and I’m almost certain that being behind that bar screaming “FREE SHOTS” and some obscene “roses are red” poem is where I’m supposed to be. I didn’t get the closure I needed.
These 4 months have felt as though I’m on Colossus at Thorpe Park spinning me around and around it’s 10 loop track and not feeling as though I’m grounded. Yeah, I have a job as an Activities Coordinator in a disabled care home and yes, I absolutely LOVE it but something feels missing. (I’ll explain more about the job in a bit).
Although I was set to leave Cambodia on the date I actually did I wasn’t then able to continue on to meet Harry and his 2 friends, Dan and Monty, in Thailand for 2 weeks and so things have felt horribly cut short. After that I was then indefinitely coming home for a while to rekindle with family, maybe earn some money, and then head off again but I wasn’t entirely set on that plan. Things such as “I could stick around for a while in Devon to save up” or “I could apply to be Bar Manager in my old job” danced across my thoughts but the moment I stepped in that Tuk Tuk outside the hostel to head to the airport and left all my friends (including Spencer) I burst into tears. I knew I was making the wrong decision and I was absolutely terrified.
The distance from Cambodia to Devon was shrinking quickly and the reality of being back in this bubble I call Ilfracombe went from being a murmur to a deafening scream. I was coming home to family. I was coming home to family but that was it. Suddenly, I’d strayed so far from my flock of free spirits and had had my wings clipped so I was trapped. I suppose since university I’ve always been quite the social butterfly — housemates here, course friends there and sports pals this way — but, except for the odd one or two people I was incredibly close to, I’d never really had a friendship GROUP during my time there. The handful of people from these 3 circles are obviously scattered across the UK but because I only have that green version of the drivers license it makes it difficult to reach them all. Yet I know if I could I’d be welcomed with open arms even if contact has dipped since graduating.
Ilfracombe is different though. To me, I think of Ilfracombe as though a tornado suddenly came bursting through the open air, sucking up everything in its way and spat it out and no one has bothered to clean it up. I think of what was there before I went away 2 and a half years ago and now everything is broken and damaged. This imagery played over and over in my head as the miles decreased rapidly underneath the plane that flew from Thailand to Heathrow. We had arranged it so that I was on the same flight as Harry, Dan and Monty and had their company on the way home. The silence between us was deafening because whatever we felt before had changed in those two weeks and were about to go away so quickly. I was sad about that but I was also really sad about returning to this wasteland of disappeared and broken friendships and ended up crying uncontrollably in his lap for a while. I had no one. I still have no one and whilst the conditions of the Coronavirus would play a primary role in my sudden isolation that isolation would’ve always been there to shake my hand on arrival, virus or not.
Since August 2018, when I came back to England for my old best friend’s wedding, things have been non-existent between myself and the girls I used to be friends with. 2017 was a really mentally challenging year and, in hindsight, the beginning of my isolation from them. I said some crappy things that I regret and those I directed these things towards know that. However, to reach a point where you are almost begging to understand why you’re not invited to things and begging TO BE invited to said things is not somewhere anyone should be in a friendship. Those feelings I and 2 other girls felt at that time are not feelings I would ever wish on anyone, ever. It was toxic and this toxicity was evident at the wedding. I spent most of my time trying to squeeze into a dynamic that had no room for me anymore or with my parents, who were invited, or with the families of the couple. The sister of the groom found me hysterically crying in the toilet, I tried to play it off as though I was sad about the “right person wrong time” but now I know it’s because I wasn’t a part of this future that this group of friends had in store. I was out of sight, in China, and completely out of mind now.
The following February I was hurt all over again. This person doesn’t know it (I don’t think) but, the inconvenience to see me the second time I ventured home from China really cut me the fuck up. Imagine knowing that the last thread on your favourite piece of clothing is wearing thin and then suddenly it just SNAPS. That’s how it felt.
A year and a half since that snap and there I am travelling to a town that offers me nothing (except family, of course). No platonic support system to embrace me with beaming smiles and tight hugs when I arrived after being away for so long. No one to share my incredible stories about Spencer with, no one to ramble to about the amazing things I’ve achieved or seen. In some ways it’s a good thing because I’ve grown so much and so strongly as a person and it’s because I’m not in contact with them anymore but it’s just sad to be lonely.
A few weeks ago I woke up in tears (genuinely thought that shit only happened in films) from a nightmare I’d had. All my old friends from Ilfracombe from the ages of 11-19 were hanging out in my “1st year flat” so I swung by to say hi and mention my connection with it. They looked disgusted by my presence and lead me outside. It was the dead of night and they took me into an alleyway and beat the living shit out of me. I managed to stumble to a riot police women (this dream was the same time as the protests) and she looked at me blankly and shrugged her shoulders, she didn’t care. That’s when I woke up.
Real life this time but just last week I was up doing some shopping up tesco when I passed by one my old friends, she didn’t notice me at first, and my whole body began to violently shake. I felt as those my legs were about to snap throwing me to the ground. My heart rate shot through the roof and I couldn’t breathe. As I tried to keep my head down, bite my tongue and fight back the tears at the tills she approached and waved happily but I couldn’t break a convincing smile. All these terrible thoughts about drifting apart, not feeling cared about and loneliness blurred my vision and I couldn’t stop crying my entire walk home.
So yeah, people keep saying to me “oh it’s so sad that you had to cut your travels short” and I just want to scream at them because yes it is fucking sad because but not sad because I can’t get absolutely slaughtered or see amazing things it’s fucking sad because there is nothing here for me and it hurts to just BE in this town with each inhale being a constant polluting reminder that I will not flourish, feel wanted or be happy here.
The first few weeks were hard. I was unexpectedly bursting into depressing fits of tears about things going tits up with that guy, not having people to contact within a 5 mile radius and just not freely floating around the other side of the world.
I’ve adjusted though, it took a while but I’m getting there. I have this job which is fantastic. My mum encouraged me to apply because she knew I needed the money, knew I’d be great at it and knew I’d fit in well. She works there too — she has done since she was 16 — therefore I know the residents in the care home very well. I plan and create activities for them to do like art, cooking and things. Admittedly, it’s a pain in the ass with this virus shit because we can’t take them anywhere as they’re vulnerable and high risk but I’m sure once it’s over activities will be readily thought of. It might not seem much to many people looking in but 1 hour of baking food can spark so much laughter in joy to their otherwise structured day. It’s wholesome and fulfilling for the soul for sure. It’s flexible at 20 hours too which is fantastic but I definitely need a bar shift here or a barista shift there.
My head is in an incredibly strange place right now. I’m beginning to notice, however, that given the “structured’ surroundings of living and working back in England that I’m subconsciously convincing myself that I should do adulty things and prepare to start actual life. There’s someone I’m pretty close to right now and he has his life together, or seemingly so, with an idea about how he wants his future to be and I think being an onlooker to this has conditioned me to thinking that I need this too. I’ve decided to learn how to drive – a very useful skill that would solve some of my “lonely at home” issues – and suddenly got incredibly caught up in looking for cars and storing money away to purchase one. I had to slam on my emergency brakes so quickly before I got too carried away though. Do I really want to buy myself a car and attach that ball and chain of being in the UK to my ankle so quickly? I don’t think I do. However, do I think learning to drive and passing my test would be a perfect leg up for if/when I go to Australia/New Zealand? Abso-fucking-lutely. I need to slow down. I need to remind myself that just because other people seem to be settled and happy in the UK or have an idea of their settled down future doesn’t mean I should copy what they did to get there because it MIGHT make me happy. I think I keep fooling myself into thinking that the people around me living their very regimented lives, doing their regimented jobs and going home to their regimented families is the “good life”.
The more I look at videos of me dancing next to the pool at Mad Monkey Siem Reap, my body buzzing with energy, my happiness and true self radiating off of me like the sun on those fucking bean bags at midday the more I realise that that “good life” I see around me here in Ilfracombe is not MY good life. My good life barely began before it was snatched away. I might just have to wait a while before I snatch it back. Who knows, but, this ridiculous dancer is not finished with running wild yet.