The Dismantling of Jax
Without realizing it, I began my refresh a few years ago when I started to exclusively travel solo through South East Asia. The final nail in my corporate coffin was taking a sabbatical last year and touring seven countries, volunteering in four of them. Returning back to NYC after that voyage my lifestyle seemed to be mocking me. No matter how valiant my attempt to rejoin society was and as much as I thrive in the hustle and bustle it was also depleting my spirit. I was running on fumes and bodega bagels.
Born into a “gypsy” family I was used to the agitation felt from inertia, since childhood roaming was apter than repose. With traveling, I was able to satisfy both demands of activity and ambling so I was immediately hooked and deemed myself a nomadic spirit. The battle in the dichotomy between living successfully, according to society, and maintaining self-care was hard fought. Until upon landing in Sri Lanka for the first time, I felt a calling of cessation. The sun shone with purpose, the ocean spoke of power and wisdom, even the molecules in the air sang to me with a siren’s melody. So three years and five country visits later I took that leap to my new life chapter in Sri Lanka.
With that being said hitting refresh for me isn’t as much about leaving my current life as it is about facing the unknown one. An absolute focus on readying myself assuaged the anxiety surrounding my move. However, preparedness isn’t just having a comprehensive strategy. I had spreadsheets, lists, bookmarked websites, and an array of post-it notes devised but the psychological impact around living abroad was something I hadn’t fitted myself for.
I’ve traveled for months at a time without becoming encumbered by mental or emotional cargo, two weeks into my refresh and I was calling my Sissy breaking down over the unarming self-awareness and loneliness I was experiencing. The imbalanced social dynamics, ennui, and complexity around the cultural contrasts were overwhelming. I became capricious, melodramatic, and extremely depressed. All the months of planning and years of traveling to get me to this place and I was mortified and flailing. What have I done? Well for starters I lost my entire perspective and the unsubstantiated confidence I carried had broken apart upon impact here. To survive this I had to be stripped bare, dismantled, and face a cornucopia of feelings derived from the experience to rebuild, and I had to do it alone.
Starting again at 38 isn’t something to scoff at. Memories of past struggles and trauma become raw again as you’re reintroduced to the emotions which in your adult life you’ve built a fort around and tucked away with your Alannis Morissette CD. Everything becomes scary and it’s hard to make basic decisions. But then day by day something happens, your anxiety decides to take a hike and you learn to stop worrying about next month because today is all that matters. The new town you call home starts to feel familiar, safe. You start to see fruit in the trees and are grateful for the experience of picking and eating them. Not understanding the language starts to be less threatening because you’ve survived this long so in actuality it empowers you.
I’m now three months into of my refresh and managed to achieve some big goals the old fashion way, with patience. Confidence has moderately increased, my lifelines are now vetted and stronger than face to face relationships I had in my home country, and I am seeing the possibilities that were always there but just now have shown their beneficence.
Without realizing it the survival skills I’ve honed from acclimating to the juxtapositions of different states, cities, homes, schools, and cultures my whole life kicked in and brought me to the place my heart knew my head could find. The small things became special again, the sun was life-giving instead of overbearing, the ocean lulled me to sleep instead of appearing dangerous and indignant, the flora and fauna became beautiful backdrops and not places for hidden threats.
A tuk-tuk driver providing access, freedom, and companionship, a mother who took in this stray from NYC and regards me with love and affection as a daughter, a whole village celebrating and welcoming my arrival as if I was long lost family, a children’s home and 30 beautiful children with wide-eyed excitement to learn, a Sinhalese teacher who’s smile, kindness, and patience could still a storm; these are the things that I now celebrate every day. This is where my refresh finally begins.
Currently, I’m posting on Instagram under @JaxattaxNYC and #travelingjax but I’d love your acceptance and support as well as I start the vital digital journey. This write up is an extension of my first post on my site Bow With Me, which I’ve owned for years and haven’t touched.
Bow With Me on Facebook and Instagram are set up and ready to launch as well to showcase projects, travel experiences, and assignments I’ve curated. If I can push myself past the fear of failure I know I can do this. Please reach out if you want to connect at [email protected] or on Facebook.
A shout out to Cepee of She Hit Refresh who is an amazing visionary, influencer, friend, and also to a fellow She Hit Refresh tribe member @brandigard who not only takes amazing photos (like the ones you’ve seen in this post) but is the other half of my brain, creative guru, and my biggest cheerleader all the way from across the globe.
Happy Refreshing, Ladies!