Cut and Run (Vietnam)

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s people telling me how lucky I am.  That may seem strange but it happens a lot.  Meeting new people or catching up with old friends, discussing my life, the places I’ve been and things I’ve done and I can watch the change in their expressions.  I see it coming and something inside me braces for impact.  “Wow!  You are so lucky.  I wish I could do that.”

I won’t detail the mental lengths I am sometimes required to go to in order to prevent myself from slapping said person.  Rationally I know that said person is just trying to express some kind of admiration or appreciation rather than demonstrate stupidity.  I know that even for some truly intelligent people the way I live is unfathomable.  But still, even after all these years, I have trouble keeping the look of disdain from showing plainly on my face.

Because luck has nothing to do with it.  I didn’t win the lottery.  A fairy godmother didn’t grant me three wishes.  I didn’t survive a plane crash unscathed or get trapped in a elevator with the love of my life.  I made a lot of choices.  And a lot of those choices were hard.  Some of them still are.  I live with less in most senses than all of the people who call me lucky.  I embrace instability in a way that most people find distinctly unpalatable.  In many ways I feel like a kite on a string and the farther I get from earth the more likely it becomes that I could be blown away by a strong wind and never come down.  My view of the world may be beautiful, but it’s also precarious, vertiginous and humbling.  And it is an act of my own doing.  It’s a choice I continue to make because I’ve found that my happiness depends on it despite the drawbacks and complications.  But this is something I’ve mostly given up trying to explain to people.

However, since I’m talking about it…. OTHER things that aren’t lucky.  Being robbed.  Losing your camera and phone.  Turning around a split second too late to grab the cowardly bastard on the back of the moped with his fist closed over the strap.  Being unable to run in hot pursuit because your flip-flop is about to break.  Losing all of your photos from the last month of travel.  The theft of a camera bought as an early Christmas present by your father to replace the one stolen at a wedding four weeks earlier.  Was it lucky that I wasn’t carrying my passport and wallet?  No.  I made the decision not to.  Given the half dozen other victims of moto-based theft I met it seems luck would have been a three day stay in Saigon’s backpacker district without getting robbed.

Another thing that isn’t lucky.  Being one of the acceptable percentage of users who develop unbearable side affects to the leading malaria medication.  Finding yourself in a foreign country in a state of malaise and depression.  Meeting all of the exotic culinary opportunities with unappetized antipathy because your body is in medication-based revolt.  Escaping moto-thieves to the beach and being unable to enjoy the sun or ocean because your UV sensitivity has quintupled.  Thus far Vietnam is not somewhere I’ve felt lucky.

I’m not even sure I believe that luck, fairy godmothers and leprauchans aside, actually exists.  What we call luck is in most cases nothing more than making the best of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.  If I’ve been lucky in the real touched-by-fate-pot-of-gold definition of the word it’s been in the circumstances to which I was born, the love and support I’ve been given by my family and friends, the countless ways the people in my life have helped me grow and stretch and reach for new things.  In these ways I have indeed been truly lucky.  I hope they all know how grateful I am for the gift they have given me.  The gift of knowing and trusting myself.   Of being able to listen to my instincts and make the best of  all the circumstances life may hand me.  Vietnam, with its conical hats, French cuisine, bahn mie, white sand beaches and futuristic vibe has plenty to intrigue.  But right now, it’s just not working for me.  But I guess I’m lucky because I have the insight and ability to say “enough is enough.  Now is not the right moment.  My time will be better spent elsewhere.”  Goodbye Vietnam.  This is where I cut and run.


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