The following is a letter I sent to my close friends on New Years and I wanted to share it with the world as well. Happy 2014 everyone!
To my friends, scattered all around the world.
New Year’s is supposed to be a time of joy, festivity. But here I am, in Bangkok, Thailand, alone in a hotel room, looking over the city as a new year enters, into the third decade of my life.
For those who know me well, this isn’t a strange scene. I’m a vagabond, a vagrant, someone who doesn’t know my home anymore because, for most of my life, I’ve been moving. As a child, this type of life pained me incredibly, each move a burden as I struggled to make new friends in new cities and lamented as the old ones from across the country never kept in touch. But then, I kept my anger, fears, and pain inside, locked away from the outside world.
But also in there was a desire. To know the world better. To be a part of something greater than myself, my school, or even my country. There was more out there than I was seeing in my suburban American life.
Yes, I am alone today. But I am not lonely. Instead, looking over the golden spires of Thai temples lost among the high rises and malls of consumerism, I am happier and more optimistic than ever before.
Why? As a child, I craved nothing more than a good friend. Someone who would help me when I needed it, who wouldn’t abandon me for someone else. Someone smart, intelligent, who would push me forward. So, that is why, despite the fact that I was so shy, so scared of meeting people, that I left home and began my journey.
My journey has taken me all around the world. It hasn’t been easy – my first semester in California was full of depression and questioning of my life’s goals and ability to accomplish them. Traveling around the world involved many, many lonely nights in an empty, quiet guesthouses, followed by days aimlessly wandering streets searching for something – what? – that would give my journey meaning. Yet, along the way, though, I met all of you. Perhaps its was at a LRT station in Kuala Lumpur. Perhaps we bumped into each other after I switched rooms three times in a hostel in San Francisco. Or maybe your unique “free” dancing grabbed my attention at the Gay Pride parade. So many stories, so many chance encounters, so much fate. Every life is so complex, full of so many choices that could have changed everything.
Every meeting is an extraordinary event. That is why I remain, to this day, spiritual, believing in the power of a universe that for such encounters in a world so complex, so diverse, so large and overwhelming.
In this past month and a half, this formally shy, awkward, introvert has spend nearly every single day with close friends. It was, by far, the most social I’ve ever been in my life.
Somewhere along the line, the shy boy who traveled solo so he could do his own thing grew into a confident man who understands that sharing a moment with someone close to you is far more special than experiencing it alone.
Because of you, I am who I am. Because of you I have the courage to go to a place like Indonesia, and work to end modern slavery. Because of you I am slowly building my writing career. My dreams are being achieved. You give me the strength to do what I do.
Of course, I miss you all. Tears are coming to my eyes as I write this. Had I never left my comfort zone, I would never feel this pain of being so distant from the people that I love. But I also would never have met such incredible people who helped me maintain my idealism and hope in humanity all these years. Only through pain can you understand love. Only through love can you understand the world.
So, this New Years, I want to thank you all. Nothing in life is more valuable than true friends and today, despite being alone, I can feel your warmth enveloping me. Money will never give me the comfort and safety that you all do every day.
Last night, I visited nine temples in Bangkok, following a traditional Thai Buddhist tradition, and at each temple, I prayed not only for my self and all those suffering in the world, but for all of you to have prosperous, safe, and joyous 2014 and, that, together, we can all achieve our dreams.
May our paths cross again soon,