Expat diaries: Den Den reports from Heidiland, Part 4

Posted on November 29, 2010


4) The Boat, from November 2009


I have always been a firm believer in destiny and the mysteries of its workings. Despite this, there have been countless instances in my life when my belief in it was only matched by the frustration it itself causes, when it failed to send my way that which I most desired, and which appeared simple to many others but myself. But destiny, like a loving and observant mother, always knew best, and things which I was refused, turned out only to be those which I desperately wanted, but not those which I really needed.

I remember how, when I was 20, and about 4 years into a relationship with my first boyfriend, all I wanted was a life of domesticity with him and a couple of children in our very own house. I worked hard to earn and save money, even though I was still a student and couldn’t really work much at all, and I was always frustrated when I saw that while I was working towards achieving a desired future, he was still an immature young man who despite loving me, had other things on his mind. We broke up a year later, and for a while I wondered, through sleepless nights, why it hadn’t worked.
Then there was my frantic attempt at getting a teaching job in Korea so I could join my second long-term boyfriend, and the subsequent disillusionment when I understood that, no matter how good a teacher I was and how many years of experience, what was written on my passport was wrong, and nothing in the world could change that. For a long time, I hoped that he would take the situation in control, that he would ask me to join him and support me. He did not, nor did he ever speak about a future together. Again, I decided to break it off, and wondered why it always seemed impossible for me to get the things I really wanted, why it felt like I always got stuck in the same place, over and over again.

Until I met him. They say three is a magic number, and maybe it is. Looking back it still seems strange to me how easy it was this time. It wasn’t like the sea parted and magically escorted us to where we wanted to go. Of course, there were obstacles along our path, but somehow, he always knew what to ask, what do to, and how to make us move forward together, and I always gave the correct answers and took the right decisions. Nothing was ever as simple, and in retrospect, it made me understand that everything else before this in my life was never meant to be an arrival, but only a piece of the journey to what was really important.
I now sit in my home in Switzerland. My hands smell of the potatoes I just peeled. My pile of English teaching books has found its permanent residence on my bedside table. A few photos of the important people in my life are stuck to the wall, and my eyes alternate between gazing at them, and the forest beyond my balcony door preparing for its winter sleep. And often I wonder, why am I here? Now what? After you take the boat and sail the first piece of what you hope to be a life-long journey, what happens? And if life is an ocean, then it is silly of us to think that we can conquer it all. At best, we may get to know only the first few surface layers, but will never know what lies down in the deep. If we are lucky, this ocean will let our boat sail peacefully through it, blessing us with calm weather and a reinvigorating salty breeze, but if we are not, we might be washed away against our will to some desert island where everything is unfamiliar. Even worse, our boat may capsize, leaving us stranded in the middle of an unknown ocean.
The truth is, I am not stranded on a desert island, nor am I hanging onto a life jacket as metaphorical sharks circle around me. I am simply on my first stop along the journey, in a more than comfortable harbour.
So as I sit here with my hands smelling of potatoes, still in the same time zone as my birth country, still in the same continent after a tantalising preview of what lies in the East, I remember that destiny has been infinitely kind to me, and that at just 24, she has given me true love, freedom, health, and hope. During moments like these, I am humbled, and I suddenly understand that everything does, indeed, happen for a reason. I let go of my selfish nature, my dreams of foreign lands and jet-lagging time zones, and I realise that, while my present may not be much to me, and may not be where and what I really want, my presence here is what keeps the one I love most going, what helps him hold on, until destiny decides to show him what his own path is going to be.

-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com