The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being in Cambodia

Lately, I’ve been having bad dreams. The dreams never make sense and by the time I’m up and ready to go to work, I don’t remember a thing about them.. apart from the fact that I feel crappy. I hate these kinds of dreams.. I’m not sure what it is that I am actually stressed or worried about.. I can guess but I can’t be sure. And waking up crappy results in feeling like that for the rest of the day.

First thing you should know is that I.. don’t dream very often. So when I do dream, it’s when I’m either stressed or worried about something. This means.. I am worried about something and have been throughout my trip in Cambodia. Sure, I have a lot of happy moments and exciting adventures that I share with you but I think sharing a part of what I am feeling is important too. It’s part of the trip and the experience of being back in Cambodia.

The few things that are making me anxious (I am guessing) are these:

  • Meaning of Home
  • Uncertainty of the Future
  • Work
  • Not being able to fully relax
  • Having to go back/ leave Cambodia
  • The fact that I am not sure what it is that is really bothering me

Now, to be clear, I have to actually come out and tell you a little bit about myself. I have briefly mentioned in other posts but never told you out straight.

I was born in Korea. I arrived in Cambodia in 1997 with my family. I was.. 7 years old – almost too young to notice what was going on. I didn’t feel sad about leaving Korea or anything. Naturally, Cambodia became all too normal for me. It was my life. In 1999, Cambodia was a little too dangerous so we left for a little more than a year to Singapore but eventually came back and settled here (my dad was still in Cambodia while we were away). Ever since we got back, I’v been here nonstop. I went to an international school. People came and left as their parents worked with 2-3 year contracts in NGOs and companies.. but I did have a good number of friends who stayed with me throughout. After 11 years of my initial arrival, I graduated in 2008 and left to Boston for university. I am now with one semester to go.

While I was in Cambodia, I went through a lot of identity crisis like many TCKs. I never really got along with one exclusive group of people. I had best friends from all over the world. I speak fluent Korean but I never could fully associate myself with the Koreans. I definitely wasn’t Khmer.. I wasn’t Korean American (which a lot of people in Korea thought I was just because I spoke English) .. I really couldn’t.. or even until now can’t relate myself to any cultural groups. At times, I hated Cambodia and wanted to leave. It was boring, I was so sick of having people leave all the time… I needed, for once, to be the one that did the leaving. However, it really hit me when I finally boarded the plane to Boston… Cambodia is my home. It really has shaped me into who I am today and… I might never have back all those things I took for granted.

The first year of college… sucked! I wanted to come back home really badly. And I did… but was even more disappointed to find out that it wasn’t the way I had left things. However, eventually I figured out that what I was missing wasn’t the physical location.. it was the lifestyle I had and what had changed was not Cambodia.. but.. me.

After that I didn’t come back to Cambodia for almost 2 years. I really needed that time away. I needed to detach myself from the past and focus on the present. And being back now.. I can’t help but feel that I am detaching myself further and further away from this ‘home.’ My parents are still here.. my sister just graduated.. but no matter what, I will feel like the person who used to live here… that is until I find a place to settle down in the near future.

Which brings me to my next point… the uncertainty of the future. I’m a Korean by passport.. but I can never imagine living in Korea. It’s all too much for me and I know for a fact that I can’t fit in.. emotionally or mentally. As much as I love Cambodia, I’m not ready to come back yet. I have left and the process of leaving was hard but I’m not ready to settle down here.. especially in the field of PR.. I really don’t see big potentials here yet. I wish I could start off in the US but in all honesty, as an international student, I can’t ignore the fact that it is near.. impossible. So.. heck, who knows where I will be 6 months from now? Sometimes I wish I knew.. actually.. I really wish I knew but I’m ok with the uncertainty. It’s just that at times.. it stresses me out. I feel like I can’t really commit to anything knowing that I may have to let it all go eventually.

Those of you that know me.. at least a little bit.. would know that.. I can’t really relax or do nothing for a long time. I need to be up and moving around, being busy. This is why I have decided to volunteer and work this summer instead of just travelling around. Work has me stressed out to some extent but that’s all because of who I am.. not because of the work. I simply just can’t relax! If I let myself a day of doing nothing.. I will go crazy. I’ve been sick lately and staying home.. I think this may have added on to my crappy mood.

But all this is part of my summer trip here in Cambodia. Having these emotions and thoughts is also part of my experience and a part of what I’m indulging on. I need to be aware of my feelings and the reasons behind it. I know that this post may be irrelevant to a lot of you… actually, most of you but I know that to some of you.. it may relate to how you feel about home and Cambodia too.

This is me just rambling on a gloomy afternoon. I think I will go hit the gym and exhaust myself to sleep tonight. Happy Monday everybody!

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9 thoughts on “The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being in Cambodia

  1. Hey there! Catching up with your blog after having had some dodgy internet for a few days. Hope your bad dreams have let up and you’re starting to feel better!

    This is going to sound cliche but… as unsettling as an unknown future can be, life DOES have a way of working out. Rarely in the way we plan or expect or contrive for ourselves, but in challenging, wonderful, unexpected, often miraculous ways. I had no clue what I was doing when I graduated college and was pretty close to terrified. The reality I’ve ended up in is not something I could have planned or predicted and not only has it all been ok (not saying there weren’t tough times, but there will always be those, and in the end those are the things that teach us the most important lessons); it’s been so much more than what I could have planned for myself if I, instead of life, had been left in charge back on my graduation day. :-) The tricky and wonderful thing is that we can only live one day at a time, one moment at time. The more I can try to really savor and do my best with where I AM and have faith that all the rest will be what it needs to be, the better my headspace (yes, this is something I still struggle with – but it does get easier with practice! ;-) ).

    Hang in there girl, and take it easy on yourself!

  2. Hey NaEun,
    Somehow I can relate to this post even though I left Cambodia ages ago and lived there only 4 years. Thanks for reminding me how awesome Cambodia was and still is.

    Khadijah N

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