On Exaltation

Excitement has an expiration date. Soon it gives way to routines, habits, and (dis-)content. Traveling or moving to a new place is the jolt of excitement, but staying there is part of a quest. Quest for what, though?
Now that I have reluctantly accepted my status as a young “adult”, a few things became easier. Maturing came with a healthy dose of chill: I have come to terms with a few of my bigger regrets, and therefore have fewer sleepless nights or random bouts of shame unrelated to the present moment.
I still have my signature derp-y moments, of course. Food in Chiang Mai is way different from my go-to options one of my friends lovingly described as “various kinds of gray mush” (I like mashed potatoes, sue me). I think of Thai food as expressionist art — the flavors are your feelings, food is love, everything is a firework. Therefore, when faced with a choice between pad ka pau and som tam, I am faced with a new learning challenge. I am timid, because I have not known how to enjoy the flavor of paprika. I am speechless when green mango hits my tongue. I cannot compare a spicy papaya salad to anything. I learn new things and I feel like a newborn in a world of adults. It makes me feel like it’s just the beginning. Every meal is the first one, the exceptional one.
Ecstasy, the feeling of intense bliss. Is that what I seek? Is that why I am here? What I have found was not a moment of eureka, but rather a growing something. A hunch, a butterfly in my stomach. It is more and more familiar every time I come across it. I first felt it when I ate khao soi — a hearty soup made from things I don’t know by taste and lime and chicken. Do you see? It was something new that I was tasting, and that simply, I felt happy. 
The last time I felt it was near a lake. I just stumbled upon a lake. There were a few people there, because that lake was in the middle of a university campus. Being there I realized that I would not want to be anywhere else. I had no “goals”, “aspirations” or even “attachments” then. Nothing was stronger than the state of exaltation at realizing what your dream looked like because it was right in front of you.

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