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Routines, freedom and responsibility

Reflections over coffee in Bangkok

· Reflections,Travel Journal

It's my final day in Bangkok. My flight that'll take me south to Phuket leaves at something past six in the evening. I just went out to grab my usual late brunch from the small eatery that I'd become a regular at during my week's stay in Silom, central Bangkok.

My "morning" routine

Today I decided to switch up my routine. Instead of going to the cafe nearby my usual eatery to grab my ice black americano that I'd have with my brunch, I stopped by a small hole-in-the-wall coffee chain on the corner of the road of my hostel. Maybe the green exterior attracted me, or maybe it was the 10 Baht (30 cents) that I'd save by coming here instead.

The moment the cold coffee touched my tongue I instantly wished I'd stuck to my usual routine. It was watery, tasteless and I could tell lacked the caffeine kick that I craved after a lateish night watching Netflix's 'The Punisher'. This would not do. Years of office work had made me dependent on a large dose of caffeine in the morning. If you've ever seen me before my morning boost, as I'm sure some of you who I've worked with have, you'll know that I resemble a zombie ('The Walking Dead' type not '12 Days Later' type - see fast vs slow zombies here) more subdued than even my normal self.

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Me before my morning coffee (taken from 'The Walking Dead').

Sipping furiously away at my cold "coffee", I made my way slowly to the local eatery where they have a range of side dishes you can choose from to accompany your plate of rice. I'd become particularly addicted to the chillies here, which have a hell of a kick and is served marinated in this sweet, tangy, salty liquid. I love this place so much that one day I had three meals in one day here. It's cheap too, at only 55 Baht for three servings of side dishes, and has been a welcome source of protein and vegetables - a huge improvement to my diet after a month in Cambodia and Vietnam.

On my way there I was already thinking ahead to the second coffee that I'd grab after brunch, from my usual cafe. And how I'd sit down in the common area back at my hostel, drinking that coffee and writing my daily 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness journal, which today became this piece.

(Sadly, my usual eatery was closed. I think they only open on the weekend. I went to an eatery just next door, called Meng's Noodle, which I hear is famous but which I don't like as much. It's a shame, as I wanted to visit my favourite place one last time but I suppose Inshallah I can come back for it.)

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Routines, freedom and responsibility

A routine, I found, is very helpful for me to fain a sense of grounding. I'm working on a couple of talks - one 60 minute lecture and one 70 minute seminar that I'll repeat three times - for a Christian conference that's being held in Jakarta just after Christmas. The routine helps me to carve out time during the day, dedicated to working on the talks.

During my month in Cambodia and Vietnam, I neglected keeping a routine and made little to no progress. I did receive a wealth of deep experiences though, so I don't consider it time wasted - possibly I could have been a little more organised. I told a friend, "Do you want to think about life or live it?"

"Do you want to think about life or live it?"​ - Me

And a bit of rule breaking was what was being called for in my life. It's been a running theme - always following the rules. From my time spent with The Escape School back in London, to my psychotherapy and even on my coaching training course, I knew that I had to get better at saying, "To hell with the rules!" But as the saying goes, you don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Yes I was in a desperate need to enjoy more freedom and to break rules that were unnecessary to my well-being and holding me back from a fuller life. A friend told me once, "Be free but be responsible." Possibly, in the last month, I'd embraced freedom but neglected responsibility. I had given a promise to give a couple of talks to the best of my abilities, reflecting the privilege and responsibility that I'd been in the chance to shape and inspire young minds - future leaders. And that is important to me too.


And do you know what? Neglecting that responsibility led to an unintended restriction to my freedom. The past week, I've mostly been indoors in hostel common rooms or co-working spaces (on free trial passes), trying to make up for lost time. I'd not been able to say "yes" to as many things as I'd wanted to. When I've allowed myself to go out, as a treat or because I really needed to lift my mood, there was this guilty voice in the back of my mind asking, "Shouldn't you be working on your talk?" I wasn't able to fully give myself to where freedom wanted to take me, because I'd neglected my responsibility earlier.

I'm coming to the end of my second coffee, a black ice americano, no sugar, again. People look at me funnily when I order that. People usually have coffee with condensed milk, or at least add a tonne of sugar (diabetes in a cup, folks, or at best bad teeth and an extra kilo or two). It's because the coffee is very bitter here - dark roast to a crisp. Think Starbucks. I don't mind the bitterness so much, although a part of me longs for the sweet aromas of a medium roast Arabica.

As I write this, I'm mourning the countless other creative ideas that I've had to let go, because of my responsibility to dedicate my focus to my December talks. It hurts, because the act of creation felt so good...It's something that I'd lost for a very long time and it had felt so good to find it again. To console myself, I recently started taking a few snaps. It doesn't take long to edit, caption and put up and it reminds me of what I love.

Check them out on my @joeyra Instagram feed.

And that I'll come back to creating in full swing once those talks are done, and done as well as I can, for I truly want to do that too. No it's not an ideal situation and probably not the "way it should be". But it's the reality that I find myself in. I suppose there's a lesson in that too.