A Letter to a 30-Year-Old Me

18 Jan


Twenty years ago we moved to Thailand. Here is my hindsight letter to a 30-year-old me. I am almost 50 now.

Dear Me at 30,

One day, believe it or not, you will love the city of Bangkok. Right now all you do is tolerate it one stinking, sweating, 35*-Celsius day at a time. No. Days are too large a measure at this time. You survive it one hesitant lonely breath at a time. There will come a day when you genuinely love that city. Instead of looking for ways to leave, your enthusiasm will be instrumental in convincing others to stay.

I want you to know that there is life after Quebec, but only after you learn (the hard way) that you must redefine your idea of real life. You see, you will witness first-hand that not everyone has the choice of where to live. You will keep living like a sad victim of the imperfect system, the imperfect marriage, the Thunderous Perfect God, until you meet a desperate Chinese refugee mom, standing on the other side of a cage-like cell, separated from her husband and son, waiting to get somewhere beyond Bangkok’s immigration detention center. She doesn’t have choices, and as you witness her heartbreaking reality it will change yours.

Oh 30-year-old Me, right now you want to fall asleep and wake up on the other side of this city, but one day you will stare the city down and defy it to just try to send you away. You will feel protective and maternal, even patriotic. You’ll learn that you don’t have to become Thai in order to belong, you just have to have purpose. With that new-found sense of purpose you will be shocked that nothing -not your accent, not your white freckled skin, not your hazely-green eyes- can tell you that you don’t belong.

That's me in the back row, center

As lonely as you are – no, as alone as you are- hold on! I promise you there will be friends. And just when you start to flat-line there will be people who will resuscitate you back to life. They will pound your chest or reach in and massage your heart if they have to. Word by gentle word they will community you back to life and reassure you that you would be missed if, for some reason, you were not there anymore.

That Bible you angrily threw into the very, very back of your bottom drawer? It will talk to you again and it will have good news. You will see how you have  misunderstood the Heart of those words. Your eyes will get baptized, and gradually you will see things clearer, where people around you will no longer look like walking trees, but they will become living, breathing, interesting individuals who are on your path for a reason.

At thirty your husband travels to remote parts of Asia, having the adventure of a lifetime, and you are alone with your three sons on the border town of Nong Khai. Right now your greatest comfort on those alone nights, your sense of escaping away from Thailand and back to Quebec, comes from your cassettes of Celine Dion. You put your earphones in, lie flat on your back and memorize all the lyrics in French. Tears pour down your face and into your ears but you don’t care. You love those songs. You love Celine Dion. And while you will always love Celine Dion for being such a good friend all those nights, I can promise you that you will find a NewSong and you will love it with all your heart and it will be an even better friend for the rest of your days.

And lastly, dear 30-year-old Me, you will be loved passionately by a man and you will fall in love again. No, there won’t be a divorce and remarriage. There will be a restoring of your first love. You got married to him when you were 20, but the day is coming when you will finally be his bride. Your differences -which are, and always will be, many- will make both of you laugh instead of scream. Your five children will thank you for staying together. You will lie down at the end of each day and be glad to see him there with you.

And for the record, even though in Thai shops you have to buy XL, you are NOT  and never will be a ‘farang somboon bep’! (tranlates: a fat foreigner.)

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30 Responses to “A Letter to a 30-Year-Old Me”

  1. indobrad January 18, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Hi Patridew, I read your letter to 30 year-old you with great interest. I find it so honest, pure and simple. You don’t give empty promises that the sky would always be blue but you did give a hint on a beautiful ending and that you adviced your 30 y/o you to just enjoy the beauty of the journey.

    I’m wondering if I could write myself a letter like this to a 17 year-old me (I’m 35 now), but I got a sense that you must actually stand on an end of a struggle before you could give advice to the younger you. Yet now I’m on a different struggle myself and would be damn lucky if I would get a letter from the 60 y/o me.

    So, I may not be ready to write the letter today, but I’d like to thank you for inspiring me in such a way.

    Greetings from Indonesia,

    • patridew January 18, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

      Yes, I’ve stood at the end of a struggle (or at least close enough to feel hope). This was more gut-wrenching than I thought. I hope your struggle does not become overwhelming, Brad. I’m sure there are people in your life who think they would be damn lucky to have you around when you are 60! Thanks for coming by… see you again.


  2. lisasub January 18, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Excellent! As a Quebecor who also lived in Thailand I can relate! I love the letters written to oneself – how therapeutic! I will have to try that… thank you for lovely post (and great referrals to other great blogs!)

    • patridew January 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

      You’re kidding?? You were in Thailand too and you are a Quebecoise?? What brought you to Thailand?
      Thanks for coming by and commenting, and I’m glad I ran across your site.

      • lisasub January 18, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

        Yes! I am a Montrealer! In a (successful) attempt to broaden my mind and experiences through travel, I moved to Bangkok to teach English. My stint in Thailand ended up being a jumping off point to further travels around south east Asia. More recently, another bout of wanting to self-improve and open my mind lead to a second trip to Asia! http://lisasub.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/a-really-awesome-trip/

      • patridew January 19, 2011 at 2:21 am #

        Travel is an incredible education, that’s for sure! Good for you for embracing the journey, and I hope to read about your travels on your blog!

  3. mkpope January 18, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Well written Pat! I recall you and Peter telling the story of the early days when you were struggling to adapt and Peter would be up in the night praying and Peter would go to lay hands on Joel in the crib and Joel would start singing “Jesus is Here”. Now look, 20 years later. What a ride. I honor your faithfulness to the Lord’s calling.

    Now, I wonder what a letter would look like written 20 years in the other direction to the almost 70 year old you?

    • patridew January 19, 2011 at 2:19 am #

      Thanks for coming by to read, Mark. I appreciate your encouraging words. You have a good memory too. Please, I deserve no honour, really, for any faithfulness. I think it was more like stubbornness. And The Calling… yes, well I have a very different perspective on that now, but it will have to be for another blog.

  4. Janet January 18, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    An interesting look back at where you’ve been in your journey to today.

    • patridew January 19, 2011 at 2:21 am #

      Hey Janet… not the typical missionary story, I know. I wish I could be more typical in that way.

  5. reneedavies January 18, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    You made me cry. Thanks for the honesty.

    • patridew January 19, 2011 at 2:22 am #

      I cried too. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. sandra webster January 18, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Thank you for the insightful look into your beginnings in Thailand. Thank you for showing how God through the years has settled your heart, and replaced frustration with contentment. Reading your story has filled me with gratitude for God’s constant care in my own life, and hope that in those areas that seem insurmountable to me now, God is still quietly at work.

    • patridew January 19, 2011 at 2:24 am #

      Yes, God came to the rescue. He heard my 911 and He came dressed in people from SoCal! What an unlikely rescue. Gratitude. That’s the word, exactly! Thanks for coming by and commenting.

  7. thehindsightletters January 19, 2011 at 5:09 am #

    What a great Letter! The Hindsight Letters team is so pleased that we were able to inspire you to write something so wonderful! If you ever want to go back a little further and write one to your teenaged self, we would be thrilled to post it.

    Thanks for all your support of our project!


    • patridew January 19, 2011 at 9:43 am #

      Thanks! I’ll see what I can do…

  8. Rinoa January 19, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    found it very interesting. I shared it with Sana. One of my favorites
    love u

    • patridew January 19, 2011 at 9:45 am #

      Thanks! by the way, come on over again soon! xo

      • patridew January 19, 2011 at 9:45 am #

        … over to the house, I mean. And the blog, but you know what I mean… miss you

  9. sherengchard January 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    As I read this, I kept thinking, I can’t imagine Pat other than who she is now. I’ve heard your story, but reading it like this was so powerful. It’s amazing to see how He transformed your mind, and how if He hadn’t, I don’t know where Dom and I would be without you. You are such a precious gift.

    • patridew January 19, 2011 at 11:12 pm #

      Well… as I wrote this I kept thinking I can imagine what my life might have been like if my friends from NewSong California hadn’t come to Bangkok when they did. I kept thinking about my second post and how my story might have turned. http://patridew.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/4/ Thanks for your kind words, Sher, and you know I love you guys too!

  10. rich January 21, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    sadly I didn’t get to meet the 30 year old you. The current version of you has been a gift to our family. A gift bringing a wave of encouragement impossible to ignore. One thing people living in Thailand and all over south east Asia can appreciate is the power of a wave. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly when we first met and even though each meeting has been brief, every moment left Neet and I somehow more ready to face what ever it was we were set to encounter next. 
        If it took some years of you feeling alone and many of those nights turning to Celine for escape and friendship, then I find myself thanking God for feeling alone among millions and for Celine. What seemed like harm to you, God meant for our good. When I say “our” I mean all the people you’ve nudged toward God over the years. 

    ( please don’t tell anyone I used “thank, God and Celine” in the same sentence ) 
    The boys would never let me live it down :)

    Thanks for being you Pat. And if that meant a sometimes difficult path to completion, then I thank all those people who helped you stay that course. 


    • Patricia DeWit January 22, 2011 at 8:12 am #

      Wow. Thanks, Rich. That’s a powerful letter. And that is just it… what seemed like harm, God meant for good. I like the ‘our’, for there’s nothing like being in a community of ‘ours’, so much better than the alternative ‘us and them’.

      And thanks for being you, Rich. You’re a good friend.

  11. Anita H January 21, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

    Beautiful! Rich told me that I would love reading this. I feel inspired to write one of my own. So glad the 30-year old you decided to stay in Bangkok.

    • Patricia DeWit January 22, 2011 at 8:13 am #

      I would love to read your letter so let me know when you do, Neets! Deciding to ‘stay’… in anything it is no small choice. xox

  12. sherry martin-legault February 10, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    Awesome letter, Pat. At the same time you were struggling in the heat of Bangkok, we were in the Canadian Arctic, wondering why God had us there. Yet, those years were certainly not wasted. God strengthened us, taught us many things. And he blessed us with friends in so many places and ways. At one point when we were starting to feel ‘bushed’ a friend sent us a whole box of cassettes–teaching tapes from conferences, etc. It was so awesome to listen to someone else teach/preach. And I will be forever grateful to Focus on the Family for starting the ‘Pastor to Pastor’ series. Ironically, I celebrated my 30th birthday with a group of women in Yellowknife, NWT. The fellowship blessed me as much as the gifts–though I’ve still got the sweatshirt they gave me.Keep writing. You’re blessing a lot of hearts.

    • Patricia DeWit February 12, 2011 at 12:49 am #

      I’m sure we share a very common story, Sherry. Do you keep a blog?

      • Sherry Martin-Legault February 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

        Yes, Pat, our stories share many similarities. Reading your post about ‘ugly/brains’ also rang a few bells for me. I was a ‘brain’ in school. It was easier to ‘hide’ that way. If it involved words in any way, I could do well at it. (Maybe why I now write novels?) Then, God blessed me with a husband who has considered me beautiful every day for over 25 years. So much better than any passing comments during my school years. No blog for me yet, but I am considering it.

  13. Shannon Archibald March 11, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Pat-I have been reading through all your blog posts the past couple of days and your gift with words is so powreful. Thank you for being real and speaking truth and not worrying about how it sounds. I could comment on each post but this one is so powerful to me. To realize that we will always look back on who we were at a certain time with a mix of regret and appreciation for what we didn’t know at the time. Your ability to be transparent about your struggles has been such an encouragement to me-to not live behind a mask but to be free to make mistakes, admit them and grow. I admire the women you were and are and am so glad my story crossed yours for even a short time. I look forward to stopping by your blog again soon.

    • Patricia DeWit March 15, 2011 at 2:05 am #

      So glad that my writing has been able to encourage you. That’s my goal in all this… I am also glad we crossed paths, Shannon!

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