Beijing to Bangkok

There is no point in panic. Panic is a deceptive, dark tool that puts fear in control of our experience. Panic makes you wish time away- ” I wish this flight were over,” “I wish I was done with the this meeting.” As someone who struggled with and continues to struggle with anxiety disorder I can tell you that most of my panic comes from living outside the present moment- outside of myself. Worrying about what comes next or obsessing over a past experience or choice. When I can connect to the here and now I can find calm in almost any situation.

One of my old anxieties comes from public transportation- it grew so out of control at one point that I avoided busses and trains like the plague for a period of 10 years or so. Any New Yorker can tell you that’s no easy feat. But that’s what fear does, it convinces you that it’s better to not do the action which causes the anxiety- it blinds you to the potential positive outcomes and makes you consider only the worst case scenario. I (pretty much) got over my fear of the train one wintry day in my early twenties. There was a dance audition in Manhattan and I was at my aunt and uncles house in Long Island. I didn’t have a car and when I was unable to convince one of them to drive me into the city, I resigned myself to missing the audition- there was obviously no way I was taking the train. At that moment my Uncle Alex came in and calmly said, “come on, if you don’t go- your just gonna stay right there.” Of course he meant that I would stay on the sofa for the day… But it resonated much deeper than that. How many years and months had I not moved forward? If I didn’t take this chance and face this fear.. I would stay right where I was- there could not be growth or progress with this crippling fear. I definitely wouldn’t book this job and who knows how many more opportunities I might forfeit down the line. To everyone’s surprise I let him drive me to the station and drop me off… He stayed until the train came and when I boarded I could see his smile from the platform. I knew then that he was right. Many people had tried to tell me that exact thing before but I had not been ready to receive it- that day I was ready.

As I write this I am on board a flight from Beijing to Bangkok. In order to get to our airplane from the terminal we needed to take a bus and even though some 7 years or so have passed since that day my uncle dropped me off at the LIRR, I felt that old familiar feeling in my stomach. That quiet ache, the voice of fear that says- “stay where you are.” But today I make the choice to get on the bus and go forward. I will reach out to life with the full length of my arms. I find, that if I focus, I can find reasons for gratitude in even the most stressful situations. Every time I find myself in a situation that causes me anxiety or stress I try to list 5 reasons I am grateful for this exact moment, things I may stand to gain and what my intentions were that lead me to this moment. When I can refocus and say thank you I change my vibration from negative to positive. Everyone knows like attracts like and I am determined to draw the most intensely positive and beautiful experiences to myself- which I know cannot be a done with a negative heart or mind. I will not be paralyzed or controlled by fear. I have been guided to this moment by a traveller’s a heart that wants to see the world and gets exhilarated by stamps in a passport. Even though sometimes it is difficult- now a days, I never miss a train.

Sriracha Tiger Zoo- THAILAND

Sitting next to this magnificent creature was a once in a lifetime type of experience. Years of seeiimageng her at the zoo and saying “I wish I could cuddle her,” all came true today. For some reason though, I didn’t feel exhilarated after this photo. Instead, I felt a bit of sadness. I tried to shake it off at first, as I can be way over sensitive when it comes to animals- but as the day wore on I realized that I was right to be a bit sad and that others in my group mirrored my sentiments.

There’s a reason we don’t climb into their cages at the zoo, like I did today- and that’s because they’re friggen Tigers- not Siamese cats. Once you climb into a cage and force it to pose for a photo, it becomes less of a tiger somehow. I can think of a lot of words to describe the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Thailand, but none of them are the words you think of when you hear “Tiger.” There was no regal, ferocious, powerful… There was more like dull and depressing. Even the crocodiles looked defeated- being forced to perform in the “show” while some idiot put their head in its mouth. A little part of me wished they’d bite down.

The Tigers wandered around their cement enclosures, their fur seemed the wrong color orange, their eyes didn’t have that look that said ” don’t mess with me,” they looked kind of dirty. All I could think about today was the loss of potential. It was so obvious to me that when we cage something in, be it an animal, a human, a dream- we are messing with a system far greater than we are, assuming a power we don’t have a right to. You can literally feel the disappointment. I thought about all the ways people stifle their own potential and it’s no wonder we don’t see a problem with doing it to other animals. The whole thing felt like a talented singer who gave up their dream for a desk job. I wanted to tell the Tigers, ” you’re better than this!”

Sometimes they would roar… And I would know that they felt it too… Something inside them saying, “I don’t think this is right.” The feeling we all get when we compromise who we are and settle for less than we deserve. I wanted to see them all bust out of their enclosures and make a run for the jungle like in the end of a Disney movie- but they didn’t. They would roar and then lay back down, defeated by a flawed system.

There was a baby elephant and she still had the heart that had been beaten out of the older animals. Her one leg was chained to a pole but she didn’t just stand there- she kept walking back and forth and pulling on that one leg, hoping she could break it free. I went over to calm her and let her know it would be OK – and just that I understood the restlessness. That at times in my life I felt how she felt… She reached her trunk out for me, and my heart broke.

Maybe I am over sensitive and trust me I know there are way more atrocities being done to animals all over the world, don’t even get me started… But there was something wrong today. Fundamentally wrong with the fact that those animals were bred to live like that- for our entertainment. Maybe I can’t singlehandedly get the zoo closed down but I also can’t sit idly by. After seeing what I saw today, I’ve vowed not to let the system break me or silence me. I hope I can make some type of difference for them, even if it’s just to make a few people aware- encourage them to skip that site not their trip and spend their money elsewhere…One thing is certain, I learned some priceless lessons from them today. Next time someone asks me to jump through a flaming hoop for their entertainment I’ll tell them where they can shove it, politely of course. I’m not a cat goddammit – I’m a tiger.
****I don’t have photos of the enclosures, as I didn’t think to write this blog until several hours after I’d left. I’d love to hear your comments and feedback if you have visited the zoo.