Three hours before my ferry to the mainland was due to depart, I decided to stay on the Thai island of Koh Tao and train as a divemaster. Breathing underwater and letting the ocean carry my weight felt strangely right, and there is the vague possibility of a job after I finish my training.
Two and a half weeks later and I finally have a day without any diving. I spend it in bed catching up with the backlog of editing, when the first of several waves of sadness pass over me.
I was correcting the exposure and sharpening photographs of friends I would never meet again in my life. In Chiang Mai I had spent a month with three people I would have trusted my life with, and with whom I had shared the feeling of total freedom that I suspect gets incrementally harder to attain as you age. Elsewhere, I had ephemeral but furiously intense friendships that lasted anywhere between a few days and a few weeks. I had known from the offset that this would happen, and I really had believed that I was good at dealing with the close of good things.
The feeling of loss, for me, anyway, was like a staggered overdose. I was only just starting to feel the effects after five months of saying goodbye to dozens of kind souls who shared a little piece of themselves with me. Despite being able to talk to these people through Facebook, I still felt a sense of mourning for how I felt in the moments captured in the photographs. People grow up and outwards and situations change: in a few years time, you might no longer have anything in common, and you might even wonder how on earth you could have enjoyed their company so much.
A few days ago, I found out that my mother has gone through surgery twice since I left home, which my family had omitted to tell me. The emails I assumed she was sending me were actually written by my sisters. I am lucky in that I have not and still do not feel the ache of homesickness, but there is very little I wouldn’t give to hug my mum.
I am also coming to the beginning of the end of my travels. When I decided to stay and do my divemaster training, my plans for Cambodia, Vietnam, China and Myanmar were cut, and fluttered to the floor like dead moths. Unless I find a job at the end of it, I will be going home this summer to prepare for the beginning of my course at university.
Entropy must increase, things must break apart and change; it’s the second law of thermodynamics, and applies to the human condition as much as it does to the universe. Tomorrow will be a new day; perhaps in the morning I will stop dwelling on finished things and instead feel happy for the privileges that I have been granted.
After all, I am living on a tropical island and diving almost every day.
I also haven’t yet lost that wonderfully naive belief in my own invincibility, so all is not yet lost.