I’m sitting in the airport lounge, listening to a flurry of Mandarin to the left of me and a Southern drawl to the right of me. Their human commonality is they are all loud talkers. I’m a loud talker too, but I love little more than silence and quiet.

It’s one of many contradictions, that I love to make noise as much as I long for the quiet. I know a couple of people who are quiet talkers. It makes me lean in, not only to listen to what they say, but  to pay closer attention to them. I like the difference between someone who makes you lean in versus one who makes you lean back.

I’m sitting in the airport lounge, drinking a long black espresso and beside it, a whisky and soda. One is deep, rich and will awaken my senses. The other is light, smoky and crisp but will eventually soothe me into easy sleep. I like to drink them at the same time just to experience the spectrum.

I celebrated my birthday with friends a week ago, because I love to throw parties. A dear friend said to the crowd, ‘Tash manages to be spiritual without being weird.’ Another contradiction.

I’m leaving for the other side of the world to see people I love in places I long for. I’m excited and nervous, hoping it will be all I’m wishing for – connection, richness of experience, deepness of love shared between kindred spirits. I’m hoping that each relationship I cherish will grow richer and stronger and more through the chance to be present with one another.

But I, as always, grieve quietly the absence from others that is required to make those connections possible. I’m full of joy and full of sorrow, albeit momentarily, because I cannot bear to be apart but I cannot bear to stay.

I, like always, am intoxicated a little by the mystery of travelling alone. Wondering who will cross your path, knowing the complete freedom to be and see and do whatever takes my fancy along the way. I am, increasingly, tired of travelling by myself. I find I no longer want to see new places without sharing the experience with another pair of eyes, another set of senses. I like to be alone; I am desperate not to be alone.

And here is the deepest contradiction of them all. I am strong. I have an emotional backbone made of steel. It might be best to say I am grounded; at peace with the vast array of emotion that strikes to the core of the human experience. I can grieve and laugh in the same day, I can (sometimes) stand calm in the face of chaos, I can navigate through the storm.

But oh, how I am soft. Tender and gentle, longing for peace. I have become strong in the face of the storm only because I have faced it for one hundred days. I can bear the stern light of the sun because I have lived in the desert. I can withstand what presses in from the outside because I have been born with steel inside me.

I am soft and I long to yield. I want not to withstand. I want to be comforted, I want to crumple. On the inside, my soft and gentle heart holds to the steel of my skeleton. My vulnerability has slowly been creeping out, slowly losing it’s hold on steel. I like it, I like that it means I need others in that state.

I am a woman of contradiction. Not complicated, just faceted. Never just one, I am one and other.

I am not strong. I’m vulnerable. More than I realise most of the time. I need others to hold me up and take of me more often than I know.