Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Clinical Dissection of a Painful Realization

Much of my whining and discomfort these past four months has stemmed from the fact that I have not yet let go of a standard of living that I was accustomed to in the States.

I was accustomed to having people around who speak the same language as I do, and being around people in sufficient doses to accommodate my introverted self’s need for human interaction.

I was accustomed to knowing where to shop and what to buy, and what restaurants serve food I like to eat.

I was accustomed to a certain level of personal comfort, in the manner of climate control, transportation, trappings and lifestyle.

I have spent the last 4 months in a frustrated flurry, attempting to recreate everything I walked away from.

I walked away from everything I had in the States. Nobody held a gun to my head and forced me to come here.

I walked away from my friends, my family, my job, my surroundings, my comforts, my habits, my lifestyle. And I did so deliberately.

What right do I have to whine about being here?

I knew that there would be an adjustment period, and four months feels about right. That was about the amount of time I anticipated spending on adjusting. So, I’m right on track. I never anticipated regretting this move, and certainly not for the reasons that I do in fact find myself regretting it.

I’m finding it very hard to get used to things here. I can’t get used to the cold in my apartment and having to wear layers upon layers of clothes. I can’t get used to the food that is either overly spicy or tastes like dirt. I can’t get used to being so isolated. I can’t get used to worrying about finances – a very real worry, in my mind.

Did I not think of these things when I thought about living here? Well, certainly I did but my expectations and my previous experiences of being in China showed me that the food is good, the people are friendly and climate control is not a problem. Of course, the food I sampled was not indigenous to Wuhan and each region has their own culinary methods and specialties. Of course, I had only been here in the spring and summer, and temperature was not a problem. Furthermore, I had seen heaters and air conditioners so I did not foresee any issue with climate comfort. Finally, I assured myself that I was going to live far enough South that ambient temperature was not going to be an issue.

The people are indeed very friendly here, but there are limits. The first being that I am very far removed from any social outlet, the second being that I am mostly surrounded by students. Not that I have an aversion to students, but they have needs and demands that sometimes tend to overrun what I have or – more to the point: what I am prepared to offer.

I had expected to have at least one other foreign teacher to commune with. There is another foreign teacher here, but he has other things going on and does not seem to want to commune, not even a little bit. I had expected to have other teachers from the English department to associate with but I’ve yet to meet a lot of those teachers and the associations I’ve had with the few I’ve met have been friendly, but very limited. I had expected a sizable expat community to mingle with but so far I’ve only found a few expats.

Was I wrong to expect these things? Not necessarily. From all of the information I had, these expectations are reasonable. However, a very wise friend once told me: you are only ever hurt by your expectations.

And I have been hurting. But again I acknowledge: I’ve done this to myself. No one told me I should expect these things; I just expected them based on what I hoped this phase of my life would yield.
Last week was particularly low: Christmas, being sick, computers crashing left and right. I confided to Chris and George that, all things being equal, I may as well go back to where I knew my way around and was making good money (this is where the finances come in). My good friends, being supportive but no nonsense type people, comforted me by telling me that, either decision I make – coming back or staying here, they would support me. What a blessing to have such good, wise people in my life!

After dissecting the issue with them I thought long and hard about this life changing decision I made to come here and live.

I have wasted a lot of time, effort and energy trying to recreate what I had in the States. That must stop. I must spend time and effort to create a life for myself here. I do not have energy for both, and I must stop allowing and indeed encouraging this war of wants that is keeping me from seeing the reasons I came here to begin with.

If I am going to embrace the life I could make for myself here, I must let go of what I had in the States. I must stop whining and pining for what I walked away from and find good and joyous things here. I cannot look forward to new experiences as long as I am looking over my shoulder at what I left behind.

By no means does that imply that I’m letting go of my loved ones, my dear friends, my family or my precious memories. It simply means that here are treasures to be discovered, if only I open my eyes and my mind to the adventure I set myself to.

And by no means does that imply I will stop chronicling my adventures. I feel like I have a responsibility to you, my dear friends and readers. An obligation I have taken upon myself to fulfill after asking you to be a witness to what I do by inviting you to read this blog.

The strange thing is: why did not feel a sense of responsibility toward you when I lived on the same continent as you?

Apparently I have already learned an important lesson by moving here: I have a responsibility toward the ones I love, and it should not be casually shed on a selfish desire to explore new places.

No comments:

Post a Comment