In countless ways, life in Guangzhou has been demanding, vexing, rebarbative, unpredictable, fascinating, and exemplary of China and its contradictions.
When I landed in Guangzhou last July, I was but a fresh college graduate, completely lost on what I had just flown around the world to seek. Sure, I had announced my shipping off to China indefinitely, but that announcement was shallow, full of unanswered questions stemming from the plain truth that I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I was reaching the peak of frustration at failing to secure employment, a feeling which, at the time of my decision, came only a month after graduation. Impatience drove me away from home and not only to a different country, but also to every single experience—whether euphoric or painful—I have had since. As many have remarked, my parents escaped this very country, working their asses off to support us in America, only for me to escape myself and “return.”
And this year, while occasionally spent with others, has largely been a solo adventure full of self-discoveries and key life lessons.
One of the most valuable lessons I learned while living abroad for a year has nothing to do with the professional skills I gained, the people I met, or even the craziness I witnessed on a daily basis.
Because despite everything that has happened in 2016 alone, I can’t help but feel an emptiness to it all. Developing new skills, meeting people, and experiencing #CHINA—what is any of it if not for the ability to share them directly with the people you care about?
As I’ve mentioned before, as evidenced by my lack of attention to most relationships, I have struggled to maintain even the closest relationships. It’s hard enough to keep in touch with people in the same time zone, let alone on the other side of the world as we each attempt to figure out what post-grad adult life is supposed to mean.
Consumed in these respective next chapters of our lives, fueled by an oft-naïve optimism, we tend to act a little more selfishly. We tell ourselves we are at the best stage of our lives, with little to nothing tying us down or preventing us from achieving our goals.
And so in the midst of the hustle and bustle, we, whether inadvertently or not, distract ourselves from seeing what life ought to be when all the bustling inevitably fades, or worse, fails us. The realization hits. And we see the outcome of our selfish neglect.
Just within this year abroad, I have found incredible truth to what people in the last years of their lives say they regret most—not spending enough time with the people they cared about. What a challenge, it is.
After a year, I’m changing courses and closing this China chapter—for now.
For the second half of 2016, I’m returning to Maryland to prep for grad school, spend more time with family and friends, then see my sister graduate. Compared to the same period last year, I expect to have a significantly less exciting time. Jetting off to Asia or Europe may need to be put on hold, at least until I finish and submit all my grad school apps. (Part of why I’m leaving earlier than expected is because deadlines are coming up sooner than previously expected. Another part is due to how so many things seem to be signs that it’s time to leave).
As I prepare to leave the place I’ve come to call home for a year, I’m bringing with me memories still fresh with both positive and negative emotions—but more importantly, a better understanding of myself, my background, and my abilities. (Expect a fuller reflection of my China chapter soon).
I’m missing the adventures already, but I am excited to create more as I mark this next chapter in my life.
America, I’m coming home.
Friends in the U.S.! I have about a month left in Guangzhou before coming back. Let’s make plans to catch up sometime after mid-September. Message me on Facebook or do it the old-fashioned way with email: email@example.com. Can’t wait to come back.