Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mixed Emotions

Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot of mixed emotions as our impending departure draws nearer. As we hit major milestones (like the last day of school on Wednesday), I’m starting to feel not just nostalgic, but outright sad. It’s as if I want time to stand still because every “last” that we hit means that this chapter in our life is drawing to a close. Conversely, there’s a part of me that wants to just skip over the next month or so, and just be home – now. As we all think of heading home, we’re starting to think about and name the things that we miss and are looking forward to returning to (aside from friends, family and pets – those are given) including dryers (both for clothes and hair – the latter broke a few days ago, and I just can’t justify shelling out for a new one when I’ll only be here to use it a few weeks), dishwashers, cars (yes – I finally do miss it, particularly for grocery shopping), and so on. The boys have started talking about their first meals home, which include linguine and clam sauce, veggie chicken nuggets, and “ham” and cheddar loaf.

But while I miss home so very much right now, I can’t help but reflect on this past year and what it’s taught me. I’m sure I’ll be contemplating this for quite a while after I get back, but even now, I can see how life here has really taught me to live in the present. Before we came here, I was a bundle of nerves; I was even on medication for acid reflux issues, stemming from my constant worrying. While living in China, I’ve actually been able to wean myself from that medication (thankfully as one recent government survey found that ~12% of all pills sold here had some sort of toxic substance in the casing – if that’s the government figure, you can bet the reality is far worse). Now – that may seem strange as life in China can be insanely stressful. The language barrier and cultural differences play a major role, but there are all sorts of other minor, daily irritations. Nonetheless, you really have to live in the present here. This is partially due to the fact that if you’re not truly focused on what’s going on around you, you may be mowed over by an SBD (silent but deadly – the boys’ name for electric scooters here). But even more so, I am so much more present because I never know what’s going to happen around me. Not focusing on the here and now would mean missing so much of the amazing daily life that’s going on around me. I know for sure that I will miss the sense that any weekend is an opportunity for amazing adventure and the feeling that I never can know exactly what I’ll see on any given day.

As we prepare to head home, I am glad that we’ve taken full advantage of these opportunities for adventure. Sure, I wish I’d done more to pick up Putonghua, and I wish I’d done more work. The latter doesn’t bother me that much (I don’t think I’ll regret having explored Hong Kong and Shanghai and visited so many countries here in Asia as opposed to pushing out another book chapter or article); the former does though. But what I’ve realized in living my life in the present is that I want to try to do the same when I return home. So I won’t focus on regrets, but on the amazing adventures we have left, like our trip to the Sichuan province this week. I know I won’t be able to live entirely in the present as all these mixed emotions have had me doing some serious navel gazing. In doing so, I’ll try to make sense of what I’ve experienced and determine what exactly it is that I’ll take away from our time here. I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but I do know one thing for certain: my time here has changed me in ways that will probably take years for me to fully comprehend.

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