Well it looks like it is that time again; Onwards and Forwards Part Deux. I have to say this year continues to develop in a way I could have never imagined nor planned, reinforcing my ideas behind “No Expectations”. Of course having a plan is safe, smart, and secure but the ability to diverge from that set path, be flexible, and explore all and any of the options that lie before you is scary yes but oh so beautiful. And the beauty of what unfolds on your journey into an unknown is the most rewarding.
Before my move to China, I took a vow to walk into the PRC with no expectations. Don’t expect to love the new internship, to find best friends, to even love the city. Instead I adopted an outlook of “one day at a time” not because it was too overwhelming to be somewhere new but merely because I was somewhere new. I was in China. How could I possible make predications and lay out the next couple of months for myself? Each day I found myself in new experiences and I grew to be open and adaptable…and in some way or another, everything fell into place….perfectly. I could not have asked for a smoother transition into China. Friends, housing, job; all of it. I have a wonderful and quite funny housing situation; moving from the 6th floor to a carbon copy of my old apartment on the 7th floor, switching roommates with the floor change. Bumped up from intern to interim online editor with the opportunity to have taken on the job. And of course because happiness is better shared, great new (and old) friends to share my time in SH. It may have been good luck but I think there is more to it than luck. To quote my good friend Bean Bag, positive things happen to positive people and I don’t think I have ever gone into a new situation as positively as I had done in Shanghai.
Vietnam taught me No Expectations, among the slue of other life lessons I’ve bottled up and stored in my back pocket. (i.e don’t dress like a Jersey guidette on Halloween….ever) Shanghai, among others (i.e what a Beijing bikini is) taught me about and reinforced the beauty of independence. It all began to make more sense to me; why people chose to move abroad for a fresh start. I think the biggest difference in living abroad and why it has such an appeal to people who want to start over/run from something/run to something/want something new is that there’s minimal self-identifiers that follow you. You become YOU, whatever you want that to be. You are not you because you are friends with Mary, or the daughter of Ingo and Darlene, or so and so’s girlfriend, from Mendham, blah blah. I found my time here to be some of the purest personal freedom I’ve tasted yet.
Before I sound too independent, I did have friends of friends in Shanghai before I got here. But a new friend from my friends of friends (FOFs for short) had a great point about these connections – we don’t know any of that, we just know you. The rest of the connections subside quite quickly, they are just a starting point but they don’t hold lasting value, they don’t have a standing purpose. You become known for the person you are to new people rather than a person associated with something else of the past. You become defined by you in that moment and the moments moving forward.
It’s weird to think about how in many ways we define ourselves by our relationships to others, or how we are defined by what we are to others, or even more so – we are defined by the external rather than the internal. We describe ourselves so and so’s sister, so and so’s friend, so and so’s daughter, from this state, from this town, i “do” this, etc. But in these new, fresh circumstances…Mendham? What’s that? Aurora? Who’s she? University of Delaware versus American? Come again? No, you are simply you, just without the associations.
I am not saying I want to be unassociated with “Deege” of the past, no no no. I like her and I love being a TWP, an Appel, a baby gal. I am just saying I understand it; its appeal, its lure, its refreshing quality. When you get a taste of this independence, you inevitably become more comfortable and confident with yourself, you can almost feel yourself evolving into a person. You just sense yourself building your own personhood and moving forward towards this cohesiveness within you. I think it’s a never-ending process, something that carries on until your final days and maybe it begins to happen for some sooner than others, or some never at all, but this capacity to begin to feel yourself as you (the good, bad, and the ugly in its entirety) is truly wonderful.
I’m bloggbling but these are the things you think about and these “revelations” have been the real eye openers of this trip, perhaps more so than the Grand Palace in Bangkok or Angkor Wat in Cambodia (though still amazing!). I cannot be happier or more proud of my decision to come to Shanghai. I have gotten lucky with so many things here and have had such an incredible 4 months. While it was supposed to be longer, China immigration had other plans and I’ve bended to fit this curve. And the upcoming weeks hold a new range of experiences, adventures, and lessons. But for now, Shanghai will be a city that taught me freedom of “unassociation”.
And to honor this independence, I’ve compiled a collection of my shameless selfies. Please enjoy.
This is what happens when you travel alone. You think and take pictures.