Reflections on Taiwan

Lately I have been focused on endings: the end of a relationship, the end of the school year, the end of my time in Taiwan, and a sick grandmother at home whom I can’t visit because I am halfway around the world. I’ve been tearing up at every little thing. This happened last year around this same time even though I had far fewer changes happening.

That’s the downside of this life – there are lots of endings and lots of good-byes at the end of every year.

But I started randomly reading journals entries from the past few years, and I realized something. I’d forgotten the impetus that brought me to Taiwan to begin with.

Man, I was in a bad place. I was unhappy, and I felt stuck. And, worst of all, I couldn’t see a way out or anything better in my future. So I quit my job.

When I quit my job, I had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I had to make a change. It took me three months to figure out that I didn’t want to teach in the U.S. and that there were opportunities to teach abroad. It took me another four months to get here.

But I did it.

And the first few months here were hard. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and there were times when I didn’t think I could stick it out, that I could live this life that was so different from what I had at home.

  • I was living in a country where I didn’t speak the language and was at the mercy of people who spoke English or asking for help from people I’d just met at work.
  • I was living in a studio apartment with no kitchen, one tiny window, and a mattress that was hard as a rock.
  • Without a car, I found it hard to shop for anything more than what I could carry plus I had to figure out where to shop. There are very few big box stores here that sell everything.
  • I had a mold issue in my apartment and my shoes were growing mold and I didn’t know if that was normal in Taiwan or what I could do about it and it made me feel dirty.
  • I had baby roaches that woke up at night and crawled around on the floor and I would see them every time I would get up to go to the bathroom and I would lie in bed at night and pretend they didn’t exist. I felt like a little kid again who was afraid that her hands would fall over the edge of the bed and get grabbed by a monster only it was a baby roach that might crawl up my arm and into my ear and lay eggs.
  • I had trouble sleeping at night because that’s when everyone at home was awake, and I was afraid someone would need me and I’d be asleep.
  • I was teaching students who barely spoke English, and I had no Mandarin language skills so getting to know them was impossible and teaching was a challenge.

Yes, these were the crazy and real things that, by month three, were making me wonder if I could do this.

But the idea of going home and leading the life that had been slowly strangling me was far worse.

So I stayed. I spent my weekends literally wandering around and seeing this new world I was living in and taking pictures and reveling in the strangeness that gradually became familiarity. And I got to know people who became close friends who were amazing when I was hospitalized and who went on trips with me and were there for me when I needed them.

And it’s two years later, and I have to say good-bye to a city I have come to love and people I have come to think of as another family and it’s hard. But I am so grateful that I have had these experiences and met all of these people who will forever be in my heart and have memories that will last a lifetime.

On top of that, I now see three or four different futures that all seem equally as good. I wish I had more than one lifetime to do all the things I dream of and now believe possible.

I couldn’t have known where I would be today when I got on that plane two years ago, but I am so glad I didn’t allow that to hold me back. I honestly have no idea where I’ll be in five years, but I know I’ll be in China for the next two – and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Moving Forward

Change. Change is a word that can evoke many different emotions, sometimes all at once. I’ve lived my life with constant change, never living in one place for that long, never at the same place or doing the same job. I get change.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Change means new beginnings and growth. But new beginnings always mean something has to end, and growth means growing pains. No matter how excited I am about new beginnings – and I LOVE new beginnings – it doesn’t exempt me from being sad about whatever is ending or feeling the pain of pushing myself in a new direction.

I just had a change in my relationship status. He chose to end it, but I knew it was the right thing. I had almost ended it a few times myself but talked myself out of it. Why do we do that? Why do we avoid the hard things? The things that cause us pain, even when we know it’s the right thing to do?

Regardless of how right it was, it still hurts. And the fact that he ended it means it also comes with self-doubt. What did I do wrong? What should I have done differently? Am I too ugly? Am I too fat? All the stupid insecurities come rushing to the front. Most of these are silly, inconsequential things, but they are always lurking.

The truth is, we were only meant to be together for the short term, and neither of us was ready to let go right away. I don’t regret it. I care about him a great deal, and I enjoyed being with him. I learned so much about myself and about being in a relationship and about long-distance relationships and about commitment and about the importance of honest communication and the importance of having similar long-term goals.

But I hate that I didn’t listen to my gut.

And I hate how it ended.

He’s already met someone new which makes it harder, especially for my pride. It also makes my heart hurt and my stomach churn, and I kind of want to punch him in the face. But it’s okay. I won’t punch him. And, in the long run, it will all be for the best since, in the long run, we would have made each other miserable.

And, the good news is, I do have a new beginning – and I am excited about moving forward.

Of course, I still have to figure out exactly where I’m moving to, but that’s all part of the growing pains fun!