I spent the bulk of my summer in utter misery. After my lease in DC ended, my company (Wiredcraft) decided to fly me to Shanghai to embed with the team there and, ultimately, prepare to open a new office in New York. Life has twists and turns, as we all know, and I finally made it to New York, but on my own and looking to yet again start over.
I spent two months in China and I took the time away from my native country to explore my sense of self. My identity and emotional well-being have always been sore spots for me and I feel I need this opportunity to explore an entirely new part of the world and develop some insight. I didn't come out some fully reborn entity or find transcendental enlightenment, but I learned more about myself and feel a mite bit wiser and seasoned.
First, let me say that China sucked, at least 75% of the time, on multiple fronts. Weather isn't a facet people can control (yet?), so I won't complain about it, but conditions certainly aren't any better from the heavy pollution. It was very hot and extremely humid, but these were challenges I could overcome. Insurmountable problems I faced include: pollution out the ass, extremely dirty conditions, severe overcrowding, and a rather fucked up approach to so much of life (yes, I realize I'm being harsh).
I arrived in Shanghai on a wave of disappointment from how life in DC turned out, but I was excited to visit a new country, embrace a new chapter of life, and finally meet my teammates. The year 2015 didn't have a good ending for me and 2016 wasn't shaping up so well, so I banked on China being a lever to pull, allowing me to change course for how life was shaping up. After a headache with Chinese immigration, I made it to my company's HQ and was greeted with a few hugs, some handshakes, and oddly warm water. (I later learned that a cornerstone of Chinese medicine involves keeping the abdomen warm.)
After a couple weeks of living in the world's most populous country, I quickly grew to miss home, where things made sense to me. By this point, I didn't feel that Chinese life was wrongheaded; I simply yearned for the familiar. I settled in well with my coworkers, finding a semblance of place with them, and met a lot of interesting people fast. Yet, through all of this, I felt a hole, like something was missing. I still unsure of what could fill that hole, but I believe now it's a sense of stability that can enable the whole feeling I once had.
The sumer rolled by me in hot, insanely humid waves. I made some good friends and some bad mistakes. (I woke up in a new friend's bathtub after a night of free-flow wine.) I still carried the feeling of partial emptiness, but I learned to live with it. I played my new guitar, started a different workout, and lived it up when I felt like it.
My company, the same on that brought me to China, admitted they failed to plan the US expansion appropriately and that once I left for home, my contract was essentially terminated. I spiraled into a depression, alone, cut off from my entire world, and withuot prospects. My job was still intact, but only as long as I was in China. Frenzied, I set about finding a job in New York while on the other side of the world.
My search yielded some small fruits and several letdowns, but I found traction with some interviews. Midly confident, I set off for Beijing to climb the Great Wall, which was a lifelong dram of mine. After some interviews from my Airbnb room, I chartered a ride to a village called Mutianyu, which I was told would be the preferable access point to the Wall due to the smaller volume of tourists and more rustic appearance.
It was a long hike up from where my driver left me, but it was worth it. Commercialism and globalization have long reaches, as I trudged upward past a Subway and a Burger King and countless vendors shouting at me to buy their overpriced wares. When I finally ascended to the top of the Wall, I felt a fresh bliss, a sense of oneness with my surroundings, a preternatural calm that soaked into my bones. I read some pages from Plato's Republic and took several photos, sent some tweets, snaps, and messages to friends. I can hardly say I've ever experienced such a sensation and might never again. The Great Wall will always have a special place in my heart.
Returning to Shanghai, I rode out the last week at my company and caught my plane home, bidding farewell, potentially forever, to the very folks who made the whole Shanghai trip worth it. I admit I fought back some tears and struggled to keep my voice from cracking as I said goodbye to a coworker I jokingly called my dad, but I left him my guitar and told him we'd see each other again.
I landed in the Big Apple at the end of August and was graciously welcomed by an acquaintance from a previous business trip. Crashing in the rougher streth of Bushwick, I went to a slew of interviews with a single company and somehow convinced them I'd be an asset to their operation. Now, I'm doing more marketing for another consulting group, but it's a better scheme and with a better team.
Slowly, but steadily, I find myself rising to my feet, grabbing the world by the short hairs and demanding my due. I negotiated a great salary, bought tickets to see some wonderful shows (most recently Kesha), and I miraculously persuaded my best friend to stay with me in NYC as he looks to elevate his life. I feel like I've returned from a sabbatical, that I am making something of myself yet again, that I can realize myself. It's a heady draught, but one well worth imbibing. I can hardly wait to see what happens next.