Isn’t it funny how you can wait, plan and dream about finally about doing something but when the time actually comes to do it, you find your feet dragging and your tootsies getting a little bit chilly?
I am coming to the end of my time in China with just under two months left until my flight home and I find the thought of leaving is actually rather daunting. Over the past 2 months I have been trying to figure out what the heck I’m going to do next! It’s been one of the most stressful decisions I have ever had to make. This choice seems to carry so much more weight than others I have made and that is because I am taking a big risk. I have decided to go back to University to get my Masters in Broadcast Journalism. I have only recently begun applying and have turned down a very attractive job offer in the mean time. Part of my brain thought ‘What are you doing?’ I could actually start earning money now. Get some real savings put away for the big stuff ie a house, maybe my FIRST car, a season pass to Disney World. Those important things that you are ‘supposed’ to be working towards at the age of 25. Alas, that little niggle kicked in – ‘Is this what you really want to do?’ ‘Will this make you completely happy?’ and I found myself answering no. I don’t think I would have necessarily been unhappy in this potential job but – what I do next can either lead me in the direction of my dreams or I can be distracted by other things like money and the typical material possessions. More than that, I want to give myself a chance, a real chance to see if I can actually do all the things I like to think I’m good at. Can I make talking, writing and telling people stories into a legitimate career?
Well there is only one way to find out and I will be sure to keep you posted via this blog. I have no doubt I will have some amusing anecdotes to tell about my status as a ‘mature student’ and how I most definitely cannot keep up with the Freshers in the student union on Skint Tuesdays, Thirsty Thursdays or any other day of the bloody week! But hey, everyone loves a trier and I will certainly give it a go, even if it’s just for the chips, cheese and curry sauce at the end of the night.
I’m thrilled that I have finally been able to make this decision and be able to focus all of my energy on one thing rather than splitting my attention across various options. I had the opportunity to stay in China and continue teaching, travelling and working in Australia was also another big possibility. I was considering internships with various companies across the world and also looking into full time work in the UK. So as you can see, my head was in quite the pickle and I most definitely didn’t find this whole process enjoyable. However, one thing I did realise is how lucky I am. How lucky that I have the luxury of all of these options? That I am free to make these kinds of choices and I need only consider what I want to do. There are many people in this world including many women whom I have met in China who do not have these kinds of choices. There is a huge pressure on women my age and younger to get married and start having children and before this happens the pressure to get a good education is even higher.
So what’s the reason for this? Well we all know that China has a massive population (1.357 billion as of 2013) and that means from the moment a person is born here, they begin a competition: a competition to get the highest scores in school exams and tests, to get into the best high school, University and even just to get to the front of the line ANYWHERE. Queuing is not really a thing here and it’s something I have had to grudgingly accept. For students a typical school day starts between 6.30 – 7 am and finishes at around 5pm which is followed by roughly 4 hours of homework every evening. Needless to say I teach a lot of pooped kids throughout the week!
I have had many students (particularly ladies) tell me they are envious of my lifestyle and wish they could spend more time travelling but can’t because of various responsibilities they have. I feel flattered and truly humbled by their interest in my life. I mentioned in my first blog post that we are all on our own journeys through life, fighting individual battles and chasing after different dreams. I can understand why young Chinese people work as hard as they do: they feel a huge responsibility to their families and not just if they have children but they also consider the older generations. There must always be someone providing support for them. Despite the enormous pressure placed on the shoulders of the young, I have also witnessed how much love parents give their children and how dedicated they can be to making their kids happy.
I don’t envy how hard the students in China have to work to stand out as they are literally one in a billion but I do respect their perseverance and dedication to become successful. My choice about what I should do next was so difficult because I do have lots of options but many people, not only in China, have their decisions made for them through family obligations, societal norms and in some cases the law. Decisions in life are not always easy and following your heart takes courage and determination but so does putting others before you and thinking about how your choices can benefit people around you.
There is no right way of ‘doing life’ even though sometimes you may feel that your friends or some ‘friends’ on facebook are better at it than you because they have ‘checked off boxes’ that you haven’t: career, house, get married, have kids, travel the world, meet Zac Efron (insert own celebrity crush here). Who says things have to be done in a certain order? Who says that all or any of these things need to be on your agenda?
I will end with my list ,for this year at least, and I think I am doing pretty well at almost checking it off:
Photo credit: Duncan Errington