Tai Chi and Feeling Included

I felt better because despite my clear lack of knowledge, they helped me feel included in the activity.

I wanted to talk about an experience I had this morning. I woke up around 5:30 and went for a walk, resolved to find a group doing Tai Chi (太极拳, or Taiji quan) so I could observe and practice (I studied Tai Chi for a while when I was living in Maryland and it feels counterintuitive to be looking up Internet tutorials for Tai Chi while I’m in China). At first, I didn’t find anyone practicing when I was walking around my campus, so I decided to try again later on in the week. On my way back to my apartment, however, I found a group of three people doing Tai Chi—an older couple and a middle-aged man standing in something of a line to practice together. I stood off to the side to follow along as best as I could, and after they finished the set they were on, the middle-aged man left, and the older man gestured for me to get into line with them for the next set. It’s been years since I did Tai Chi regularly, so I was rather rusty—I was heavier on my feet than I would have liked, and I didn’t know the set they were doing—but I felt better because despite my clear lack of knowledge, they helped me feel included in the activity.

In my experience with mainstream America, such an act of inclusion is rare, especially since these people had never met me before and I was very obviously a foreigner (I imagine they also assumed I don’t speak Chinese). It has been my experience in America that society focuses so much on the individual that we don’t know our neighbors and we are automatically wary of strangers. I imagine because the group and I had a shared interest (in this case, Tai Chi), it was somewhat easier, but I wonder how many problems in the world we can solve by showing people that they belong.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Tomorrow I start teaching, so hopefully I can post later this week with how that goes. See you then! Zai jian!

Wherever The Path May Lead

I always get the question of “where I see myself in five years”, but it’s a bit tricky when my life has changed so much even in the last year and a half.

It’s been a long time since I posted an article, and I think a lot of that has to do with the end-of-year burnout that seems to plague teachers and students alike. I’ve been working on lessons for the rest of my time in Cili, getting ready for my next year in Yueyang, and heading home next month, as well as thinking about where my path will go next.

People who know me outside of the blog know that I am a very creative person. I love working with music, art, and above all, writing. For reasons that are many and varied, I decided not to bring a lot of my creative outlets with me to China, like my knitting supplies—a decision that I regretted when culture shock reared its ugly head. I have learned this year that I need music in my life, as well as the tools to create it on my computer, and I also need to work on my writing. One of my goals for China was to self-publish a book before I leave; while I’m nowhere near achieving that goal, I’m very close to getting the first draft finished, which is a huge step for me.

Part of my path going forward is to include creativity into my life for self-expression, if not to sow the seeds for a future career. I have started a blog under my pen name, and I hope to keep that going as I keep writing and hopefully publishing my work. I hope to be able to develop a music production setup for next year so I can start composing and producing music again (that’s on the blog too).

I always get the question of “where I see myself in five years”, but it’s a bit tricky when my life has changed so much even in the last year and a half. I’ve changed career paths and moved to rural China. When I first came here, I didn’t plan to stay in Yueyang next year, yet here I am. That said, some things like writing and music have stayed the same. I’ve been listening to a lot of self-development podcasts, and they talk about living one’s truth; wherever the path may lead, I hope I’m getting closer to living my truth.

I’ve been working on my visa for next year, and I’m hoping I can talk about my process and lessons learned. If you want to hear about that, or anything else, please let me know in the comments below! I hope to be back here soon, so I’ll see you then! Zai jian!

My 30 Before 30 Challenge

A challenge I’ve made for myself to travel and explore

I have seen other people do a “thirty before thirty” challenge, with entries like “go skydiving”, “cook dinner for the family”, or “travel alone”. While these are all good ideas, and I have my own list of similar goals (e.g., “publish one of my novels” and “release a music track”), I’ve also been plagued with this feeling that I’ve seen so little of the world. I have never been to South America. I have never been to Africa. I have never been to the South Pacific. I have only been to a fraction of Europe, to the point that I can’t say I’ve really been there. (For instance, if one has only been to the tourist spots of Paris, has one really seen France? I’m inclined to answer “no”, though it’s definitely better than not going at all.)

I turn twenty-five this year, and I’m already feeling the quarter-life crisis creeping in. I know I’m almost expected to go back to the United States and live a “normal” life (whatever that means), but I also can’t deny that I feel the strongest and most capable when I am on the move. When I was in Guilin, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Inner Mongolia… it always felt like I was in my element, being out in the world and experiencing it.

As a result, I’ve decided to make a challenge for myself to travel to thirty countries before I turn 30 years old.

I wish I could say this was my original idea, but that would be a lie. I was inspired after reading an article from the travel blog The Sweetest Way, in which Leah Davis challenged herself to travel to thirty countries before she turned thirty. When she posted the article, she had just turned twenty-seven, so she had three years to complete her “thirty before thirty”. (Spoiler alert: she accomplished this goal a year later!)

Here’s the extra challenge I want to give myself: Leah included all the traveling she had done before she had set that challenge for herself. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to challenge myself to include only the traveling I do from this point on (with the exception of China, because I already live here and not including that would be ridiculous). I definitely would love to continue traveling and exploring, and hopefully I’ll be able to achieve this goal!

It’s a stormy day here in Cili, and as I’m typing this, I’m preparing for today’s classes. I hope to be back later this week with another article about a life update that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while. See you then! Zai jian!

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“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves—in finding themselves.”
~ Andre Gide

Random Thoughts: In and Out of Love with THE SIMS 4

I’ve been thinking about video games and living the life I want after buying THE SIMS 4

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, which starts this coming Wednesday, I made the decision to purchase The Sims 4 to work through writer’s block and burnout. Whether or not that was a mistake is still to be decided, but either way, I’m glad I bought it—if for no other reason, then because I know more about myself as a result. It has taught me more about who I want to be, what I prioritize in life, and my relationship with video games.

I’ve noticed a common theme in the “stories” I’ve made in the game. The character I play the most is normally a young adult woman that lives in a smaller home (if not a home that would be considered a tiny house), is creative and a music lover, often achieves the maximum level of the Violin, Writing, Painting, and Gardening skills, is also highly skilled in the Cooking and Handiness skills, and often works as a writer, musician, or painter (to be fair, there aren’t many career options in the base game). I know enough of myself to discern that that’s the “fantasy me”—the person I would love to be in real life. I’ve been missing the violin here in Cili (although I hated practicing in the U.S. because I felt my playing always sounded awful, no matter how I tried), and I have been trying to grow a container garden in my apartment. I’ve even been trying to get back into watercolors, since I can’t easily find acrylics in China, but I’ve been frustrated with my paintings for this past year, so painting is not a pleasant experience anymore (but that’s another story). Also, I don’t dress like my avatar does, I don’t look like my avatar does, and I’m not as brave to publish my writing as prolifically as my avatar does. Why is that? There’s nothing stopping me in real life, much like in the game, so why do I find it easier to live the life I want in The Sims as opposed to real life?

I think part of the appeal of video games in general (and games like The Sims in particular) is because of the escapist element. We can be whoever we want to be, with the impact of failure or other people’s judgment minimized or nonexistent. Just like I can’t cast magic like the spells from The Elder Scrolls, or travel through space like in Ratchet & Clank in real life, I can’t do everything from The Sims in real life (for instance, I don’t have to worry about whether or not my neighbor is from outer space). Fantasy elements aside, however, who’s to say that I can’t be the person I’ve made in The Sims in real life? Who says I can’t hone my skill with the violin, find joy in painting again, have an amazing garden, or be a bestselling author? I think I now have more of an idea of who I want to be through playing The Sims, but now I need to summon the courage to make that happen in real life, regardless of failure or people’s judgements.

Until I have that courage, my time playing The Sims 4 is over. I’ll probably play if I’m burned out or facing writer’s block during NaNoWriMo (as I planned when I bought the game), but even then, I’ll need to be more intentional about why I’m playing. If nothing else, I need to be certain that I’m living my life in the here and now, and not through a computer screen. My goal now is to have it be so that, one day, I can be the person I wouldn’t need to play a video game to become.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for listening! This coming month will be chaotic with lesson plans, NaNoWriMo, and traveling for Thanksgiving, but I hope to get back into writing articles for this blog on a regular basis. I realize I’ve been putting off my articles about Inner Mongolia, so I hope to have those up later this coming week! See you then! Zai jian!

Shifting Winds: My Introduction to Digital Nomadism

I’ve only recently heard of the term “digital nomad”—being able to work remotely from anywhere in the world and travel full-time—and I’ve been curious about it ever since.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are my own, and do not reflect the views or opinions of WorldTeach or its affiliates.

I remember watching Raiders of the Lost Ark when I was four or five years old, and watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for the first time when I was ten or eleven. I remember being in love with all the locations that they were traveling to and everything they did, and that’s a major part of what got me into my Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. Unfortunately, that also made me realize that my options for anthropology invariably required a doctorate, which I was not ready to commit to right after undergraduate, so that took that out of the equation (at least for now; I’m not saying “never” because anything can happen).

I’ve been thinking about graduate school as a possibility when I’m done with my fellowship here, but after all the changes I’ve experienced already, even a year feels too far ahead to plan in advance. Even before orientation was over, there was already a bit of talk among us cohorts of “what happens next”—what we may plan to do after we return to the United States. I think a lot of us (myself included) are still in the “wait and see” phase, which I see as a bit problematic because a lot of deadlines in the U.S. for opportunities like graduate schools are rapidly approaching. I was lucky that the deadline for WorldTeach was this past April, so I could apply for this year’s fellowship! So, what happens next? I’ve written down a few ideas, and one involves digital nomadism.

 

 

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Digital nomads usually don’t work from the beach. The sun, heat and sand make working with a laptop very hard. The Instagram pictures are only to show-off.”- Digital Nomad Soul

I’ve heard of people working remotely, but I’ve only recently heard of the term “digital nomad”—being able to work remotely anywhere in the world and travel full-time—and I’ve been curious about it ever since. I know I’ve been curious about the idea for a while about being able to live anywhere (one of my dream home ideas involves a tiny house on wheels), so this is not helping my imagination at all (I’m laughing at myself as I type this). It seems like that was what attracted me the most about the lives that Dr. Jones and Lady Croft lived—the fact that they could go anywhere they wished and still do their work.

I’ve had a writer’s callus on the middle finger of my right hand for as long as I can remember, and I go nowhere without a notebook and pen to write any ideas for stories, poetry, or blog articles. Being here in China has helped me become even more productive with writing for the blog and writing my stories, and with my writing, I feel like I’m getting closer to where I belong in terms of what I’m meant to do. I’m tempted, now more than ever, to make a career out of writing, and with the idea of digital nomadism, as long as I had Internet, I could possibly write from anywhere in the world.

 

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This is not to say that I’ve already decided this is what I want to do. This is just to say that this has been on my mind for the past week, and I’m wondering if this could be something that I can do after my time with WorldTeach is over. I hope to travel to Southeast Asia and other areas of China while I’m teaching in Cili, and I would love to be able to share my experiences and combine that with my passion for writing. Having adventures and writing about them sounds like an ultimate dream for me; I’ve joked with my friend that I’ve become Bilbo Baggins, “I want to see mountains and finish my book!”

If I chose to take this path, I understand that the reality of digital nomadism is likely not as glamorous or carefree as it appears on social media (but then again, one could easily say the same about any lifestyle—even a “normal” one, by societal standards). I have no illusions that hardship would be nonexistent, especially when I’d just get started. One common thread I’ve seen, however, is that despite all the drawbacks and sacrifices that the bloggers and location-independent freelancers have to make, the end result—being able to travel around the world, having the freedom to live the life they wish, with only what fulfilled their daily lives—is more than worth it. Hopefully if this is the path that I’m meant to take for the time being, that it is well worth the hard work that it will take to make it a reality.

As I’m writing this, my classes have been cancelled for today and tomorrow so I’m taking the time to plan my next lessons and keep up to date with what’s going on with Hurricane Irma (I’ve checked with my family and friends, and everyone’s okay thus far). Random update: a group of cohorts and I booked our tickets to the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia for the National Week holiday! I’m really excited to travel to a part of China I’ve never been to with other people in my fellowship, and I hope that I can bring you along with me! Hopefully, I can be back here later this week with a new post! See you then! Zai jian!

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