Life in China: When the thrill is gone.
It happens. It always happens. You spend months upon months obsessing and planning for something exciting, and then, before you know it — poof — the thrill is gone. Under normal circumstances this would be an incredible disappointment. The thing you waited for has come and gone, and life returns to the way it was. I have always been one of those people who needs something to look forward to — even if it was just pizza, sweats and a Grey’s binge with my best friend, something had to compel me to survive the stress and everyday chaos of life. Being this way — I NEVER wanted the excitement to wear off.
This time it’s different. China has taught me to embrace the mundane. It has given a whole new meaning to the word normal — and with that, a dense appreciation for the life I used to wish away. Boring? Boring is the new awesome.
The thrill I felt in the months leading up to my move to China were awesome. I felt a mix of excitement, nerves, and stress. Still, I wouldn’t trade all the sleepless nights, visa issues, and teary goodbyes for anything. The excitement of finally getting here was worth every second. It is no secret that moving to China hasn’t been an easy transition for me. My first few weeks were full of emotional highs and lows. One day I was so stoked to be on this adventure — the next, I was a pile of homesickness. I felt the need to share everything — to bombard the world with my adventurous tidbits, to let them see into my wandering soul — even when it was just eating dumplings. Going out to eat was like living in an episode of Bizarre Foods. Walking to work had my photography loving spirit on fire. That was exciting. The shock and awe of witnessing life in China was extraordinary on its own. Just existing in a place like this — that was the thrill.
We have to remember that sometimes words have alternative meanings. There were days in the beginning that all I wanted to do was leave. Was my life here exciting? Yes. Was it an adventure? Yes. Did I want to be here? No. Just because something is exciting does not necessarily mean it’s good. Of course, it’s all a matter of opinion. Some people think jumping from a bridge attached to a rubber cable is exciting. To me that sounds utterly terrifying. Excitement is shrouded in novelty. It is what you make it. It is the part of the adventure that keeps us on our toes. It keeps us eager. But eventually that “excitement” fades away and we’re left with normal.
Normal — that is the part that makes you miss home, but not in a way that makes you sad. It is the part that fosters appreciation and gratitude. It is the part we learn to love and that teaches us how to love. Normal is when you find out who you really are. It is what keeps us breathing. It is what keeps us living. It is my new favorite thing in the world.
Feeling normal in China — ha — that’s something I never thought I’d be able to say. Waking up here now feels like waking up at home. Work. Grocery trips. Subway rides. New friends. Dinner dates. Netflix binges. Sound familiar? That’s because it is. Thank God, it finally is. I can actually say that my days here, for the most part, are exceptionally uneventful. Rest assured — that is the best way for them to be. The newness has worn off. The adventure, though, is everywhere. Who says that all adventures have to be saturated with uncertainty and unpredictability? The real adventure for me is figuring out where I fit. It is in still trying to figure out how to order food from restaurants without picture menus. It is being able to navigate complicated subway systems and actually get where I need to be. It is being able to buy train tickets and not end up in Vietnam. It is learning how to make some of my favorite dishes. It is figuring out new Chinese phrases and testing them out on taxi drivers. Adventure can be found in conversations with strangers who are so eager to practice their English, they intentionally sit next to me on the metro. It can be found in buying produce that I’ve never seen before and then trying to figure out how to prepare it [and nearly burning down my apartment in the process]. It is hidden in moments that make me appreciate that I am here — even when it feels impossible. Even when I want to quit — the adventure drives me.
The novelty of China has worn off. That much is clear. The excitement, in it’s most conventional form, has died down. The thrill — well, I’m on the downward slope. But let me tell you, I am happier now than I have been in four months. Adrenaline junkies and fellow wandering souls will call me crazy — but finally feeling like myself in a place that could not be further from what I know — that’s exciting. I may not ever love living here. It may not be for me in the long term. But at least for now, I am learning to embrace the next stage of this so-called adventure. I am learning that the return to normalcy is half the battle.
It’s an incredible revelation when you realize that some of the most beautiful parts of life are clouded by our expectations. We spend so much time engulfed in a world of “what’s next?” that we forget to see the absolute perfection of just being normal. Never forget how good it is to feel at home. Never forget that the mundane things can be just as magical as the extraordinary. For me, China just got better. Having a favorite noodle shop, local friends, a daily routine — that is all I have strived for in the last four months. Now, when I have bad days — I can find comfort in my new normal. Here’s to hoping the next 8 months are just one big pile of normal — purely exciting, thrilling normal.