What sort of life skills/self-discovery do you think you have gained from your trip to China? – friend, April 2020.
China changed my life.
Two of the three times that I’ve moved house I’ve packed everything and then gone overseas before securing a new place to stay. China was the first of those experiences and it taught me a lot. I left around the middle of June – June 14th from memory – and returned on about the 17th of July 2018.
The first thing it taught me was that running away isn’t the solution to anything; leaving the bad means leaving the good, and I believe that there’s a lot of value in retaining a connection to one’s childhood. I deserted democracy, capitalism, Catholicism, the English language, my family. I found communism, Buddhism, Taoism, the Mandarin language, foreign friends. It didn’t take me long to realise that I wanted to go back to Australia, to take aspects of lifestyle and bits of knowledge back with me, but to definitely go back to my roots; I did not want to be transplanted to where I was or, in all likelihood, any other place other than Australia. I realised a love of my home country and people that I hadn’t felt due to overwhelming amounts of frustration and despair in the preceding months.
The second thing I learnt was that silence is, by default to some, terrifying, and I am included in that some. If you’re not equipped to silence your mind and then thrust into a situation where the world is silent, it’s tormenting. With no meditative experiences to fall back on, a charisma that typically feeds off other people’s energy and my phone switched off, one week in a temple truly challenged me. I realised that I didn’t need silence and disconnect any longer than a week and decided to move on – from the temple and from digital isolation. This was learning in practice. I didn’t run away from the temple despite the fact that abandonment was encouraged. I stayed-out my week, wrote, thought, trained hard, and planned my next moves… I wasn’t running away from a situation I didn’t like.
This leads me to my third learning; planning ‘on the fly’ is good sometimes. I was raised to a schedule, taught that planning ahead is the best thing to do – know where you’ll be and with who a week from now, that kind of thing – and it is a really good thing to do. But there are times when you shouldn’t plan. I was running away from the ‘structures that held me’, I needed fluidity on my horizon and in my landscape (in more foreseeable future and in my now). My time in China taught me that taking things a day or a week at a time can reduce stress immensely. Worrying about the now often leads to me better-applying myself to tasks than worrying about the future does. I have a theory called hypocalypse that builds off of this, maybe I’ll write about it sometime.
Just reflecting off the top of my head I can’t think of anything else that I’ve learnt from that journey. I’m going to find my journal entries from then and see if I have more to add to this answer. I’m sure that there’s more that I learnt and have applied to my life in the past. I’m sure that there are connections between that time in my life and now. There may even be some stories I wish to share. I expect I’ll write a Part Two.