Sunday, July 29, 2012

Two Down

I have been in Beijing two months and completed two issues. A good friend from Shanghai was in town last week and we spent this weekend at the Shangri-La, thanks to a voucher I snagged at a media event. She left for Kunming this afternoon. I was sad to say goodbye because it was a little bit like saying bye to Shanghai and my life there again. But then, almost all of my closest friends there have moved on, they're traveling or headed back to grad school. Then there's me, up here in Beijing.

My move to Beijing was similar to my move to Shanghai in that both times I was transitioning to a place where I knew almost no one, but the similarities end there. 

Shanghai was much lonelier. I hit it off with my roommate, Chef Mike, right away, but he worked six days a week and was usually coming home as I was falling asleep. My roommates here keep regular business hours, plus there's two of them, and they have a group of friends who live in our compound, so I've walked into a little community. Of course it's not like Shanghai, where James and Sam and Jess really were like a little family, but I'm happy I decided not to live alone. In addition to the roommate situation, knowing people in Shanghai has opened doors here and fairly often people from Shanghai are up on business, so my social situation benefits from that.

Shanghai was also tougher because my loneliness was exacerbated by a lot of big questions - I didn't know how long I would be there, or if I would get used to my job, or when I would find a solid group of friends or when I would see James and if he was going to move there. 

I didn't know if I would succeed in Shanghai, but I did, and that's how I got moved up here. It's nice to have the confidence that instills. I'm happy to have graduated from the "no real work experience" phase of my life.

Here in Beijing, I know exactly how long I'll be here, I know what I want to do next and I have a pretty good idea of the next time I'll see James. That makes it easier to enjoy my solitude. I consume a lot of media. I'm reading a lot and listening to more new music than I have in recent years. I'm also plowing through podcasts, lots of NPR and China commentary. I'm cooking and exercising. I haven't done any creative writing, my job still doesn't grant me the excess brain energy for that, but it's good to have the concentrated time to engage my interests.

There are still plenty of times where being here falls short of fun. The less busy I am, the more I miss people. When I returned to Beijing from Taipei a few weeks ago, I got the exact same feeling as two years ago when I was returning to Shanghai from my Hong Kong visa run. 99% of the return legs I've taken in my life have been to go back to some place that is more or less home. Usually, even if it's been a great vacation or whatever, these flights at least offer the anticipation of being greeted by the creature comforts and people that lend life a sense of grounding. So there's this strange empty feeling about returning to a place that lacks that. 

When I think about the differences between these two transitions, I feel happy about how much I've grown in the last two years. And it's nice to remember that whenever things are hard here, they're never as hard as they were before.

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