The weekend of March 16th, David and I celebrated our 6-month anniversary of living in China over spicy Sichuan and cold Tsingtaos. It was a wonderful moment of reflection and celebration—to acknowledge how much we’ve done in such little time and what adventures still lie ahead. It was an especially satisfying moment for me as I looked back on how far I’ve come since first getting off that plane in September. It took a while to get here, but I can finally and genuinely say I am happy to be living in Shanghai.
At the end of November, I started a month-long journey of traveling through parts of Europe and Hong Kong, then unexpectedly back to DC. While in Hong Kong, I was supposed to get a new visa (yet again) to enter mainland China but the government rejected my application and asked that I reapply from DC instead. This news came 2 days before Christmas. David booked a last-minute flight to Hong Kong so we could at least spend Christmas together before I headed back to DC. Needless to say, it was a whirlwind of emotions and visa applications the first few months after moving here–I have the visa stickers and stamps to prove it!
Below are some photos from those 35 days or travel.
Being back in DC was rejuvenating. It felt so great to revisit the city that brought me so much joy and happy memories. I caught up with old friends over yoga, dinners, coffee, and happy hours. Yet simultaneously, all I was hoping for was an approved visa to get me back to Shanghai. As I eagerly awaited that call from the Chinese Embassy, I began to realize that Shanghai felt more like home than anywhere else in the world. All I wanted was to be back with David in our lane house eating Chinese and learning Mandarin.
Finally, after 35 days of being away, I landed back in Shanghai to learn my luggage got left behind in Beijing. Due to a system crash, it was uncertain how or when I would get it back. I could have become frustrated by yet another obstacle, but something my mom always told me ran through my mind: “Don’t worry about the things you cannot change.” It was at this point something in me switched, and I started to let go of some of my stresses. My luggage was not in Shanghai, but everything was still okay–I was okay! Since then, it has become easier to pause and embrace the beautiful chaos of my life versus resisting it.
I also went back to school this past January. While we were still living in DC I had applied and been accepted to a few graduate programs for a Master’s in Interactive Design. I had already planned to return to school in 2019 and thought I had made up my mind on where I was going. But once we learned about China, I had to re-evaluate my options. I ended up choosing SCAD because it provided an online element that allowed me to focus on school while living abroad. Looking back SCAD was always the best decision, and I’m so glad I had to take a step back and reconsider my options. Sometimes I do get bummed about not physically being in a classroom, but I have also realized that grad school is all about what you make of it and the level of effort you are willing to put into your work. I feel fortunate we live in a day and age where physical boundaries do not restrict us from accomplishing our goals; and thanks to technology, there is still a lot of connection with teachers and students despite the distance. What I’ve already learned and created in the first term alone has definitely made it all worth it.
I’m still building a local community and have discovered some design and woman’s groups I really enjoy being a part of. I found my yoga studio and am taking Mandarin classes. David and I try to check out 2 new places in Shanghai a week, and plan monthly getaways to see other parts of Asia. All of our efforts to connect and ground ourselves continue to make Shanghai feel more like home.
Below are photos from some of our travels in Asia.
I remember calling my beautiful and wise bestie, Valerie, a few months ago in total tears–feeling so guilty that I was struggling despite living my dream life. She gently reminded me that living one’s dream doesn’t mean that it is easy. She was absolutely right. And even though it hasn’t always been easy, it has, without a doubt, always been worth it.