A Glimpse Through the Leaves

IMG_1055I am not living in “real” China.

That is a thought that has crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

In many respects I am living in a bubble. That’s college campuses for you though. There are other interns living in different locations, and I know for a fact that they have significantly more opportunities to speak Mandarin Chinese than I do. Most people I bump into on campus are either one of my students who automatically speak English with me, or are so eager to practice their English that Chinese is set on the back burner. On one hand, I suppose making a more concentrated effort on my part could resolve the issue. On the other, it could just be easiest to ask what exactly is real China anyway? Who says I’m not living there. These are the conversations I have with myself…and sometimes the other interns.IMG_1047

At any rate, I’ve taken up running again…which in turn has made me re-realize that I’m not a very goal driven person. Perhaps in the big picture I am, but in daily life? Absolutely not. I’ve come to the conclusion that I could benefit from setting some goals. Realistic ones. For example: practice Chinese for an hour every day, plan a couple of lessons a day during this holiday, run a few miles each day. Sounds easy enough, right? 🙂

Hah! The reality is that, for me, close enough tends to be good enough, despite my ironic tendency toward perfectionism, only to be closely followed by my consistent susceptibility to procrastination. Overarching these is the fact that I want to do everything, and I want to be good at it.

I suppose every person is a paradox in-and-of themselves.

Having said that, I don’t really care if I don’t like it, whatever “it” may be. My newest fixation is that I want to take up martial arts. I’m in the right country for it! However, most of my fancies don’t make it into reality; they fester in my mind only to become stagnant and eventually fade away.

At one point teaching overseas fell into this category of “Things that Sound Like a Good Idea and I Think I Should Try.” I wanted to do it so badly, and now look at where I am. But to be honest I don’t really enjoy teaching university students, or it might be better to say I don’t really enjoy teaching at this university. Don’t get me wrong, the people are great, the students are eager and fun, and these experiences are once-in-a-lifetime moments, but teaching in this context is not my favorite thing thus far. (Of course, bear in mind that my own inexperience greatly influences my opinion, it could change.) Although, I wouldn’t have known if I had never tried. Sometimes fear gets the best of me and I never try. It happens to everyone at some point. However, if there’s one thing I have learned in my short life it is this: fear is never a good enough reason to NOT do something…or at least try. If the worst that happens is that I don’t like it…who cares? I GOT TO FREAKING LIVE IN CHINA! Whew…okay. Hopefully you catch my drift.


“So where is this going?” You may be asking. It might sound like I’m just rambling. Maybe I am, enjoy the ride. If nothing else there are photos here for your viewing pleasure.

To continue, how many times do we fear what people will think, fear embarrassment, fear financial repercussions that are closer to a worst-case scenario than reality? I’m not encouraging anyone to ever make a irresponsible decision, but sometimes I think people miss what they really love because they forget to ask, “Does it really matter?”

Take my martial arts fancy for example. The reason I have never done it before is because I don’t want to look stupid. Plain an simple. Does it really matter? No.

Look stupid for a few months, learn a new skill for a lifetime.

When I am running, nothing else matters. Just distance and my own breath. I don’t care about lesson planning, I don’t think about what my friends are doing, I don’t think about how I look. I am thinking about breathing, about that spot in the distance that is always my goal, always keeps me moving forward. When I stop I think about how stopping is a bad idea, and occasionally I remember to take a picture…

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I have been asking myself during the last week: for what purpose?

I want to start running again. For what purpose?

To be strong. For what purpose?

I still don’t have an answer for that one…yet.

I want to travel. For what purpose?

To find myself…to find purpose.

Fair enough.

I don’t want you to think that I am some vagabond riding the waves of chance and whimsy. I take things too seriously for that, but these experiences, like living in China and running, like teaching and learning a new language, they cause me to pause. Sometimes it may seem like I am still an idealistic child shooting for the moon, running toward the impossible and away from the inevitability of growing-up. Hah! If that is the case, then I will carry on because these experiences matter and the decisions are not made lightly. They require persistence and dedication, not everyone is willing to commit. How much more “real” does life have to get?

Vale la pena. 

Until next time!


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8 Replies to “A Glimpse Through the Leaves”

  1. Your fear of regret has to be greater than your fear of failure! You can recover from a failure but we can never turn back the clock………….Keep moving forward Ash you are doing fine


  2. We could always be a better guest of our adopted country, a better traveller, a better language student, a better everything. As long as we use this to motivate us, not to beat ourselves up when we don’t reach our (usually very high) expectations.


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