Thursday, December 1, 2011

the first of the 30 days of December

Well, today is the 1st of December, and as such, it’s the first day of my last full month here in China. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this. I’ve been thinking about whether or not I feel happy with what I’ve achieved this year. I’ve been thinking about what more I could have done, how much further I could have pushed myself, and what that would have led to. I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned – both about myself and the world – and who I will return home as.
It’s quite fitting, I think, that it has just begun to snow. (As someone from a country that doesn’t really get snow, this is quite a novelty and source of excitement and wonder for me.) As you can imagine, this means that going outside is seriously cold. Seriously. Cold. And provides me with a not-really-needed excuse to sit inside and read and write even more. Snow also means a lot of tea and chocolate, a lot of 30 Rock and Buffy, and a lot of reflection. Too much reflection for a person like me isn’t necessarily a good thing, but in the last week or so particularly I’ve been wondering what I could do for this fine month of December. You know, is there something I could do to make sure I make the most of my time here before I leave? Are there things in particular that I might miss when I get back, that I wish I had done more of while I was here?

So far all I could really come up with was “eat as much of that good food as you can”. Alright. I can do that. That’s easy enough. I do a lot of eating already and it’s something that I really enjoy. So that is not a problem. But what else?
I tried to approach the question in a different way – what do I already regret not doing a lot of whilst being here? Honestly… not a lot. I’m good at Mandarin now, and that map reminded me that I really have done a lot of travelling. I’m writing now, and I’ve read a lot of awesome books. I can’t really think of anything that I would have done differently at all. I wish I didn’t worry so much about getting fat when I was in Shanghai, I wish I didn’t stress myself so much about my Chinese classes, I wish I just spent more time enjoying life here. That’s what it all came down to. I wish I had stopped and smelled the roses a little more often.

Holy shit what is happening to me? This is totally kook. Totally not okay. I used to think that people who honestly believed that stupid smelling-the-roses line were lazy idiots who’d never lived life in the fast/high/awesome/totallyrad lane. I thought my parents only told me that so that I wouldn’t have some kind of mental breakdown in highschool. I thought old people said that stuff just to give them an excuse to literally walk slower and literally smell more roses. All in all, I just always thought that it wasn’t for me. A slow lifestyle where each day contains time to simply relax and reflect? I always swore that if my days ended up having that kind of free time that I would enroll in Parkour classes. Seriously. I made that rule for myself.

So what changed?

To begin with, I ran out of money. I actually ran out of money a long time ago and began to borrow to fund my adventures (totally worth it. no regrets.) but more recently decided that I had borrowed enough. I have booked tickets for 18 days in Phuket with some friends (FUCK YEAH YOU GUYS I’M SO TOTALLY EXCITED) on the way home from China, and Xinjiang was the last region of this vast nation that I really wanted to see. So no more big adventures while I’m here. Honestly, if money wasn’t an issue, I’d be in Yunnan right now. (It’s in the south of China and famous for hiking and breathtaking scenery and another special kind of Chinese food.) But no money equals no more trips.
 This comforts me somewhat because it makes me believe that so long as I have money, I will never have to stop and smell the roses. If I just make sure that I have money for the rest of my life, then if I feel a spate of boringness coming on, I can always just get on a plane to a crazy dangerous location for a few weeks then get back and write a book about it – ergo totally avoiding the time in which I might have been forced to smell roses. On an even simpler level, if I have money I can take infinite photos on 35mm film and develop them and have exhibitions and fashion myself into some fancy and popular (and therefore busy) artist person. If I have money I can drive to famer’s markets to get great fresh produce and then cook it into amazing vegetarian meals, and cook-and-eat my time away! Hurrah!

So yes, it would seem that lack-of-money is directly responsible for my current lack-of-action. So what should I do for December that requires little (or preferably no) money?
The eating idea is great, because I have to spend money on that anyway, and local food is totally affordable (read: cheap). I can make something of this… I can make it my mission to everyday eat all the good local food I can. It’s a plan. The snow makes this suck a bit, because it will be so damn cold, but I’m tough. I’m sure the lure of steaming dumplings will get me through.

Ten minutes ago I felt like the food thing wasn’t enough though. So I did what any member of generation Y would have done. I did what we all do when presented with a question to which we do not know the answer. I googled it. I googled “what should I do for a month?”.  It failed. It came up with a lot of crap about people asking if their infant’s development was normal, and one person’s blog on “What to do with your bees this month.” Yeah, as in, actual bees in hives. Needless to say, I altered my search. I tried “what should I do for 30 days?”. This got things a little more accurate.

A lot of good ideas showed up. It made me happy to see that a lot of people intended on going vegetarian for 30 days – but I already am, so had to skip that. A lot of suggestions were about dieting, which my previous ‘eating a lot of good food’ idea kind of swallows (pun. haha.) and exercising, which I can’t really do because it’s snowing and I’m allergic to gyms. I’m not going to list everything I found, but here are some of the more notable ideas:

-          Get up early every day.
o   I cannot do this because I enjoy going to bed very late every night. What do you want me to do – not sleep? I don’t think so. Ergo, this is a silly idea.
-          Write in a Journal every day.
o   I pretty much already do this.
-          Read for an hour every day.
o   I read for several hours every day already. If I were to adopt this goal I would be limiting my reading habit drastically and frankly I don’t think that’s a good idea.
-          Ramadan
o   Huh? Ummm… nah.
-          Write on your blog every day.
o   November had more than 20 posts, I think I’m doing okay here.
-          No coffee.
o   Hahahhahaha listen to you! Don’t be ridiculous!
-          No alcohol.
o   Ok now you’re just out of line.
-          Go for a walk every day.
o   One word: snow. Also, I will have to walk to get food. Lack-of-walking is not a concern.
-          Ride your bike to work.
o   I don’t have a bike. Or a job. Also, again, snow.
-          Learn a new word every day.
o   Ha. That last Christopher Hitchens book gave me enough new words for a lot longer than this stupid 30-days idea.

Now it’s been more than half an hour, and the most interesting thing I came across was how ‘Alaska doesn’t really have 30 days of night’. This is not a good start to the 30 days plan… so I’m going to go get some of those steaming dumplings whilst walking, then come back to a coffee and write in my journal then blog again to let you know what my final ideas are. Yeah I know you see what I did there. But seriously. Any ideas?

1 comment:

  1. "what do I already regret not doing a lot of whilst being here?" is probably the best question you can ask yourself on a trip like that.

    I did a LOT of rose-smelling in my time in Lanzhou, and even though I didn't go as many places as you, I definitely got more than enough wonderful memories than I ever hoped to have.

    For me, the joy of my time there was in my friends - I spent as much time with them as I could. I loved reading and studying, but those books weren't going to go anywhere and were going to be there a few days later. My friends WERE going somewhere. They were going to graduate, they were going home, they were traveling other places!

    DEFINITELY journal/blog and read, but an hour a day is about where I'd leave it. I actually regretted traveling and "doing" so much at the end of my time because I didn't get to say goodbye and spend afternoons doing stupid stuff like skip rocks on the Yellow River, eat crazy-spicy 火锅 till we cried, talk about girls, or take walks around town one last time.

    Just surround yourself with and cherish the people you've got here and now, because those people are.....well, to me, they were everything.

    Okay, I'm done now, promise! Hope I didn't harp on it too much :)


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