Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"You can't connect the dots looking fowards."

It’s been a while since I have written, and I had a great Christmas – thanks for asking! I’m in preparation for final exams now and I’m booking all kinds of accommodation and transfers for the Phuket trip, but primarily - my mind has essentially been whipped up into a frenzied reflection-mode because a fortnight ago I realised I only had a month left in China. 

And so, more recently (read: two weeks after that first realisation. Also, sorry for this fumbling maths.) I realised that I have just over a fortnight left in China. After all this time, just two weeks left. As well as this gigantic looming thought-cloud over my head, I’m also acutely aware that I am now 20 and that for some other reasons (which are presently difficult to precisely identify) I am at a critical juncture in my life.

In terms of the leaving-China thing, I have been (and am) experiencing textbook pre-withdrawal symptoms. Like I said, it started about two weeks ago when I realised I had a month to go. I mean, the first thing you always find yourself doing at a time like this is thinking of all the things you didn’t get around to doing and feeling like you didn’t make the most of your time. 

In some ways, I know that this is totally irrational (reference to the map) and yet no matter how much one human does, that same human could always have done more. Especially according to the critically self-reflective opinion of that human. The second symptom I am currently experiencing is that panicked feeling you get when you think about certain things you have to leave behind. I feel like my soul is hyperventilating. I sit here thinking about those particular carrot dumplings on the street corner near the markets, and I just can’t conceptualise a snowy afternoon stroll without them burning the sides of my mouth.

God help me! What kind of inhumane world do we live in (read: the world I will be returning to shortly – because China and Australia are two different worlds. Duh) where an innocent girl can’t walk to her street corner and buy a fresh dumpling for under a dollar?

But in all seriousness, it’s strange for me to know that I was (and am) actually kind of sick of dumplings… and the only reason I’m inhaling them like-there’s-no-tomorrow at the moment, is because soon they won’t be there. Lol. That there actually will be no tomorrow soon. Really.

Moving on though, to something profound that happened to me today. It happened while I was eating at my FAVOURITE street food stall, the one that’s run by the old couple who know me and my order personally. (Really, Bri, another food metaphor? YES.) I mentioned them in that testimonial I wrote for my university. Anyways, the lady gives me extra big servings these days, since from about two weeks ago I started to go there almost every single day for lunch, and it’s my favourite place in all of China. I’m serious. That particular alley where I sit on the little stools and watch the bustle around me is the single best place in this whole country. I started frequenting this location because I simply wanted to make the most of it before I left it forever and the tomato and egg stir-fry over steamed rice rocks my world. Well, the profound thing that happened, was that as I was happily devouring that latest bowl, I all of a sudden I crunched down on some egg shell.




I looked towards the unaffected couple in hurt and disbelief. It was clearly an accident – that kind of accident that probably happens much more frequently than any of us care to consider, but that’s not important here. What’s important, is that in that moment of calm, when the offending piece of shell had been fished out from my mouth and I was flushed with relief, I had a realisation. It was all over.

My time in China is over.

(In case it isn’t clear, the bowl of food is China, and I am me, and the ugly crunch of that piece of shell is the realisation.) 

And you need to stop being confused RIGHT NOW. You cannot tell me that you have never gleaned a piece of invaluable wisdom from a seemingly unrelated occurrence. Nobody can tell me that they haven’t made metaphors out of ridiculous things, then been guided by that wisdom despite the absurdity of the source of the realisation. The only reason the whole ‘grub-to-cocoon-to-butterfly’ metaphor is alright to use these days is because it’s just commonplace now. I’m sure if I told this story again, but the metaphor had something to do with an insect, you would be EVEN MORE unconvinced and confused. So yeah. Whatever.

I’m going to move on talking about this, under the premise that you accept the metaphor and subsequent realisation. If you don’t, well then go for a long walk at dawn tomorrow and think about the rising sun as a pretty metaphor for this new year for you and then sadly realise that originality is better even if it’s sometimes a little strange then get bitten by a dog before you get home. 

I digress.

It’s over, and I’m coming to peace with that. A good friend recently quoted to me that “you can’t connect the dots looking forwards”. I had been worrying about this year coming to a close and how I felt like everything was kind of heavy and scrambled with information and emotion, and yet empty of meaning. So I went back to that clip and re-watched Steve Jobs’ speech to Stanford and that quote really does stick to me right now. I realised I just have to have a little more faith that this whole year will make more sense once it’s in retrospect. And if there is anything I’ve gained this year it’s a little more self-faith. 

I’m SO comforted just knowing that in about 6 months I’ll be pondering things over a cold beer, and it will come together. It’s finished here and now and despite the feeling that my heart is in a hurricane right now, I have faith the one day soon I’ll be able to look back and connect the dots.

I think most of us get these panicky feelings at the end of every year. It is a defining characteristic of motivated people - that they are never truly happy with what they have done. Always striving for more and reaching and pushing and struggling. At our best moments, we have won against ourselves. And in our happiest, most contented moments, we are able to connect these dots.

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