The Past Few Months: Misadventures and Motivation
Hello there, blogosphere. It’s been awhile since I’ve spent any time here and to be honest, for awhile I’ve been questioning if I would come back to blogging after being away for so long. But here it is, my first blog post in almost five months. I wish I could say I had a good reason for my absence, like I’ve been overwhelmed with work or I’ve been too busy doing important personal projects or even that I’ve acquired a boyfriend who consumes all of my time but sadly, none of these are true. In fact, I’ve just been lazy and unmotivated.
But let’s come back to that in a little bit. Because while none of those previous excuses are true, I have had the chance to do some pretty cool things that have taken up some of my time. Way back in October, I went to Shanghai to watch the Grand Prix Cup of China (a figure skating competition, for all of you non-figure skating lovers). It was my first time attending an international skating event and it was absolute bliss for me to get to see some amazing skaters from around the world perform, including Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu. I even got my five seconds of fame when the crowd cameras captured me bashfully hiding behind my hand at the end of Alexei Bychenko’s free skate (jump to 5:22) and it ended up on US television. The whole experience made me really miss the feeling of the ice under my blades. While I still won’t get my full skating fix until July when I come back to the states, I luckily get to attend another competition in just a few weeks when the ISU World Figure Skating Championships will be in Shanghai!
In December I had three weeks off of work for Christmas holiday, so I took that time to travel somewhere other than Shanghai. I first went to Seoul and Busan in South Korea and had an amazing time, despite getting food poisoning right before I went. I did a lot of sightseeing around the two cities and spent a lot of time with my friend Sue who showed me around her beautiful country. I also went skiing, ate lots of chicken, and drank some soju. While I spent Christmas eve and Christmas day quietly in Suzhou, I celebrated New Year’s Eve in Shanghai with my lovely friends Cassie and Nate who always take me in, and then I jetted off again to the south of China where I checked out the karst mountains of Guilin and hiked through rice terraces.
After all that, my travels still weren’t over. I had to go back to work for six weeks, but they went fast and I got another two weeks off at the end of February for the Spring Festival. This time my plan was to do all of my traveling in China, but I ended up flying everywhere instead of taking trains because everyone in China travels for the New Year (it’s the holiday that everyone goes back to their hometowns to be with family) and it was impossible to get train tickets to the places I wanted to go. The plan was to fly first to Xi’an to see the terracotta warriors, then head to Chengdu to see some pandas and lastly hit up Sanya for a week to lay on the beach.
This is probably my best China story so far, so let me apologize beforehand for how much detail I’m about to share with you. When I originally planned this trip and booked all my flights, I also booked a bus ticket that would take me straight to the Shanghai Pudong airport. Suzhou, while being a very large city, does not have their own airport. This means I usually travel to Shanghai the night before, stay in Shanghai, and then fly out the next day. However I thought that this time since my flight was in the afternoon it would be easy enough to get a bus that same day and wouldn’t have to also mess with the Shanghai metro. The night before I was to set out on my journey, I got a nice shock when I realized that I was actually supposed to be flying out of the Shanghai Hongqiao airport, not Pudong. Great. Luckily I had realized this the day before and there was still time to fix this mistake, so I headed to the bus station, communicated with my poor Chinese and hand gestures, and was able to switch my ticket. Proud of myself, I went home and then woke up at 5 am the next morning to begin my journey.
I got on my bus at 7:20 and quickly fell asleep. The bus ride to Hongqiao should have been only about 1.5 hours, but since I was so tired I wasn’t really keeping track of the time. And it didn’t occur to me that something was wrong even after 2 hours and the bus took a pit stop. It was only 2.5 hours into the ride that I got that awful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as we drove past a sign pointing towards Hangzhou. As in, the city of Hangzhou, which is NOT a Shanghai airport. At this point I literally went into shock. After a 3 hour bus ride it was now 10:20 and my flight was in 2 hours. What could I do? Was there any possible way to get to Shanghai to make my flight? I knew nothing about Hangzhou, I had no maps and no concept about the relation of the bus station to any train stations or even the distance from Hangzhou to Shanghai, and of course the data on my phone chose not to work at this exact moment (thank you, China Mobile). So after about 5 minutes of panicking, I did the only reasonable thing I could think of in the moment. I went straight back into the station, bought a bus ticket to Shanghai and got right back on another bus.
The bus ride to Shanghai lasted 2.5 hours, so I took the time to come to terms with the fact that I was going to miss my flight. Once I got to the airport, around 1 pm, I quickly went to the service counter and got put on standby for the next flight to Xi’an. Great. Something has to work, right? Turns out, though, that this was a day that was not having any of my optimism. After spending 6 hours sitting around the airport on standby, the airline finally tells me that I’m not going to get on a flight to Xi’an that day. And that all the flights the next day to Xi’an are full. And the next day. At this point I’m almost in tears because of the frustration I feel as I realize that there’s no way I’m going to make it to Xi’an before my flight from Xi’an to Chengdu, so there goes another flight. And at this point my only option to get my trip back on schedule is to buy a new flight to Chengdu. So that’s what I did.
I ended up staying another day in Shanghai, taking the time to do a couple things I hadn’t done in the city yet (such as visiting the Bund at night and taking a trip to the Shanghai Museum). The day after I got on my flight to Chengdu and made it to where I was supposed to be. The rest of my trip went much more smoothly and I had a wonderful time. Chengdu had amazing spicy food and even though it was a bit dead because of the holiday (many places were closed), I got to see several pandas, spend a lot of time outside in some really nice parks and tea houses, and took a day trip to Le Shan to see the Giant Buddha. Then I flew down to Sanya where I spent five days lying on the beach in 30 degree (Celsius) weather under clear blue skies, drinking out of coconuts and eating ice cream made from fresh fruit.
In the end, I spent way more money on this trip than I would have liked to, but it was worth it once I did get to experience the things I was looking forward to doing. I also learned a lot, including that I should not rely on my Chinese language speaking skills when it comes to getting on a bus. From now on, I am going to be much more cautious and know exactly where a bus is heading before I climb aboard.
I also met some amazing people on this trip in all of the hostels I stayed at and had some really meaningful, motivational conversations. Conversations about purpose, about creativity, and about self-doubt. Conversations that I really needed to have, as I’ve been struggling with all of these ideas lately.
I have come back to Suzhou feeling refreshed and ready to find my motivation again. I’m setting goals again and defining what I want to accomplish in the next few months that I am still in China, and I am slowly starting to work towards these things piece by piece. And I am accepting the self-doubt. I admit I let the self-doubt get in the way too much and most of the time it’s why I never even start projects I want to do. But now I am forcing myself to start. I am writing again, I am drawing again, I am sitting down everyday and trying to learn at least one new Chinese phrase, and I am not worried about how shitty things I create might be at first (well ok I’m still a little worried, but I will get past it). I know this post is already long, but I want to share an Ira Glass quote with you:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
I hope you’ve found this post insightful into how my past few months have gone, and that you’ve enjoyed hearing about my adventures. I promise, there are more travels on the way, and definitely more blogs, pictures, and other creative things coming at you soon. I’m fighting my way through and really, it feels good to be motivated again.