the best is yet to come

Springtime in Shanghai, or arbitrary questions without easy answers

We’ve finally reached the Shanghai Spring (and, I guess, the month of April) last week, and although it was short-lived and the weather is once more back to a 50ºF hazy and rainy mess, the past week brought me back to the temperatures I suffered through experienced last July. I was able to wear short sleeves for the first time in 2015 (WHOO!) and feel the elbow-sweat seeping through my shirt on my morning jogs (yep, I sweat a lot). In the spirit of the return of warm weather, I:

  1. Tried Tomato-Kiwi juice (who thought those were a good thing to mix together??)
  2. Like always, had one too many Margaritas on a Monday night
  3. Wrote a 600-word entry about my panic about facing adulthood – an entry that I decided I wasn’t going to publish.

I’ve largely resolved the panic I was having, but I think what it comes down to (these thoughts always tend to arise when the seasons change, don’t they?) is the fact that I feel that I am no longer living out my 20s in Shanghai. Instead, I am just living out my 20s, and, well, it happens that I am in Shanghai. When I first came to China, I was afraid that my time spent here was a way of putting my life ‘real life’ on hold for however many years I would end up staying. I was worried that, frankly, I was wasting my 20s, and that I would one day return to the U.S. having spent the best years of my life someplace else, someplace that wouldn’t feel like home. And I think this fear — this hesitation — was holding me back from being willing to make decisions that matter while abroad.

It’s like this: those times that I spent in Summer camps during high school, whether as close as Boston (well, Cambridge, and no, not Tufts), or as far away as California were times I spent apart from my natural environment (that of rural Massachusetts), but they were just that – beautiful escapes. Summers that I was somewhere else, where the decisions that I made were with barely any repercussions, except for friends like A, with whom I still talk pretty much every day. But Shanghai is not like that. Shanghai is not a summer camp. Shanghai has become a period of my life.

And I have to be okay with fact that when I come back to the U.S., whenever that will be, I will need to carry the time I’ve spent in China with me. I have to be aware of the influence of these years spent in Shanghai. This isn’t a summer camp in dreamy Ojai where I have to eventually come back to real life.

This  – the Shanghai experience – is becoming part of who I am. I may always continue to love black sesame soy milk – or I may stop drinking it as soon as I get back to the U.S. I may be a little more brash on the subway, a little more direct, a little more likely to complain about my Starbucks order. I’ll be different, but I’ll still be myself. I am no longer playing house in the Elmhurst. This is the real deal. For the first time in my life (maybe), I am entering the serious part of an adult relationship, and I am finally old enough to make those decisions. At the same time, I am hesitant, I’m not going to lie, because there’s still this idea of the unknown, of returning back to the U.S. and becoming a different person. But when I realize that this time in Shanghai is as much a part of my life as my past five years in New Haven have been, I am no longer afraid. I am ready.

In a month I’ll be back in the U.S. for two weeks. And I’ll be different. But I think that’s okay. Shanghai has changed me, and that’s okay.

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