When I don’t write for long stretches of time, it’s not because I have nothing to say, but because I find that I don’t have the words to fully express what it is that I have to say. I’ve started and stopped entries a lot the past few weeks. I wrote about Max visiting Shanghai, about finding authentic street food, about the stomach bug that I’ve had for weeks, wiping out my ability to eat street food (or maybe caused by eating too much street food), about reading Molly Wizenberg’s memoir only to conclude that she has a grating personality, which still did not stop her from publishing an amazing red cabbage slaw recipe, about the traffic crackdown in Shanghai and getting stopped by a policeman, only to be issued a measly 20RMB ticket.
But I start these paragraphs, and I can never finish them. It’s this thing that always happens to writers: I undersleep, underread, overcaffeinate, overthink, and by the end of the night find myself without words to put on the page. Or I write something, or pages of something, and then just think that the whole thing is nonsense and scrap it. It all ends up with me being frustrated with myself. And I want to write about it, but then I wonder, is this the self that I am meant to be displaying online for the world to see?
It’s been difficult to be an expat for the past few months. On July 4th 2016, it will have been two years since I’ve lived in China. Two years is a lot in both dog and human years. Two years is the amount of time I’ve lived in the Elmhurst. And maybe it’s useless, or silly, or unnecessary, but I’m still scrambling and grasping to find meaning in coming to China. It makes me restless to come to terms with the fact that after two years, I still haven’t really found a good reason for coming here in the first place. It’s times like this that I become worried about wasting my ‘best years’ abroad, even though deep down I know that that’s nonsense. And then I write about it, even though it’s not the kind of thing that people like reading about and not the kind of things that I find expats in their blogs like sharing.
China is dazzling, but it’s also stiflingly overwhelming. Living abroad is chaotic and I oscillate between embracing comforting things like ordering waffle fries to be delivered on a Monday night and diving into China – its squat toilets, its unidentified (‘definitely not rat’) street meats, and its people until it becomes unbearable, I retreat into my apartment, and order more waffle fries. I can’t quite grasp a balance, but maybe that’s what makes being here worth it.