I’ve been doing some very deep thinking about super heroes lately. Perhaps it has something to do with my falling in love with Wonder Woman, or it could be related to the fact that I watch all the super hero TV shows (except Agent Carter, Super Girl, and Arrow).
Most of the best super heroes weren’t born that way. Instead, they started out as normal human beings, with strengths and weaknesses, flaws, and talents. But something transformative molds them into something special; still flawed, but better and more powerful than they were before.
Peter Parker was a puny high school runt who was bitten by a radioactive spider and became Spider-Man. Steve Rogers survived Polio and became Captain America thanks to Project:Rebirth. Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered right in front of him, leaving him orphaned with only billions of dollars and a massively successful company to sustain him through childhood before becoming the Batman. Kal-El (Clark Kent) had to put up with his folksy human, Smallville adoptive parents and pretended to be human, all the while hiding his super powers. Princess Diana (Prince) left an island paradise full of beautiful Amazon warriors to fight evil, all the while resisting what must be an overwhelming urge to wrap the Lasso of Hestia (Lasso of Truth) around the neck of every politician on Earth.
Suffering through adversity might be the one thing I have in common with the aforementioned super heroes, though my misfortunes have largely been of my own creation. Obviously I’m not clairvoyant. In fact, even my faculty of hindsight doesn’t rise to the level of a competency. I repeat patters and mistakes, thereby hatching new regrets and nemeses (nemesi?). Although I definitely have a a back-story to rival those of my favorite heroes, and despite the wearing of super hero T-shirts and Batman earring, it hasn’t been enough to propel my superpowers of punctuality and sarcasm into the realm of crime-prevention or world-saving.
I’m an enemy of President Trump in the sense that I’m one of the many types of people he professes to absolutely loathe (if he new the meaning of that particular word). I’m here to confess that I am indeed a leaky leaking leaker.
I’m like that package of frozen steak you take out of the freezer and set directly on the top shelf of the refrigerator to thaw overnight only to find a large pool of beef juice covering the base of everything on every shelf when you open the fridge door to get half-and-half for your coffee the next morning. Just like the steak, I need to warm up a little before releasing personal information in drips and drabs all over the surface of this here bloggy blog. Eventually, the truth will come out, making a mess and requiring some cleanup.
Unlike those leakers in the government, my information isn’t classified, and won’t land me in prison were I to be discovered. The worst thing that might happen is that more than two humans may read my words, and I think that’s the goal, if I’m being honest (which I almost always am here).
Some people like to drop the cliché “My life is an open book.” but they only leave that book open to the pages containing no sensitive, burn-after-reading content, only the sanitized, safe-for-consumption, nuggets of pyrite, washed clean and polished for all the world to be dazzled by. In contrast, my life is a package of frozen beef.
As recently as April 28th, I was kind of a big deal; a big fish in a small pond. I was the only remaining foreign teacher at a high school whose main objective is preparing Chinese kids to study in western universities overseas. Every single student at that school knew my name, and about 90% of them would say “Hi!” as they passed me in the hallway. No matter how rubbish my day was, their greetings would always make me feel good. That’s long gone.
Now that I’m in exile, I’m no one, working nowhere, and I feel I’ve become practically invisible. Invisible is growing on me. I think I could get used to this. When I go back, I’ll be the littlest fish in the biggest of ponds, and I think that’s exactly what I need.
Unfortunately, the best advice I can give to a westerner planning to travel or move to China is this: Keep your mouth shut. No, I don’t mean breathe through your nose. I mean keep your critical opinions (and you will have many of them) to yourself. Nothing good will come from telling Chinese people what you see as wrong with their government, their environment, or their culture. Most of them are not ready to hear criticism of these things, even if they know you are right.
Instead, they will blame you, the messenger, even if the message is full of wisdom and truth. It won’t matter that your words come from a good place of concern and caring for the Chinese people. They will point their accusing fingers back at you, throwing every (obvious) flaw and criticism of America (and there are many) they can think of, in your face as though two wrongs make a right or somehow cancel each other out. They will use logical fallacies and motivated reasoning to make false equivalents between problems like China’s pollution and America’s presidential election and endemic racism.
So save your breath. Keep your mouth shut. Don’t speak your mind unless it’s 100% positive, non-critical flattery that reinforces the Chinese belief that their country is the center of the universe and soon will rise to power and dominance as America’s form of democracy falters and its influence around the world continues to decline.
I have a few spare minutes while I wait for my mom. Once she has showered and “put her face on,” we’ll drive the 11.7 miles to Chief Supermarket in Bryan, Ohio. Actually, mom will drive because my license was stolen (along with my wallet) back in China, and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it.
So I’m sitting here on a flowery, off-white sofa, watching the shadows of the front yard’s ancient oak tree dancing on the floor in front of me. The morning sunshine is pouring in through the white Venetian blinds onto the beige carpet. Out of impatience and boredom, I’m tempted to drink another cup of coffee. Armed with the knowledge that a fourth cup of java would put my nerves on edge, something I certainly don’t need while I’m on this forced vacation, I’m able to resist temptation (this time).
I’ll sit here, patiently awaiting my mother’s announcement that she’s ready, while finding other things to occupy my time, if not my mind. The lovely flowers I shot while walking to the post office adorn this blog post only because I took a little of this waiting time to edit them. If these flowers could talk, oh, the joy they would speak of.
Have you ever been stalked? Have you ever had your privacy and freedom so violated you’ve had to leave the city you lived and worked in to get away from the perpetrator? Have you ever felt like your life was stolen from you, all of your online accounts invaded and ripped from your hands (along with your phone) by someone you used to love, used to trust? Have you ever had your apartment burglarized, every stitch of clothing, every personal possession taken, by an insane spouse with the delusional belief you’ll have no choice but to return to her when you have absolutely nothing left? I have, and that’s why I’m now just a ghost.