As I walk the busy streets of Shanghai, I often see a father walking alongside his young son, holding his hand, and I miss my son. I have to look away or risk tearing up. But then I think about the person who caused my isolation, my exile from Changsha, and I feel a deep anger well up inside me. The wetness in my eyes transforms into a bitter hatred and resentment toward the person I’ve come to despise with all my being. Once focused on my anger and regret in having wasted so much on a person so undeserving, it’s very difficult to push it out of my mind.
To this end, I’ve been listening to some “new” music because it doesn’t remind me of anything. I highly recommend Depeche Mode’s Spirit , Queens of the Stone Age’s Villains, and K. Flay’s Everywhere Is Somewhere. This is how I temporarily self-medicate and set my mind free.
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.
I don’t know how I missed it before, but I finally found the Walmart located at the nearby Wanda Plaza. I guess I must have walked right passed the unmarked entrance at least twice while wandering through the mall. I suppose I wasn’t looking for it because, according to Google Maps, there isn’t supposed to be a Walmart inside Wanda Plaza, but it should be across the street, right beside Carrefour; Google Maps fail.
I felt pretty happy about finding the secret Walmart, but they didn’t have the big can of coffee I wanted to buy. Instead, I bought a medium sized jar and one of creamer. I bought white sugar and brown sugar. I bought some seaweed snacky-snacks and some strawberry cream cookies. I also bought a couple of stainless steel forks with smiley faces on them. The last thing I picked and placed in my cart was a plastic container to put either sugar or oatmeal into. I haven’t decided which. Oh, and I bought a couple of salt/pepper shakers too. I think that’s all I bought at the secret Walmart.
It’s the 10th day of my new life in Shanghai, China. Although I’ve been to Shanghai a few times, everything here is quite unfamiliar to me; new neighborhood, new people, new school.
Although I haven’t been blogging, I have been writing about my experiences every day. It’s high time I begin transferring some of those daily journal entries over here for others to read.
Mankind’s Search for Meaning
As someone who often contemplates the purposes and reasons behind everything from culture to fingernails, it’s not uncommon for me to wrestle with the meaning my own life might have, not just to me, but to the world as a whole. (I don’t shive a git about the multiverse because they don’t shive a git about me.) My conclusions range from the very selfish–ownership and enjoyment of things, to the interpersonal–making and maintaining connections with people I care about. Unfortunately, both types of meaning were first eroded and then systematically eliminated by someone who claimed to care about me back in China. So, now it’s time to slow down my mind, take a breath, and re-evaluate my life’s meaning and determine the best way forward with an emphasis on that meaning.
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.
At some point, I’m going to start looking forward; not yet but soon. To help me with this task, I’ve started watching Louie, the dark-ish comedy series by Louie C.K. that sarcastically deals with life after his divorce. I’m finding it very
voyeuristic therapeutic watching someone go through some things I’ll soon be dealing with.
When you zoom in too far on any digital image, you invariably encounter the jaggies, those ugly little squared-off corners and edges that no longer appear clear when viewed up close. The same phenomenon happens when you look closely at a person’s life.
I like to open the messier parts of my life in Photoshop and begin lopping off all the ugly corners I see until I begin to feel like Voldemort must have felt as he carved off chunk after chunk of his miserable soul to make his horcruxes. That’s what I’m doing too. I’m sweeping together and collecting all the dusty excised shards of my life that caused me pain, all the barbed memories of people, razor-wire moments, and experiences that hurt me, compacting and compartmentalizing, rounding off the biting sharpness, the poky, angular, jabby bits which would otherwise open old wounds. And I’m stashing my little horcruxes away where no one will ever find them.
Some day, for all of my polishing and re-shaping, I might find happiness again.
At times, it’s hard to avoid feeling that I’ve been abandoned, exiled to this quiet, peaceful life of near solitude in Nowhere, Ohio. I saw this pathetic space-saver tire lying on the sidewalk along my meandering walk around the village yesterday. I feel a kinship with it as though we’ve both been cast off, having served our purpose. No longer needed, we wait together on the cold, hard pavement of life, lingering restlessly in anticipation of someone putting us back into service.