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.
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.
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.
“When is a good time to blog?” is a question that has been asked me by absolutely no one. But if they (real people, not the voices in my head) were to ask me such a thing, I’d probably respond with, “No one should ever blog for any reason, ever, but if you are serious about disappointing literally tens of people, then I say, ‘Just do it, go for it, write what you know,’ and a few other trite cliches before suggesting you choose a time when no one is likely to bother you, a time after you’ve sipped, chugged, or guzzled multiple cups of a caffeinated beverage and have an idea in your head about which you want to write. But then you should delete that draft before you post it.
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.
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.
This is my first post. I’ve edited this post by changing the photo. I’d like to use this post to tell you lovely readers why I started this blog and what I plan to do with it. Just like these delicious Pop Tarts, this blog will be warm and crisp and full of sweet blueberries.