Self-caring in China has been a lot of intentional changes that I’ve implemented in the last few months, things I would have never in a million years given a chance. Although self-care has remained a huge priority of mine, I finally feel like I’ve made some long term changes to my lifestyle that have positively seeped into various aspects of my life, leaving me more energized, motivated, and confident than ever before.
When you move to a new country, away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known, it’s easy to slip into a very dark place. It’s easy to feel alone. No matter how many exciting things come your way, or how grateful you are for the opportunity, it’s only natural to spend a significant amount of time wishing for some familiarity and comfort - two things that are very hard to come by when stepping out of your comfort zone.
If you’ve been following my ‘Keeping Tab’ series, a place for all my random life updates from China, you’ll know that simply using VPN services and blogging through spotty wifi connections can get to you. It sounds stupid in the grand scheme of things (because it kinda is), but it’s true nonetheless. When the little things add up, they drain you. It’s not because these things are impossible to adjust to or that they’re things that make or break an experience abroad. Not at all. If anything, they are the things that forcefully teach you to stop complaining about the mundane things in life, like Instagram feeds not loading fast enough.
For me, it was never adjusting to these everyday changes that got to me. It was dealing with the reality of things versus the version I had built up in my head. When we embark on something new, whether that’s changing jobs, moving to another city, dating someone new (whatever it may be), there’s a part of us that dreams up a version in our heads. A version that is the most appealing. Expectations of how things might turn out. Expectations of how we want our life to look like. For me, I dreamt up a whole other version of how blogging would be like and how my move will inspire me to create more consistently for this space.
Expectation: All these new cafés to uncover, so many firsts to write about, a whole new blogging scene!
Reality: Failing to find my groove, an isolating blogging environment, being too far away to get involved with collabs in Toronto, missing out on events, feeling lost and uninspired.
You see, two very different realities.
The month of November was a particularly hard time for me, and I was never able to pinpoint why. Writing this post is when I figured it out. November, the three month mark of being here was when it felt like my reality was most different from what I had dreamt up in my head. I wasn’t miserable, no. But, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I knew in my heart that I didn’t come all the way to China to work a 9-5 and do nothing else. That’s really how things started to feel. I would get up, go to work, come back and watch Friends. The same old routine, but a million miles away from home. Three months in, when things started to slow down, I was determined not to let those same patterns in Toronto dictate my experience abroad. How many people could say that they lived elsewhere in their 20s? In an entirely new space, free to explore as they wished? Not everyone, and that was a privilege in and of itself and I had to make something of it. To embrace Shenzhen as a home, not as just a random city.
For starters, I knew I needed to find an extracurricular activity outside of work. A sense of community if you will. A place I’d enjoy going to when I wasn’t working. For years, my brother tried convincing me to give CrossFit a chance. For years, I brushed it off. On a random Saturday, I decided to go through the Shenzhen CrossFit hashtag on IG . I’m not sure what came over me, but I knew that something in my schedule needed to change in order for me to be happy. I messaged a stranger who happened to be a coach and asked for more info. Long story short, she connected me with a coach in my area. That changed everything. You know when that one decision in your life has such a powerful ripple effect on everything else that happens to you going forward? Finding an extra-curricular has had feel good vibes seeping into everything I do.
If you’re feeling lost, or stuck, I can’t express how important it is to find something for yourself. To get active, and shake things up. It's never too late. I know finances don’t always allow everyone to go out and take that super expensive class they've always wanted to try. But, that doesn’t mean you can't take up running, or catch more sunrises, or start a bullet journal. Anything new, to track your patterns and break out of the bad ones.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.. my new year/fresh start/shift in perspective began when I wrote A Love Note to September. I haven’t really set any new years resolutions, but I have vowed to keep up with the changes I’ve made in the last few months. There’s no room for waiting or wishing for a better alternative or dreaming up a better version of reality. Sometimes all we have to work with is right in front of us, and how we go about making something out of that lies entirely up to us. For me, the next few months are all about letting go of the cynical and angry side of myself, and embracing the universe in a new light. One that is good, magical, and gentle. These next few months are all about realizing patterns and breaking out of ones that don’t serve my goals. These next few months are about learning how to use my time more efficiently and finding ways to help others who may be feeling some of the same feelings.
No hoping, or trying. Just do. That is my mantra for this year and that is what these next few months will be all about. Doing.
A 24 year old Canadian living (& teaching) in Shenzhen, China.