Half a year in a pretty different country (again), in the diverse capital of one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, in terrible air quality, with dubious food, and without my wife.
Beijing, China, as “international migrant worker.”
That was my second half of 2014.
It’s a great example of the way such things go.
Look at it from the perspective of someone who would love to finally go out and experience life in another place, but hasn’t found any opportunity to do so, and it looks like a great adventure.
Look at it from the perspective of someone who had to go out like that to finally make some money again and suffer through loneliness and all the negatives for it, and it feels like a slow-burn nightmare.
In the end, everything having turned out sufficiently well – some money made and saved, some more experience and experiences gained, health and the relationship intact – the memories that mainly remain are good ones.
I undertook a bit of a photography project I’m putting finishing touches on, the same is now happening with a little book on Beijing’s Buddhist Temples, and it was just interesting, anyways, it seems.
By now, even the Beijing Marathon is a fond memory…
The power of the human mind to re-interpret things in a positive way, the same power that makes regrets so bad but risks taken so much better, is just tremendous.
The lesson is one of those it is the hardest and most difficult to learn and to continually use:
Like the Utilitarians argue, all animals including us humans seek to gain pleasure and avoid pain.
In the process, however, we tend to continually mistake comfort for happiness and end up avoiding the “bad” – i.e., uncomfortable – experiences that would make for the best memories and the greatest opportunities for growth and learning.
This happens a lot.
It happens when we avoid cold showers and strenuous exercise (or simply more physically active living with ‘everyday adventures’).
It happens when we avoid picking out select high-quality clothes and go for cheap clothes that go unused, but still don’t get thrown out.
It happens when we just don’t sit down to learn, don’t go on ‘exploratory’ vacations (or walks through the neighborhood), or work/entrepreneurship that challenges us.
It goes from the everyday “bad” (read: uncomfortable) impulses for body and mind to the once-in-a-lifetime decisions.
Of course, there are challenges and experiences we’d just as well avoid.
Serious accidents aren’t the best learning opportunities; that pain going with injury is better avoided.
The cheap thrills peddled as oh-so-exciting are perhaps the most dangerous of “experiences” as they seem to be challenging, but do not really provide the benefits and memories they promise.
You should not buy experiences to really grow with and gain great memories from, be they everyday or extraordinary.
You need to make the investment they require instead, certainly of time, probably of money, definitely of an effort.
It all gets me back, being asked what “traverse” would be a dream one, to thinking of China and situations that were, and would be, both good and bad, yet again…
After all, experiences to make and grow with need to be lived.
And seriously: What is your life if you don’t live it, fully, with discomfort and relaxation, growth and bad experiences, everything and all?