Wow, what a year 2013 has been.
Overall 2013 has been a very good year, with both ups and downs and new experiences all around.
This time last year, I was agonizing whether I should quit my interpreting program at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) to pursue full time work. The transition from full time employee to full time student sent me into a downward spiral of depression. I gained 10 pounds. I slept for hours at a time for days on end. The classes (or lack thereof) only added to my misery. It was truly one of those moments where I’d wake up every morning and ask myself: “Just what am I doing with my life?”
Then, I received it. Those fateful phone calls from one of the largest advertising agencies in Japan and IBM.
“We need an interpreter, and we want you.”
I had to choose between a full time job or a free masters degree, but with the poor standards of education at SISU (no curriculum, no textbook, no scheduled classes) I wasn’t even sure if graduating from the school would even be worth it. Last January, I made the painful decision to quit the school and become a full time employee again.
In the end I chose the advertising agency over IBM, and I started work at my new agency in the heart of downtown Shanghai on the 10th floor of a high rise. I moved into a new apartment. I signed up for a gym membership. In the end, I not only ended up making money instead of losing it while at the school, but I also trimmed off the 10 lbs I gained from my depression at SISU and started to run on a regular basis.
Meeting my co-worker Tomoko changed my life. She taught me that life, even in Shanghai, can be full of limitless opportunities. She introduced me to countless international friends and to the enchanting world of Shanghai jazz that I never knew existed. She is a true woman of the world. Tomoko is always off traveling to different countries on a whim while holding her head up high and looking to the horizon for new adventures and experience. The two of us making our bento boxes and eating them outside the park near my office in the (rare) Shanghai sunshine is a memory that I will never forget. We laughed until our stomachs hurt, brought tangerines and other fruits to swap at lunchtime, and consoled one another when our bosses yelled at us.
Tomoko taught me to open my heart and my mind, and to believe in the good of people once again.
As many expats living in Shanghai know, escaping the clutches of China to go on vacation is not easy (exceptions for school teachers). Holidays are the only time we can escape, and unfortunately all the other 1 billion people in China are thinking the exact same thing. Flight and hotel prices quadruple, and you might as well forget about going somewhere domestic–that, or prepare to wait in lines for historical sites and train tickets that span the length of the Great Wall. Despite living in Asia, I hadn’t been to a new country in months–thus, I blew buckets of money to go to Bali for National Holiday.
I was having a quarter life crisis before I went to Bali. I was newly single, 27, living in a country that drove me crazy and working a job that was anything but fulfilling. I knew I needed a fresh outlook on life and a new perspective, and Bali was just the medicine. Going alone only made me that much stronger.
I was horrified to go to Bali alone (it’s like going to Hawaii alone), but in the end I learned about life, death, love, and destiny. Through the smiles of the Balinese people, the sunrise and sunsets of its crystalline beaches, and the cascading green rice terraces of its mountains, I learned that the world is full of so much beauty–and I’ve only seen a sliver. I have so much to learn from the world, and it has so much to give me. I can’t lose hope, and I can’t give up.
2013 was like a battlefield when it came to love. I made the heart crushing decision to break up with my boyfriend of two years. It was one of, if not the most, difficult decision I have ever had to make in my life. I wandered the streets of Shanghai like a ghost following the break up, empty and hollow and full of doubt.
Z pulled me through. I remember Z gripping me by the shoulders, shaking me, gazing at me dead in the eyes and saying: “Mary, you did the right thing. You did the right thing and don’t you ever second guess yourself.”
Love always comes in unexpected places, and 2013 was no exception to that. I already have someone new and amazing in my life, and I want to keep him for the long run. With him by my side, I can’t wait to start 2014 and see what new adventures the year brings us.
I’ve always had a strong circle of friends in Shanghai, but in 2013 I realized the depth of these relationships. I made a slew of Italian friends this year that have brought me into their homes, cooked me hand made pasta and shared with me the joy for food and life that Italians manage to do so well.
In 2013, I said farewell to K, my best Japanese friend and my Shanghai accomplice. I always said K is Shanghai and Shanghai is K, and the phrase didn’t ring more true than it did that fateful night he left. On his final night in Shanghai, we sang our last night of karaoke, and I’ll never forget his rendition of Wu Yue Tian’s “I will not leave you alone.” From day one he promised to never leave me alone in Shanghai, but we both knew that the day would come where one of us would have to say farewell.
My relationship with J and Z has always been my lifeline in China. Without Z, I honestly wouldn’t be here. I often think what my life would be if I never made the rash decision to move to Shanghai… but I’m always assured I did the right thing when I think of J and Z. Shanghai was the right decision, because I met them. My sisters.
I read once on a blog somewhere that resolutions are crap and people shouldn’t make them, because having a goal and going through with it shouldn’t be done once a year–it should be happening all year ’round. Still, I have a tradition of writing up resolutions and looking back at them years later and peeking to see what I was able to accomplish. For 2014 I’ll continually be setting new goals and standards for myself; but for now, I’d like to make my laundry list of tasks I’d like to accomplish.
- Learn French. I started in 2013, and I gave up due to financial reasons. I have a strong base in French now (got the pronunciation down pat, know the conjugations), so being able to self teach myself with some language exchange might help get me conversational. I WILL learn French this year.
- Take a class in web design and economics. My two hobbies that I adore. Although I could continue to self teach myself, paying someone and having them push me to get things done will motivate me to work harder. I love web design, and the study of economics not only fascinates me–it’s darn useful.
- Find an amazing job in the USA
- Keep up the habit of going to the gym 3 times a week, aim to run for an hour nonstop (can do 30 mins now, up the score!)
- Take the GRE.
- Grow out my hair. It looks good short I must admit, but I do miss having my long black locks.
- Continue to write, and publish an article!
- Volunteer! Find an organization in Shanghai or the USA, sign up, and go help others!
- Practice J-E interpreting 3 times a week, C-E once a week
- Learn how to properly, and effectively, invest money
- Travel somewhere new (have plans of Thailand in March, so this one’s definitely going to happen!)
- And most of all, become a better person. Give unto others, learn to be more patient and understanding, and keep calm
- Pay off student loans. Finally get this nuisance out of the way.
- My HSK is expiring (wha?) so take HSK Level 6…. again. ugh.
- Start studying Italian again if French gets good enough (this one is definitely not a priority, but hey..!)
- Learn a new hobby. Finally sign up for that Latin/Salsa Dance class.
I’m sure I forgot a few points on there (might add on later), but for the most part that is my list of resolutions for 2014.
2013, you were a rocky year full of tear inducing tragedies and unexpected joys–but overall, you were great.
2014 will hold even more changes for me than 2013, but I know everything is going to be alright. I have a good feeling about you 2014, and I hope I can inch one step closer to my dreams this year.
Happy New Year, everyone!