My blog is much more than just an account of my experiences here in China. It is even much more than an account of my life in general. It is a way for me to express myself, to share my thoughts and feelings, to dwell upon my philosophies and theories, and to provide opinions on debatable topics. I often talk about getting on and off my soapbox when I make remarks that are purely my opinion and thoughts.
Today, I was thinking about life and death. In China, you have much time to think about such things when there are no others around to talk to in your language. This country is swarming with people. There is hardly a time when you are outside that you don’t see a person within 10 or 15 minutes. You can be in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere, with no signs of houses or life, and there will be someone walking on the same road or path as you. They are walking across fields and through mountains to go from one place or another. But, since I do not speak Chinese, and they do not speak English, I might as be on a deserted island in the middle of an ocean.
Back to my thoughts of life and death. I am often asked by Chinese friends, students and people from home, when am I going back to America to live? I can never answer this question. I do not have a time or a situation that is fixed in my head. With my strong faith in God and letting Him direct my life now, the easiest answer is, “whenever God wants to take me there”. It may never happen. The world is a big place. And, I have found the key to the world and I am excited, unafraid, of seeing it. I had spent 45 years in America. I have traveled, lived and seen many parts of it. I have seen things from California to Maine. I have experienced things from New York to Florida. I have met people and lived with them from all regions of the country. This includes Hawaii, but excludes Alaska.
As I was contemplating life and death, something came to my mind. People are often asked how they want to die. It is not a pleasant question to think about. And, most people will respond that they want to have it happen quickly and painlessly. Dying in one’s sleep, a sudden explosion, a blast from a nuclear weapon. All are acceptable. For me, I would like to just not wake up one night from a nice sleep. But, the question we should really ask ourselves, and others, is not how do we want to die, but rather, how do we want to live. When I began to think about this question, the answers are interesting to me, in my current state in my life.
Some people are content to live a common, everyday life. They grow up in a place, they get married, have kids, buy a house, work their job, vacation once in a while, and they die. Some work jobs that they love to go to everyday. Others are just trying to scrape a decent living together. Some people rejoice in having kids and a family. I never really thought of myself as a family man. Not because I am a gay man. And, definitely not because I dislike children (on the contrary). I have just known that it is a full time job just taking care of myself, let alone a family. And, when I went unemployed for over a year, I can’t imagine dragging my family through that hardship. It was bad enough trying to get through it alone. Some people are happy to have a house to call their own and develop a life in a town or city that they feel complete in. I get bored once I have seen a place. I am always seeking something new and interesting to add to my life. I lived in Hawaii for a while. Once I toured the island of Oahu and saw what needed to be seen, it was time to move on to the next place. I have a restless spirit. I am the kind of person that wants to see and experience the world. Not the world that I create that has developed boundaries around my life. But a world that is open and is doing its own thing. I want to see a world where I am a part of it. Not a world that is part of me.
I get my traveling spirit and interest in new things from my mother. We grew up not having a middle or high income life. But, my mother found ways to expand my interests in things. She would take me to the museums in St. Louis. The Art Museum, science museum, zoo, were all common trips for us. She would take me to historical places and places that were sightseeing locations for people. The Mississippi River always fascinated me. From the banks in St. Louis near the Arch, to the banks of St. Genevieve, MO, where my grandparents once lived. And, on occasion, we would be able to travel away from our region of home. Florida was always fun. Las Vegas was exciting. Chicago was where family lived and a trip to the Museum of Science and Natural History was such a great treat to me. I can thank my mother for being who I am today.
So, when I am asked when I will go back to America to live, my answer should be, “So, when are you going to begin a life away from America?”. People I know in the USA tell me how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing. They wish they could do it. Well, what is stopping you? They say family, job, money, etc. That is like me asking my students why they think learning English is so hard. There is always some reason that can be overcome, if they truly put their heart, mind, and soul into it. If a person really wants to do something remarkable and out of the comfort zone in their life, they can make it happen. For me, I was in a bad place in life. Not the worst I have been in. But, it was not a place I would hope to revisit. I was very content in Nashville, working for 7 years as a Property Manager at the YMCA. I felt I was making a difference. I felt comfortable. I had finally did what I never thought I would ever do…buy a home. I was growing roots in Nashville and loved the idea of living there. But, it all came crashing down around me when the YMCA fired me. I could not find a job that was willing to allow me to pay my bills and keep the same level of moderate living I had in Nashville. I was very stubborn about not taking menial, part-time work. That may have been foolish on my part. I admit that. I had spent my savings and my retirement money to just get through that year and half of unemployment. It took all that to “force” me into this career path. It was definitely not something I chose as a first, second, or third choice in my life. It was the very last option I chose. So, I understand the reasoning behind wanting to stay in a comfortable place you make for yourself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, many people tell themselves that they will travel, see, and do things when they retire. But, now that I am where I am in life, I hope to help some people make the transition to adventurer. If you have a deep desire to see the world; to take a chance on the unknown; to step off the proverbial cliff of life…do it. I, and others, are here to assist and guide you the best way we can.
I am choosing not to focus on how I want to die. I am now focused on how I want to live. Will I live in America again? Maybe. I do not hate America. It is my home. I love America very much. But, I equally love, if not love more, the world that is unexplored by me. If not America, then where? I know one thing, almost certainly, I will not live forever in China. I know myself well enough to know that I will have the travel itch again when all things of interest to me in China is completed. Then it will be on to the next destination in my life. It could be another Asian country. I love Asian people and their culture. Maybe I will find my way into Australia. I hear many good things about the country. If the Middle East gets their act together, maybe I will try there. Although heat and sand up the butt crack is not something I cherish. Europe is a great prospect if I can find work there and can afford to lie there. Retirement thinking takes me to a South American country. So, you see the difficulty I have in choosing where I will go after China. Until the travel bug dies in my heart, I will always have a wandering spirit. And, it needs to be constantly fed. So, I will continue to try to answer the question, “How do I want to live, before I die”.