sometimes, the most important things we learn are farther from the classroom than we had ever imagined. after seven weeks on the other side of the world, i learned so much more in the other 21 hours of the day that weren’t spent trying to learn mandarin. most importantly, i realized that my grip on myself, and what i had originally believed about certain things, is so much weaker than i had thought before i left.
i learned that it’s not about what you’re doing or where you are, it’s who you’re with that changes the experience. the moments you spend together, no matter who they’re with, should be taken in to their fullest. west lake is practically the most beautiful place i’ve ever been. but it seemed like a different place every time i went there, depending on who i was there with. it was like the first time i had been there, every time i went there with someone new.
baseball is practically non-existent in china. but we americans can still play it there. and sometimes, life winds up to throw you a curveball. you shouldn’t step out of the box because you think you’re not ready. you have to step up to the plate and swing. the worst thing that can happen is you have to swing again. you also have to be open to trying new things, even if you’re scared. you will almost always surprise yourself, and even if you don’t, it will make for a good story later. eating chicken stomach and the green tea toothpaste/ice cream/condoms are some of my favorite stories to tell. you also realize that your capacity to love, learn, and live is so much greater than you give yourself credit for. you should never settle because it’s what you’re used to and you’re afraid to take that step out of your comfort zone. you are doing yourself and everyone around you a disservice.
there were a lot of other things that happened on this trip. they all seem to overlap, because we had such a limited time and we tried to take in as much as possible. i learned that life is too short to deny yourself exactly what you want, when you want it. if you do, you’ll always regret it. if you want that pair of stilettos, or that last piece of tiramisu, you should just go for it. you’ll be happier in the end. of course, indulgence can also get you into trouble, and when that happens it’s generally not very pretty. even if your’e having a bad day, you should remember that someone is probably having a worse day than you. a guy walking in on his girlfriend and another guy constitues for a worse day than mine. it’s those times when you realize that even though it may seem trivial, your actions could mean the world to someone else. and to compound that, you shouldn’t begrudge someone for making an effort, whether it is to get in your pants or to carry your books.
we were with each other every day. we went grocery shopping together, to the noodleman together, and some of us even went to bed together. you have to take time for yourself, time to relax and reflect. you end up appreciating yourself, and enjoying your time with others so much more. we had a lot of fun in a group, but sometimes, it got to be a bit of trouble, because we didn’t’ always have plans set out. we didn’t have a place to stay in shanghai for four hours. we sat outside a hostel for that long, until we decided we hadn’t eaten in roughly ten hours and were starving. being aware and informed of the plans for a situation is important, but if you’re not, you can’t stress about it and worry. you’ll make yourself sick. instead, be assured that what needs to happen will happen, and you’ll be ok. even if some of us had to whore ourselves out to the locals, we would all find a place to rest our heads. and we did…find a place, not whore ourselves out.
a lot of us brought pictures from home. just to remind us of what we were going to be returning to. you should never take pictures down or throw them away out of sadness, anger, or longing. when you look at them, even if the people and places are no longer, you should try to remember the situation surrounding the picture, and exactly how you were feeling when the picture was taken. these are happy memories. i feel like our time was cut short, and i didn’t want to leave. china was so colorful and fun, that i feel like i could have stayed another summer. and another after that. and have a forever full of wonderful times. don’t get me wrong, i’m happy to be home in some respects. i missed people and places, and driving my car. but while i was there, i missed the beach so much. there is nothing like an east coast beach. maybe it’s the salt, the sea air, or the sand. whatever it is, i don’t ever want to have to go too long without one. nothing cures like the surf.
from this trip, i have so many happy memories. i have a few sour ones as well, but the happy ones far outweigh them at least tenfold. i think about the time there, and i can’t believe i almost chickened out and didn’t go. i realized that opportunity costs are solely immediate. yes, i missed out on months of work (a giant sum of money), beach days, my friends, my family, fourth of july, and so on, but chances like these come once in a lifetime. we have to recognize those chances and take them, because they’re always worth it. maybe you won’t always end up where you expected, but i learned and grew so much more than i was anticipating. i didn’t realize it until i was home, but now i see the progress i’ve made, as a student, as friend, and as a person.