When I was a kid, and my grandmother was still alive, she sat me down on the couch and showed me a photo album full of pictures from her trips around the world. From Africa posing in the middle of the Serengeti with zebras in the background to a zoo in Australia where she cuddled a baby koala, grams knew how to live her best life while contributing her final years to valuable conservation efforts worldwide.
“Make sure you travel when you’re young,” she said, “when you get to be my age, everything hurts, and you need to stop for rest often.”
I took her words to heart. It was easy to do as a 12-year-old stuck in a small seaside city in Florida where the most exciting things were happening in internet chatrooms or the video games I played to pass the time between childhood and adulthood. If someone gave me a time machine today, I wouldn’t go back to those days. Life is happier and more exciting in Shanghai.
It took several years to get to this point. I moved out and got my GED at 16. I bounced around the U.S. until I ended up in upstate New York at the age of 19 where I stayed for four amazing years. The friends I made in college are for life, and I’ll always love them.
After I came to China, I finished my novel, and I had a lot of time to reflect on what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t cut out for teaching kids. I liked club work, but it’s not something I can do after 30. Also, due to the increasing amount of restrictions in China, they aren’t letting foreigners work in the KTVs/clubs as freely as before.
During my prime KTV days, I hopped around from city to city with my Chinese friend. Technically, we were homeless. If you followed my blog, you’d know that I was living like this for years on and off. Homelessness does weird crap to your brain, especially when you’re in a foreign country. You tend to hold on tight to what little you possess. Since the end of 2014, everything I owned could fit into two suitcases. I didn’t dare to buy anything else, for fear that I’d have to pick up and move again soon.
After I got my residence card in Shanghai, I felt safer. I got an apartment and started filling it with things. Just last week, after almost three months of living there, I felt safe enough to buy a bath mat and a little plant for my desk. Maybe next month, I’ll buy posters. Next time I take a trip, at least I’ll know I have somewhere to come back to and I don’t have to carry all my possessions. I’m starting to feel like a human again.