I know how much everybody hates these stupid quotation memes, so I try not to post them very often, but this one seemed apt for what’s been on my mind lately.

I have been living in China for more than a year now, as most of you have probably figured out. You may have also noticed that it has brought out the deepest level of cynicism I have ever found in myself. As you may remember, a little more than a year ago, I could not stop waxing on about how wonderful life is. I had embarked on a grand adventure and was working my way through some of the countries I had wanted to see for as long as I could remember. I was spending my days at leisure, rock climbing, hiking, and running – the three things I love to do most in this world. And then, well, I came to China.

China began as another big adventure. It was a place I had never ever dreamed of visiting, and a place as far from my own culture as I have ever been. The food, the language, the culture, the smells, the everything is completely different here. And for a time it was interesting and I wanted to try it all.

But then the being crowded, and the pollution, and the lack of trees or birds, and the arbitrary rules, and the this, and the that really started to get to me. No, it started to grind at me – in a way I never thought possible. I mean, let’s be honest, you’ve all noticed that China and I haven’t exactly been BFF, right?

I have stayed on here because I wanted to gain some valuable teaching experience and build up my resume. And I wavered back and forth all winter about whether I should come back for another year because I DO love my job here. But I have decided that I will not be staying here after the semester finishes.  It really kills me that I have lived abroad before, but that I just cannot seem to adjust to China and love it the way I have loved my other homes abroad. It has been, by far, the most challenging place I have lived (or visited, for that matter). Yes, at times I have loved it, but at most times I have hated it. And I mean REALLY hated it.

The worst part about this experience, though, is that it has brought me back to a bad place within myself. I spend so much time alone with absolutely nothing active or constructive to do, which gives me lots of time to criticize myself, my choices, and my life. It also makes me acutely aware of how lonely it is to be alone in a country where there are so few people with whom I can communicate on any real level. It also makes me yearn for all of those things that I set off to do when I first left for New Zealand almost two years ago. Being here makes me feel like I have somehow lost sight (again) of what is important to me – being outdoors, spending time meditating, and making sure every day is a day where I think to myself, “I love my life!” Of course there are other things that are important to me, but these are the things that were the center of my life for a whole year, and they were the things that made me happier than I have ever been before. EVER. I want that back.

While I would love to set down roots somewhere and build a real life with friends and a family of my own one day, I know that that somewhere is not China. Alas, I am not a tree, at least not yet, thus, I am free to leave. I have not bought my plane ticket to wherever I will be off to next. I am currently searching for work and will then know where the wind will take me. For now, it is enough to know that I will go.