Published on May 8th, 2013 | by Snoesje7
Finding my Way (1)
At the age of 21 I graduated from college and moved into a tiny-little apartment, with some start-up funds from my parents and tons of colorful anticipation for a brand-new mature life ahead of me.
After going through numerous interviews, losing 20 pounds, feeling like a hundred years old, I finally made myself a girl with a job. Excitement abandoned me little by little when I was making tea for my boss and squeezing smiles during those so called business dinners with middle-aged ugly men whose favorite dish was the topic “young girls”.
Awakened early in the morning by the alarm clock, like a horse being whipped by whoever’s riding on top, I dragged my body out of the bed and dressed myself with rigid, tedious office clothes to pretend that I care. Without any expressions on my face, 10 minutes to stuff myself with Micro-waved breakfast, 30 minutes bathroom activities, I rushed with the overfull trains to work. While I was standing in the crowds with two legs spread trying to keep my balance in the moving train, I would often close my eyes and imagine a palm tree gently swinging its body and inclining to the direction where the sunlight is abundant. There was a little girl with a big smile on her face, running bare-foot on the warm soft sand, a doggy following her steps. She took a deep breath filling her lungs with fresh and salty air…. However my daydream would often be interrupted by having sharp pain in my feet from high-heels and the unpleasant body odor emanating from the strange man standing awkwardly close to me.
The pressure from work worn down my body, yet the most unbearable pressure came from those hours between after work and before going to bed. Living in this overly populated city, Shanghai, and with an average salary, I felt so insignificant. Even the fun-time I spent with friends and family seemed so pale. I had all the energy a 21 year-old girl should have, yet emptiness held me hostage. The sole cause of my emptiness was that I did not feel like going out, yet I did not know how to stay quietly in my room.
I engaged myself with moving my furniture around frequently and browsing web pages aimlessly. It didn’t help. Before I was ready for it the calendar was ripped off and I involuntarily turned 22.
To talk about my frustrations with friends and family wasn’t a solution. In their eyes I was on the right track and I had it all. There was no reasonable excuse not to be celebrating my life.
I don’t recall exactly how it happened but I resolved to read, like books written in English. I had always been interested in learning foreign languages at school and I studied hard for every test. However not once had I ever picked up an English book that was irrelevant to my assignments at school. I decided that at least for once in my lifetime I should do something without any purpose.
On a cold winter night, I curled up on my bright orange sofa with a Swedish novel in my hand, eating fingers of biscuit coated with chocolate. It took me a lot of patience and time to finish the first book. However years of English education wasn’t for naught. Gradually I found myself reading English books without first translating the lines into my mother language, Chinese.
Loneliness and emptiness still hung around at times. But I grew accustomed to the loneliness and the emptiness became quiet. I began to embrace them.
During those days of solitude, I was approached by several men and boys. At the gym. Through friends of friends. From work. Once a very good friend of mine called me and said that she just found the perfect man for me. My curiosity was provoked. Not for the men, but for how she thought of me. She and I grew up together and were very close. I was certain she knew what I needed better than I did. Especially when I wasn’t aware of what I needed at all. At the first sight of this ‘perfect man’, underneath my innocent friendly face, I was laughing to tears in my head. The ‘perfect’ man turned out to be pretty much an exact replica of her boyfriend. Some girls might want to have what other girls have. But I definitely don’t. Like the old Chinese saying goes, desire must be curbed first in order to be fulfilled later on.
Little did I know, when he was the least expected, I would meet a man that I would like to refer to a “him”. I cannot seem to sort him out into a few words. He does not fit in any of the categories I set up for men in my mind. And I am fascinated with the kind of men that I don’t quite understand.
In the beginning, I did not see any possible future between him and I, considering he is a world traveler. Me, on the other hand, is a little bird who thought that the tree she is resting on is the whole world.
With some encouragement by him and a little sudden enlightenment, this little bird realized that she had wings, and the tree was not her shelter. I bought the ticket that I had always wanted to buy to a place that I had always fantasized about. Instead of traveling in my mind while my body was trapped in a train underground, this time I packed up my excitement, my young body and a hint of uneasiness. I hopped on Air Asia’s beautiful red plane with this unknown species, the man who provoked my yearning of getting away.
The beautiful dark-skinned cabin attendants gave me the first taste of exoticism. As a Chinese girl who always tried to avoid sunlight as much as I could to prevent getting tanned, I used to think milky skin color was essential to fit in the group of being beautiful as most of other Chinese girls would think. For the first time I realized beauty came in so much diversity.
I was familiar with the saying that the reality of travel is never what we anticipate. And this proved to be true. The 9-day-long trip to Koh Lanta in southern Thailand was way better than what I expected, even though I already had high expectation before the trip.
To read about a place in books, even well-written ones, or watch travel videos on the internet, however well-shot, is like kissing a pretty girl’s picture. To physically go all the way there, on the other hand, is like kissing her directly. The feeling is so real that even the newest technology cannot duplicate it by long shot. Maybe this is why, even though we already ‘know’ the whole world, we still have to go to places and see it by ourselves.
The 9 days spent in Koh Lanta with him was a revolutionary experience for me. My old plan to save money and settle down in Shanghai was defeated soundly by my yearning for living on the road. I felt despaired to be at home. If our lives are dominated by seeking knowledge to live better, then perhaps few activities can achieve this better than our travels.
The trip to Koh Lanta with him was just the beginning of the new chapter of my ongoing life. And he became the new hero of my story.
Read More > Finding My Way (2) – Koh Lanta