“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.”
~ Lillian Smith
I used to love those stories about girls who travelled to an exotic far away land to find themselves, reconnect with their passion, and then emerge as strong, independent women, ready to take on the world and make their dreams come true.
In these stories, the heroine would fly away to a beautiful city. Paris. New York. London. I would dream about running off to Italy, India and Bali to eat, pray, love, and discover myself whilst discovering the world.
But instead, I ended up in Daqing, China. What’s that, you say? You’ve never heard of it? Well, I’m not surprised. I never heard of it either, until about six weeks before I moved here.
To say that Daqing is not as romantic as Paris or as exciting as New York is a huge understatement. Paris is the romance capital of the world. New York is the entertainment capital of the world. Daqing… well, it’s the oil capital of China.
Instead of the Eiffel Tower or the Statue Of Liberty, Daqing has a TV tower and a bright yellow sculpture of the hammer and sickle. Instead of patisseries and limousines there are oil rigs and donkey carts. Instead of croissants and bagels there are chicken feet and dumplings.
But to me, Daqing is so much more than all that. Now, after spending a year of my life here, Daqing is my home. It may not be Paris or Rome or New York, but it doesn’t need to be romantic, or artsy, or even well-known to win my heart. It just needs to teach me something about myself, about life. And really, any place, any one, any thing, can teach us about ourselves, and life, if we are open to it.
So… it’s really been up to me all along.
I can see the romanticism in my journey. I was a scared little girl when I first arrived here, unaware of who I was or what I was looking for in life. Now, I’m leaving here a woman. A woman who knows who she is, how far she’s come and where she’s going now. I came here with my head down, trying to hide from life. Now, I’ll be leaving Daqing with my head held high, ready to handle whatever life throws at me.
Less than a year ago, I was miserable, unemployed and completely lost, and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I made the decision to take hold of my power, and start taking responsibility for my life instead of just reacting to it.
I came to China playing the role of the victim in my story, blaming the world for my problems, hiding my vulnerabilities and feeling sorry for myself. I had no passion, no purpose, and I had convinced myself that I didn’t even have a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
I’m leaving China playing the role of heroine in my story, knowing that I’m responsible for my experience of life, embracing my strengths and my flaws, and feeling proud of everything I’ve achieved here. I have passion, I have purpose, I’m running my own magazine, I’m healthy, and I am so in love with life that I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning.
I came to China to make huge changes in my life, only to realise that the changes needed to be made within me. It doesn’t matter what country you live in, it matters what mindset you live in.
I think going home will be just as big an adventure and change as coming to China was one year ago. I will be going back to my old city, but I won’t be going back to my old life. Even if I wanted to live the life I did before I came to China, I wouldn’t be able to, because I’m a completely different person now.
I’m going to miss Daqing a lot. It will always be the faraway place in which I found myself, and it truly has become like home to me. I was looking out my window the other day, overlooking the city, and the thought of leaving brought tears to my eyes. I love living in China, and I definitely plan to come back. But for now, it’s time for a new adventure.
The next month is going to be very busy for me, with packing, travelling, moving back to Melbourne and catching up with all my family and friends, so I won’t be posting as much as usual. I will try to do one a week, and keep updating on facebook and twitter, but my focus will be on moving home.
See you on the other side!