It’s interesting how most of my random thoughts come bursting out when I’m in a public place, but when I’m home alone I can sit there staring at the wall and be thinking of nothing. I guess it shows how much our brains are stimulated by what we see and hear. I tend to have random trains of thoughts, where my initial thought leads to another and another and it’s very possible I start out thinking about coffee and end up thinking about how to fix the world (I have yet to figure that out).
I was sitting at Starbucks reading eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert and this is how my train of thought went:
“It’d be really cool to write a book about my experiences in China. Of course, that would require a lot of writing. Although my blog posts and emails are often excruciatingly long anyway, so I don’t think it would take much more effort to write enough to fill a book.”
“I love writing. But to write a book, you need a beginning, middle, and end, or some sort of captivating story. Otherwise, it feels unfinished.”
“I guess that’s what blogs are for. Blogs are sort of like unfinished books. You have lot’s of anecdotes, words of wisdom, but there’s not really any finish. Unless you start and stop multiple blogs, which I’ve done.”
“What would I write about anyway? My experience isn’t that unique because I blend in so easily. I’m not blonde-haired and blue-eyed like most Chinese think Americans look like, stuck in a country where I don’t speak the language. I’m also not blonde-haired and blue-eyed speaking fluent Chinese, which eventually lands me a spot hosting my own TV show in Chinese. That’d be a good story. So, what? Chinese-American girl travels to China in her twenties to “find herself”? Finds herself stuck between two worlds, Western and Chinese, not knowing which world she belongs in?”
“What does that mean, anyway? To “find yourself”? Why is it that you find yourself in your twenties? Or you’re supposed to take time to do so. I think that self-identity is fluid. People change because the circumstances around you are always changing. Maybe I’m a patient person now, but maybe in a few years I’ll turn into one of those people who yells at the Starbucks barista for not making her Venti-decaf-half nonfat-half soy milk-2 pumps Vanilla-2 pumps Chai-extra hot-latte just right (yes, I’ve had to make drinks that complicated, and no, it’s not fun to be the barista in this situation).”
To continue on my last thought, I find it an interesting phenomenon. The whole American idea that your twenties is a time for you to find yourself, figure out who you are. Does that mean professionally? It would make sense, since a lot of people continue further education immediately after undergrad. And usually it’s with a goal in mind of being an expert in a particular field. That’s why some people “take a year off” to try to figure out what they want to do, maybe work different jobs to see how they like it. Personally, I think it’s just an excuse to take a year off and bum around sleeping in and watching TV, which you justify by spending 10 minutes of your day searching the want ads. But in the land of dreams, of “be whatever you want to be,” there is also the option of switching careers later in life, which many people do.
So does that mean that all your soul-searching in your twenties was wasted? All that time you spent studying to be a doctor is thrown out the door when you decide to open your own restaurant instead? No, I don’t think so. Because people are constantly changing. And that time you spent as a doctor is as crucial to shaping who you were then as opening your own restaurant is to shaping who you are now. Which is why I don’t understand what it means to figure out who you are. I do have a tendency to believe that when people say that in America, it is referring to who you are professionally. I think a lot of people define themselves by their professions, especially when they hold high positions. I guess being here in China, that’s one thing that has changed about my thinking. I’m seeing that there is a lot more to self-identity than what job you hold at the moment. Which is ironic because I’m in a country which places a HUGE value on face and social status. But I guess I’ve been blessed that the people surrounding me don’t care about things like that.
Suddenly hit a road block in my thoughts. Not sure where to go from here without being repetitive. Maybe figuring out who you are means figuring out what you want in life. But then, can’t you start thinking about that earlier? Who’s to say high-schoolers don’t know what they want out of life? Maybe when we’re 25, we think that high-schoolers can’t know because they’re too young and immature. But that’s all relative. Maybe a 40 year-old thinks a 25 year-old can’t know what he/she wants because he/she is too young and immature. The older we get, the wiser we think we are compared to younger generations. But there are people who grow up their whole lives knowing they’re going to be not only a teacher, but a history teacher at an inner-city high school. And there’s also people who are 60 and feel like no matter how many different jobs they’ve held, they still weren’t satisfied with what they accomplished.
I know there’s an underlying reason for these thoughts. That’s the reason I keep going around in circles. Usually when I do that, my thoughts form the shape of a tornado and I keep circling down until I reach the bottom of the funnel, where lies what I’m really trying to say. I just haven’t reached it yet.