To China and Back Again: The Year 2017

Walking over a bridge in China

2017 was filled with many challenges but so much growth.

When I look back at the year 2017, my head spins a bit. So much happened in a fairly short time. My life changed dramatically as I moved from Florida to China in 2016, settled there more in 2017, and then moved back to the USA.

However, I changed even more than my geographical location. Not understanding a word around me but having to find my own apartment and find directions taught me to ask for help even if I looked clueless. Teaching children and planning creative lessons taught me to trust myself more as a leader and artist. Working with children and feeling alone in a new culture taught me that I did want a family one day. Having a happy relationship continues to teach me that I’m lovable with all my quirks and faults.

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Cleaning Out Boxes of the Past

A lake near a mountain

A lake near the mountains

After arriving back in the USA a few days ago, I’ve been busy cleaning out all of my old boxes. Although I just moved back from China, my goal is to move abroad again for my Master’s Degree soon. Thus, all of the clutter in my old room and closet needed to leave.

As I pulled out old boxes and rummaged through dusty drawers, glimpses of the past kept appearing.

My fingers were stained pink and blue from oil pastel paintings made in residential treatment for my eating disorder. Babies surrounded by darkness, blood-red monsters devouring me, trees half blossoming and half diseased – images of despair and hope mixed with every color.

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Chasing, Gaining, Losing, Desiring Dreams

Cherry blossomsDreams are etched deeply into part of our being – our memories, minds, or spirits perhaps. They influence many vital decisions and alter the courses of our lives. You can choose to stifle them deep inside, never allowing them to see the light and grow into a branch of your life. Alternatively, you can take a wild chance and follow them, knowing they might lead to pain and difficulty. In the end, you will always wonder what would have happened if you never give those dreams a chance.

Still, chasing a dream and catching it only to have it crumble in your fingers is agonizing. Having a fleeting idea fail or not enjoying a temporary situation is frustrating. Yet, realizing your dream that you fought for is a thing you no longer desire wounds much deeper.

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The Fear of Saying “No”

Stepping onto a stone

“By stepping outside your comfort zone to do something peculiar, you confirm that you can do more than you’ve done. Move out!” – Israelmore Ayivor

“No” is one of my least favorite words. I hate saying it to people for numerous reasons. However, the main reason stems from fear.

Fear of them being hurt, upset, or unhappy. Fear of them disliking me, thinking I dislike them, or being rejecting. An even darker fear underlies most of these: fear of how they will retaliate.

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Losing Sight of Yourself

"There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self." - Benjamin Franklin

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” – Benjamin Franklin

You know yourself better than any other human.

Sounds simple, right? Why is it then that I find this so hard to remember? I look to others to tell me what I do well, how I look (or how I should look), and who I should become. When I need approval, I don’t even try to rely on myself. Instead, a friend or family member is sure to boost my self-esteem.

Or at least, that is how it has worked most of my life. A time arrives, however, when people around you belittle instead of charm, critique instead of comfort, and ignore instead of notice. Suddenly, you are forced to look at yourself in the mirror in confusion, wondering who you are without the words of others. Or perhaps, wondering if the bitter, nastier labels they stuck on you are the reality of your character.

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Can You Ever Fully Escape Your Past?

Imagine meeting an old group of friends or classmates. One person constantly belittled and even bullied others while growing up. Now, she listens well and even apologized for past actions. Another person, on the other hand, was shy and insecure. He still struggles to speak and usually complains about himself when he does speak.

Situations like this happen to me all of the time although not always in the same day. I meet people from the past who have changed tremendously while others are nearly identical. The questions arise, “Do people change? Can someone move on from the past? Are some people able to forget who they were?”

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Coming Back Stronger than Before

Cinderella

Disneybounding as Cinderella

I am not even sure how to start this exactly. The wait between these posts (both for you reading and me writing) has been far too long.

Life has been a bit hectic and full of changes lately. Since my last post in June (forever ago, I know), I have been offered a new job which I will be leaving the country for in a few months. After years of dreaming and doubting myself, I am going to be teaching English in China. Better yet, the Disney company will still be my employer.

The joy of taking this new step in life comes hand-in-hand with the fear of change. Am I really moving to a country across the world that I have never been to before? How will I learn Mandarin that quickly? How will I survive without my family and friends? How will I ever be confident enough to teach?

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Judging a Job as Fulfilling or Not

Sorcerer Mickey

I love working for this guy!

A few days ago, someone watched me for a few moments greeting people at my job. “Wow, you sure have a fulfilling job,” he intoned sarcastically. “Telling people to go this way and then that way.”

Surprised and rather annoyed, I looked him right in the eye. “I actually love my job.”

“Sure, for now.” He laughed. Heat rushed to my face as I struggled not to cry. It”s not a big deal, I tried to think. But his words still stung.

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When is Nice Too Nice?

Darth Vadar

My fear is that if I am not nice, I will be something like him.

Yesterday, two friends were (playfully) bickering. Laughing a bit, I attempted to diffuse the situation a bit. “You can kick me under the table if you need to,” I offered.

“You’re so nice and sweet,” one remarked.

“That’s not sweet. That’s messed up! Who let’s themselves be kicked?” The other friend questioned. “What happened to you in your past that you are so submissive?”

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No One Has Rights on Me or You

Daisy and me

This sassy duck does not let anyone who doesn’t respect her into her life. 

So much of my time is spent wondering how I am going to say “No” to someone. How will I let him down carefully? How do I keep her from getting angry at me? How do I get out of a situation without having to be obvious?

People are constantly telling me to give others a chance. We are often told not to “judge a book by its cover” and to “take time to really know a person.”

Those words of advice are very helpful in many situations. Yet, these wise sayings do not mean you need to say “Yes” or let everyone into your life. Sometimes, saying “No” is the safest and healthiest option.

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