Rode home with Mary in the shuttle tonight and realized how much has changed in the last month or so. Because s- is such a big school there are people, old friends, that I don’t see around for a really long time, and I had these conversations with them and now I’m having new ones and they’re all different. But she was asking me if I’m going for the consulting career trek and I said yes, and she asked me if I was still interested in consulting because a month ago I’d mentioned a vague interest and we’d talked about it, and I said now yes but only development consulting, just like I’m interested in finance but only impact investing, and it’s only been a month since we talked but I have all these circles , overlapping circles, drawn around my areas of interest: corporate social responsibility, impact investing, public-private partnerships, development consulting. And I’m interested in water and financing infrastructure esp water infrastructure in developing countries, whether it’s by any one of these four paths and I have time to figure out which path I want to start on first; it’s funny how I finally have a real end to aim for after all my time at sjc, and surprising to me how much I love it.
This is the best place I could be and I’m so comfortable in my skin, even networking has become normal and I’ve learnt how to approach it in the best way possible, seeing people professionally and learning more about what they do, because everyone has such cool jobs – and I never thought that was something I would be able to say, when I was at sjc I looked at every possible career path that was in my direct line of sight and everything looked terribly academic and out of touch with the world. Talking to people everyday about what they do and what they love to do, talking to my classmates who all have different career paths and different styles of communication/learning and learning from every single one of them, learning how to think better and talk better and be more efficient and more creative and smarter and wiser. And then just general banter with everyone I meet, no embarrassment or hesitation, if I am in the same space as you I recognize you and I have every right to talk. So I feel comfortable with my place in the world and I talk to maybe five strangers or more every day. What a lovely feeling to be so free and open to the world, I know I never used to be this way.
And maybe last of all just recently learning that one of my strengths is that I am easy to get along with. Which is probably not something that everyone I knew back in Singapore would say, but it’s true now... especially apparent today in the group meeting when I was the only one communicating with everyone in the group, since they rub each other the wrong way... and then this evening randomly picking up Alex to go to dinner, and running into Mark in the Korean place, and having such casual, fun conversations... and then at night over wechat talking to other Chinese Alex and he said that, that one of my strengths is that I am comfortable to talk to (as a foreigner to a Chinese person). So this is true now in class and in life. Generally turned moderate and easygoing. I guess this might be a startling change but it’s my skin now.....
this is an awful analogy but I'm doing it anyway. I think the older you grow, the more you know how much pain you can take. like... popping pimples when you're young (I rarely have acne now so don't be too grossed out). it's a tiny, tiny amount of pain but it's still pain that you're inflicting on yourself, and when you first pop a pimple you don't know how much pain there is actually going to be, how much you need to escalate this pressure, what the long-term consequences will be, etc etc... so most of the fear is really about uncertainty. and the older you are, and the more experience you have, the more you know what you're capable of handling, physically and mentally, and then you're able to make the right decisions. and most importantly you're able to do so without fear.
writing an inordinate amount nowadays. too much life going on in my soul that I want to get down on the page. it's been seven and a half hours and absolutely nothing has happened between when I last wrote and now. I cooked porridge (rice porridge) and dumped frozen prawns in it, ate some of the stir-fried potatoes I made yesterday, stole a bite of my housemate's mapo tofu... and stole my other housemate's tea. had a long conversation with k about how much more I should be learning in trade class if the professor were better. did laundry. woke at ten today and nothing to say really.. just full and well-fed and brimming with life.
Sometimes Gladness – by Bruce Dawe
Sometimes gladness crooks me like an arm
Adoro te or some more crazy hymn
scrambling like a monkey up a rope
to bang for hours in my soul’s swung bell
that I was born and blessed with the broad thumb
of sheer stupidity and doused unknowing
in such certainty I only need
to run my tongue across my lips to taste
the salt of that immersion
Down the aisle
come all my years, none altogether miserable, none
without the saving grace of some mistake that bent me
in the sly human shape I recognise
- day-labourer slouching in at the ninth hour
to pick up a quick penny Oh ordinary
holiness of people shining out
against the blurred reredos of their dreams!
I never knew a friend who did not leave me
the richer for the knowing, pour them on
- I wait for the friends I’ve yet to meet who crowd
like seasons, apt, amenable, beyond
the familiar ambiguity of the hill.
Along each vein like air-bubbles children run
and when the heart bursts suddenly or descends
in swooning spiral to the lonesome ground
and the grasses with their dry blank commentary
are all the cushion one can choose
who knows but what some last
galvanic impulse will upraise the arm
or squeeze the throat to whisper while it can:
‘There is nothing in life as beautiful as life…’?
just for posterity:
I'm sitting at a library desk at s--- in dc and I'm so happy right now. it's strange, there've been so many changes and turns in my life and so much jumping from philosophy and liberal arts to china and politics and now I'm finally at a place where I know I can put in work and have it translate to something real. liberal arts was not like that. it takes a mind much more creative than mine to see how it can be effective in the world in the kind of all-encompassing way that I want things to be. and in my freshman and sophomore year I poured everything into these and realized how little change happened outside of myself... and during china I was so happy but in a different way, where I realized that these were the kinds of people I could be around all my life in order to have a satisfying, normal, fitted life. fitted in the sense that I know my place in this society and I know my place among people and I know how to act and live so that I am happy in this place. and now I'm back in America and this place is so different from the America I encountered during my college days. people are incredibly smart and willing to work hard towards idealistic goals, but they do so in such practical ways, and these 18 months more I have at this place I can learn skills and learn knowledge that will be practical and useful. it's strange though that I feel like I can bring my past with me, because my past was so formative of who I am, but the last year and more I've been moving away from st john's.. but because I now have the space to learn and the path to doing so, I can concentrate my energies on that and in my other time I can tap into the other resources I have through my college education. it's funny how things work out, and how much more I am growing into myself along the way... and how comfortable I feel with where I am in life, for once, which is I guess something I haven't felt in a long time.
learning that some things are more important than others and that there are real things to regret -
today in the shower thinking that back then i had a real choice whether or not i wanted to be with him. i talked to shu and i talked to bonni and also annie and emma, and i think it was emma who said that i should give it a try and that even if someone is young i can help them grow. youth wasn't the problem but i was worried about goodness. but then somewhere i made the decision to do it or to let myself be open, i don't remember which.
if i hadn't done this i wouldn't have known that i should have regretted. but now that i have done this i know that i would have regretted if i had known. this semester days have been longer and all moments are extended moments so full of life and meaning.
yesterday we had a quarrel. it had been building up since the day before, at night, when we went to eat crayfish with yxj, and there were things i was angry about that i didn't mention because yxj was there.
1) he didn't help with conversation before dinner during the gossiping that i was unable to change the topic away from
2) he didn't help me enter the conversation during dinner (the problem with Chinese again)
3) he said something about the distinction between zui and pao and brought up his past crush a as the example of zui
4) he's been planning for our trip based on other people and not me
5) he half the time ignores my texts and sometimes even in situations when i am showing concern for him
so we are sitting in the fifth floor and yxj is opposite us and he just refused to come back to his room with me so we can touch (and in my mind, talk). so this is what i text him:
"I'm upset at you, and i want to sort it out, but i don't want to do it in front of yxj"
"I'm not sure what I'm upset about but i want to quarrel"
and then i show him these texts and he's looks at me and he's like, you want to quarrel? and i said yes but not here. so we go out to the balcony and sit there and i talk at him in English. and i reel off point by point and he gives me explanations but also says sorry. i hear him apologize and it becomes obvious what his thoughts were behind these actions. nothing is as bad as it sounds in that list by list, but there are also things for him to change, and he realizes that.. not big things but small things for him to notice, to pay more attention. i lay out the problems (which i have not let build up to become big problems) and he apologizes and i know he'll notice the next time.
his thoughts go into different places from what i was thinking he was thinking. it is so good to know another person well, not in a best friend way, but in an intimate way where in some sense i have the right to hear his thoughts and to be heard, to have a double perception of events we pass through, things we see. some things we encountered yesterday affected him more than they affected me.. i thought he was bored but he was just thinking.
and so many more different things that talking to him brings out. he is a wonderful person.
finally i tell him about my perception of exit plans and he tries to slip past it by standing up and attempting to go inside, i pull him back down and talk him through it, this is when you will be responsible for me until, this is what my mother says, this is how i will feel (upset) but soon i'll be without a phone until two months later and everything will be ok. so finally we have talked about it, and he knows his responsibilities, and he is a good person
and i told him the following while smiling very much: this is why i like you: you're an idealist turned pragmatic. because you were an idealist you can understand my thoughts, because you're a realist we share the same aims. it's very rare to find someone in exactly the same place.
Esther Perel: The secret to desire in a long-term relationship --- the loveliest modern exposition I've ever heard about the differences between love and desire, and the elements of both
to put it gently: sad about leaving. attached and happy. still occasionally having to be careful with my feelings but more often than not I can let go of restraints and like him. my heart can be simple about this because we are both complex enough, and good enough - liking is simple, we don't have to play games, everything else we have to deal with and work with is enough complexity.
I need to learn how to 还愿.
so yesterday he ate 烤鸭 and dripped sauce on his pants, and I teased him about it last night. this afternoon I noticed that he was wearing the same pair of pants and I took his bottle and attempted to pour some of it on his pants to wash it clean, and he evaded, I cornered him, and asked him if he believed that I would splash the whole bottle at him; he said no, I threw it, and in ducking to avoid it (his narration, in recounting this incident in story-form to me: “然后我想：哇操，她真的丢了”） he hit his head on a wall. ................ and then he had a bump on his forehead and we were both incredulous that something can happen from five minutes of fooling around... now he has a bump on his head and the English exam that he's been prepping for on sunday morning. .......................
and so we didn't go out for dinner with the rest and I glued his spectacles back together (they broke) and he rested in his bed (his entire left side was slightly numb) and we waited till his roommate returned, and then we walked out for dinner. and we ate 燃面 and I finally asked him to tell me the story of his ex-girlfriend of 6 years and he did, and we talked for two hours sitting at that plastic foldable table in the dark outside, eating pineapple and cold meat in vinegar and noodles, and we spoke in Chinese all of today and on the way there, and we had this conversation in English, and at first I pepper him with a million questions and pull out piece by piece of information and then it seemed like a dam broke and he's telling me stories. stories and also telling me through his stories why he broke up, what he wants to do with his life, his worldview, the way he treats people.. things i already kind of know through watching him and being with him but this, more stories, is more experiences of him not only now but in his past. the kind of person he fully is and the choices he has made. this is where we're at in our trust of each other: i asked when the last time his ex-girlfriend fully understood him was, he said: she always fully understands me (and, of course, he meant even through the breakup). so I was silent for a while and then I asked him.. so how can you be dating me after just breaking up with your ex-girlfriend? which is really just us asking why we're together.
and we talked about his parents and what we want in life and idealism vs practicality and my high school days and the whole education-speech incident, which i haven't talked about in years, and about the people i thought i was in love with during my college days, and our very similar personality changes through the years and the standards we each still have, even if we have such different ways of expressing it now.
he said that (he likes me because) i am curious. he also said that a person who is interesting is like the stars in the sky they shine out at you.
I told him, I never expected so much. he said, from our relationship? i said "yes but also more" but i didn't elaborate but maybe what i mean is what i didn't say in the last post: i went to this temple where people pray for marriage/love and at that time it was the beginning of the relationship and i didn't have much faith, and the only sentence i prayed was that he would be good enough. .. good enough so that he will treat me rightly, but also good enough so that my heart can shake itself loose of all those ideals it once held and for once embrace something real.
right now there are two main questions that don't go away. the first one I never expected: are he and I really 配, are we both surprisingly fitted for each other? or is it just that we are two people who have amazing capacities to adapt to each other, to adapt to people in general, in Chinese they say 友好 but also just an openness to sharing and a carefulness in using harsh words. the lack of harsh words to be used, in general. more harsh words on my side from misunderstandings (this only happened once in these two months) but I don't say them to him, I wander around to a few of my friends who might understand the situation, they at least understand me and a few of them have some understanding of him; one of them says you're too good for him, another says in America of course that's also 不好的行为, the last who knows him best of all says he would not do these things if he knew that they were hurting you (a week-long suppressed irritation, a two-day 心痛 - so nothing at all) and she said she would go talk to him because my goal is to 开心地过这两个月. but what she didn't understand and what I always knew was that I needed to not have the actions stopped, but to have the trust restored - and so that night we went for dinner outside and I'd been distant the last two days from heart-pain and we ordered 香锅, and sat, and I looked at him till he looked back at me also slightly sideways and then I really smiled at him for the first time in two days and said.............. said everything directly without that layer of hurt it caused. and then he said so much, and there was also so much surprise expressed, and he said of course this of course that and in such a way that I can finally feel what is real and what is not.
this could have so easily devolved into a passive-aggressive fight but we are both good enough that we can be good to one another.
the other question I was avoiding (we don't talk about our future) almost came up several times in conversation tonight, in the fifth floor as usual, sprawled all over his shoulder while we looked up pictures of places we are going on our graduation trip, and we'd gotten to talking about the Chinese students I would meet and live with next year and whether I would have friends. he said: i can guarantee that you're the kind of person that no one will hate! I said: those are low standards! and then he said, blah blah blah, people will like you, and even if they don't it doesn't matter unless you've done something wrong to them. and then you do the best you can to repair it and to be responsible now and in the future. and then I asked him who he would be friends with next year, with all his friends leaving.. and he asked me if I trusted in his ability to make friends. I said yes of course. he said so don't worry about it, just live in the present and treasure the people around you and what you have......... and he kept looking at me. and all these times in so many ways tonight we touched on what our relationship is to us. it's such a good thing. I am so happy. but it is a happiness that needs to be held to be there.. a very daily, present sensation, not something objective and big that I can trust in for the future because whenever I think of, plan, etc, the AT (which amy and I are hiking), whenever I talk about school in dc next year, there are fingers pinching the fleshy edges of my heart saying see, he won't be there.
another birthday tomorrow.
right now there is so much wealth in my life. everything is flourishing and even the things that were not ideal in my preconceived notions are changing me, being changed by me, so that I take what I can from them and it is more than I expect in this moment. more than I ever expected has happened this semester.. the entirely new group of friends and with them, a far greater understanding of who I am and the kinds of activities that ultimately make me happy, travelling to so many cities in the last month and having travel be a normal but wonderful part of life, the group of friends from last semester whom I am still very much with (and dating one of them, now), and my two favorite international students who are both incredibly smart and funny and whom I can be as much myself as I want to in English. the hopping between languages is occasionally a problem but much less, so much less, since i made the friends who speak to different parts of me and i give all of them all the attention i can give. roommate relations are perfect. summer plans..... this is a great worry but also full of too-much rather than too-little; i think that apple will offer me an internship, but i also have plans for the Appalachian trail with one of my best friends from college and i need to figure this out after collecting final information.
tomorrow the plan is to have lunch with one group and then climb a mountain at night with another. yb is coming to both which makes me happy.