Life Lessons in China

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It’s hard to believe that Joe and I are approaching the halfway point of our planned time in China. The last eight months have been the fastest of my life and although I’ve had the occasional moment where I’ve questioned our wisdom at moving out here, it’s been a completely amazing time. It was always my hope that taking some time out of ‘real life’ in the UK would help me figure out what the heck I was going to do with my future, particularly as I’ll be moving back as I step into my thirties! Whilst there’s not been any grand epiphany (and I solemnly promise to never turn into one of those people who bangs on about ‘finding myself’ and suchlike) pressing the pause button on UK life has taught me a few small lessons

  1. I don’t need the material possessions I thought I did to be happy

It’s no secret that I was completely addicted to internet shopping throughout my time in London. Lunchbreaks (and the occasional hours of procrastination!) were spent obsessively scrolling through the webpages of ASOS and Topshop and at every workplace I had, I was on first name terms with the post room who processed the weekly deliveries that arrived for me.

Partly down to complete boredom and also because I bloody loved wearing a new outfit (even if it looked almost 100% identical to one I already had) the amount of money I frittered away on clothes I subsequently barely looked at was, in hindsight, embarrassing. When packing to move to China I spent a ridiculous amount of time fretting over how little I could pack and one of the first things I did when we decided to make the move was check that Topshop ships to China (they do!). However, since moving out here I have not had one moment where I’ve wished I had more clothes. In fact being restricted to wearing the same few things on loops makes life a whole lot easier, not least because I have a lot less stuff to keep tidy! In the last eight months I’ve bought the grand total of 2 tops and 2 pairs of shorts, largely because I arrived with a whole lot of woolly jumpers and jeans and almost no summer wear which was a little impractical in 35 degree heat. Admittedly even if I wanted to have a Topshop binge I can’t as our mail doesn’t actually appear to arrive but as it turns out I am way happier spending my hard-earned and very limited cash on travelling, eating my bodyweight in Sichuan food, drinking terrible Chinese beer and generally making the most of living somewhere new.

2. I definitely do NOT want to be an actual teacher

When we moved out here it was very much the plan that on returning to the UK I would go back to university and do my PGDE to become a biology teacher in Scotland. I was so sure of this plan I even used up a week of my precious annual leave to go back to my old secondary school last October to get some essential work experience by observing a week’s worth of biology and science classes – an eye opening experience about the behaviour of teenagers to say the least! Even this only further fuelled my certainty about teaching…until I arrived in Chengdu and started pretending to be a teacher.

Having a teacher as a Mum means I am no stranger to how much of a hard profession it is but honestly, nothing has been more of a wake up call as to how little I enjoy being surrounded by young people all day than actually teaching kids. Hats off to you real teachers, I seriously do not have a clue how you do it. I can barely control 6 kids, let alone the 30+ you guys have to deal with in each class – you all deserve a medal. Whilst I am really enjoying my new job teaching older students at a university, I no longer want a future of lesson planning, endless evenings working and dealing with parents.   Which leads me on to the next small epiphany I have had….

3. I really want to go back to university

 Way back when I was a teenager with little concept of the real world and responsibilities such as paying my own rent and doing the weekly shop I had big dreams about doing my Zoology degree and going on to become some sort of primatologist, academic hot-shot. Whilst my number one regret in life is not applying to do Medicine, which would have been a far more sensible life choice, my huge regret following university is that I was so quick to ditch my academic pursuits and fall into a career path that I never really wanted. Following six years of various jobs that I largely hated but had to do to pay the bills, being out here so free of feeling miserable about work I know that I absolutely cannot go back to the same routine when we move back next year.

Since deciding that teaching was not for me I’ve been doing some pretty extensive research into Masters degrees and their various career options and have found an amazing course that basically ticks all the boxes. I don’t want to say too much (mainly as it then makes it way easier to lie about if I don’t get accepted) but it would allow me to get back into the scientific field which is ultimately what I am passionate about and, perhaps best of all, it’s in Scotland!! Having absconded from the motherland so many years a go I have been itching to go back for a very long time.

Obviously there are a lot of things to think about, namely ensuring that my very understanding boyfriend can also do something that makes him happy wherever we end up living, and of course the slightly frightening financial implications but we’re working on plans for both!

  1. FaceTime is the best invention ever

 Although my internet may not always agree and is partial to abruptly ending cross-continental conversations, being able to catch up with my family via the magical medium of video calling is the best thing ever. It makes it way easier to forget that I’m missing almost the whole first year of my nephew’s life when I can see him growing up week by week on FaceTime. I also like to think that him seeing my grinning mug beaming down on him from an iPad every week lessens the chances of me scaring the beejesus out of him when I visit next February and he suddenly has to deal with someone with his Mum’s face appearing at an airport.

  1. Living with a boy is great

Yup, I’m going there with the smug girlfriend statement. After 26 years of pre-Joe relationship disasters I think it’s allowed. Having quietly wondered if it was a bit mental to move to China, where we knew almost no one, to move in together on an entirely new continent without having ever really lived together in London, it turns out it’s a total breeze living with Joe. Following some initial slightly terse ‘conversations’ about whose turn it might be to empty the toilet bin or go on cat litter tray duty we have settled into my dream living scenario – no fighting about cleaning, sleeping in until lunch at least once a week and also spending just the right amount of post-work time watching Netflix in our pyjamas. Brilliant.

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