Running down the street on the most freezing Shanghai morning in 40 years without a coat, because I’m out of wonton wrappers and fresh noodles. Sifting through crowded streets on foot and on motorbikes during the Vietnamese new year. Lying on a tiny cot aboard a sleeper train when my boyfriend tells me he wants to marry me. Absorbing the rays and enjoying 70 degree weather in February as my tiny boat, operated by a grandma wearing a giant straw hat, rows us through a river surrounded by jagged karst mountains.
Carrying my pet turtle on the bullet train as I move from Shanghai to a third tier city in Zhejiang province where I’m woken up every morning at 6 a.m. by square dancers and tai chi practitioners. Filling up buckets with water and bleach as my love and I spend weekend after weekend scrapping mold from every piece of furniture in the new apartment we share. Standing in front of a room of 50 people for 2.5 hours at a time teaching English, and lesson planning by night. Spending long lunches over hot pot and eating bowl upon bowl of hummus at the Turkish restaurant on campus.
Lighting incense sticks at temples in Hangzhou and Nanjing, later celebrating my lust for life at one of the temple’s vegan restaurants. Getting lost walking along the west lake on foot because the busses are too full, taking photos of wedding photo shoots in the tea fields. Handing over $200 to a doctor to buy medication for my boyfriend who has contracted several serious food born illnesses from a mango. Praying every day that my relationship will improve and that I can get home soon, because I find it almost impossible to relax with such an overwhelming daily dose of unfamiliarity.
Boarding on a plane, flying for 18 hours, to later stare at the sky and remind myself of how grateful I should be to see so many colors here and wondering why that state of gratitude can’t last just a little bit longer. Setting up camp in upstate New York, wine tasting and hiking with my family and my love. Seeking relief from a psychic who I am convinced will tell me what to do with my life, only to be told that I need to get professional help, so I do. Eating my way around every vegan restaurant in Philly and some from New York too. Saying goodbye at the airport to the person I spent everyday with that year – up until that point.
Experiencing my first “normal” death, the kind where you feel every blow right away, when the person you love but naively hoped would never die finally goes to kitty heaven. Taking courses and eventually starting my own business, all from the comfort, and sometimes discomfort, of my computer. Losing my love to a land far away, picking up the pieces and facing the nothingness and the pain it inspires. Feeling like a nightmarish obstacle course was set off in my land of nothingness when I realize that an orange turd will be my next president – the outside world feels as cruel as a breakup.
Feeling like I’ll never know what I really want to do and buying a course in web development so I can at least understand how to create and manage my own websites. Discovering I can run again with the help of algae oil and taking up my favorite rejuvenating pastime again after 3 years of being barred from it. Deciding I’m sick of knowing a lot of languages, but not being fluent in any of them, and once again sounding out the playful yet nasal syllables of Japanese. Meditating using a 10 minute chakra exercise that starts to unleash my creativity again, but also my sexuality – crap! Figuring out how to give myself a break, but not quite succeeding because I’m always behind in my classes.
Feeling amazed looking back at all the craziness and realizing that when I was in the thick of it I hadn’t even realized it was chaos.
2016, you taught me how to feel, good and bad.