One Year, Two Stories

Okay, so this is the most “blog-ish” thing I have written to date. It’s almost as if I’m about to tell you about young Blane’s first piano recital or to reveal the great cupcake recipe I just stumbled across. Still, format is format, and by the end you should get the point and forgive me this foray…

Man, what a year.

I left my life behind, and with it my closest friends and entire family. Oh, how I miss them. It’s really hard. I moved to a foreign country for the first time and it’s difficult adjusting to an entirely different culture, people, system. I enrolled in a challenging educational program and at times wondered if I would make it through. I got depressed and anxious, which although not new to me, were intensified in this unfamiliar context as old self-esteem and self-confidence issues reared their ugly, familiar heads. In January, a ruptured disc in my spine was discovered, and I went through the physical and emotional challenge of neck fusion. A few months later, finally recovered, I took up bicycling, only to crash in a cement culvert, breaking a rib and incurring various other bruises, cuts, and abrasions. I haven’t felt physically “right” since I got here. Whether it was the neck or rib or ongoing sinusitis, it’s been hard dragging these aging bones around. The record is getting impressive (or, more accurately, depressive!)—two knee surgeries, two spine surgeries, broken hand, broken rib, broken spirit. 

I have also faced relatively major battles on the emotional front. I have entered into another’s life, and family, and although generally welcomed I can’t help feeling at times like an outsider, an imposition. My school program is challenging, and my grades are below what they’ve historically been. I feel academically adept in some subjects but pretty much paralyzed in others. The school, to its credit, is a beacon of diversity, but there have also been some less than precious moments owing to differences in cultural/religious/national backgrounds, but also just ridiculous ego and personality clashes. It is not an easy setting in which to be American—I have often felt slightly attacked or vilified by classmates and even faculty and visiting lecturers. At times, though seemingly popular among my cohort and well regarded by the staff and faculty, I have felt an outcast, a loner, though I’ll admit that at times this is my own perception or pattern-of-thought choice.

But I have longed for home so deeply, and spent so many hours worrying what the future holds. I have felt trapped, some sort of noose tightening. The stress has occasionally gotten the better of me and I have acted in self-destructive or self-defeating ways. Now, there is a sadness as I finish my studies and ponder what comes next. I’m worried I’ve become a rolling stone, one not seen as reliable, one who just can’t be satisfied so keeps on rolling. My job prospects here seem diminished, and my lack of money, possible upcoming underemployment, and concomitant dearth of “tithing” to the family cause me to feel somewhat emasculated. It’s been a really, really tough year.Man, what a year!

Once again I showed that I have the guts to break out of a comfort zone. And how! I moved literally half way around the world to take a chance on love. I had to say hard goodbyes to dear friends and family but have found some ways to keep in touch, which gets easier and easier as technology and communications improve. I also worked on trying to ‘live in the moment,’ and not dwell so much on what the past meant or what the future may hold (this is a tough one, but I’m trying!). A fundamental fact is that when living 10,000 miles from home, you can think about the place as much as you want, but you just plain will not be there today, so what’s the point in marinating yourself to death? There’s also more than a grain of truth in the ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ bit…I’ve seen it now from both sides…away from my love in Singapore and away from my kinfolk in Minneapolis. To my peeps back home, mad shout out! I love you guys and miss you big!

On the school front, I guess I showed resolve by enrolling in what is regarded by some as a tough, relatively elite school. So, sure, I pulled a couple of uncharacteristic B’s, but they were in subjects I disliked, that I didn’t feel applied to my field, and in which I’m just not that interested or talented. And that’s all right, we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I also made some real impressions in a couple of classes, and scored some really good grades on the whole. All in all, I did well. And while there’s no Dean’s list for me, lo and behold I was voted by my classmates to be the Valedictory speaker! I guess even an American can show class enough to muster up some good cred. Sure, it may have been heavily dependent on public speaking ability, but it’s not some sham—obviously I’m liked—you don’t hand someone that honor based solely on eloquence.

And all the new friends, from so many walks of life! From Bhutan to Swaziland, the Netherlands to Taiwan, each with their own spin but with an obvious interest in pursuing a “big” view of the world. I know, practically speaking, that when the program ends we’ll separate and scurry back to various corners of the globe, but I’ve been through that before and know that friendship carries on even when you don’t chat with or see someone much. And nobody can ever take away those memories—those are yours, guy. And then there is the ever patient, generous and kind Lin. The support she gives astounds me. And her family always does their best to make me feel welcome at huge family events where not just Chinese food but Mandarin language would typically be staples on the menu. Her Mom and I don’t talk much, and it worries me sometimes, but we both try to show some care toward one another in small ways—I look for any opportunity to fix a toilet and she does my laundry regularly.

On another front, I’ve continued to play my guitar and have started getting back into home recording, and it’s connected me in neat ways with myself and my evolving life. I also started this blog, and did some diverse writing (primarily diverse in genre, but I’m sure, truth be told, in quality too). And, after being nominated twice to class committee, and in my second term becoming class treasurer, I’ve found I have a respectable ability for organizing events. And there’s a side benefit—once you invest yourself to a certain point, and represent your class as you do, you have to go! This helps me fight my natural tendency to stay “inside myself” and avoid some social situations. In the final analysis, I have learned a ton about myself and about the world on this journey…through experience, reflection, and conscious work on self (including tightening up many of my philosophical and religious perspectives). And while my back hurts as I write this, it’s time to give myself a damn pat on the back once in a damn while. Physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, I have proven this year that I am one tough, resilient, and (at least at times) courageous bastard. Shit, it’s been a great year.

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