“Because you're always learning, the chief lesson remains: you still know nothing.” ~ Criss Jami
I’ve written previously about all the preparation and research and all I’ve done in the last couple of months to prepare for my upcoming China adventure. My lesson recently has been a gentle reminder upon my imminent departure, that no matter the preparation I make for this trip to a new country, there will be surprises and tests and a myriad of things I do not know. Specifically, what I think is important to know now, I’ll find won’t in fact be important when I arrive and am living there. Equally, what I think I know about where I’m going and the people, isn’t anywhere near the awesomeness of what is before me. Bottom line, I know nothing.
In a word, humbling.
As I’ve shared much good company with friends before I depart, their sage advice and care for me have given way to some realizations. One friend stressed that I will find myself feeling alone moving to a country where I am different and without a common language and not knowing the inner workings of the culture and society. Things I take for granted in my everyday like money exchange, knowing how to do the everyday mundane things, and simply being able to converse with say a neighbor or a merchant. These will be the things that will not be available to me, at least at first, simply because I am new and an outsider. The stress of recognizing that I’m an outsider and experiencing the feelings of aloneness will strengthen me emotionally and spiritually for certain.
My friend equated the feeling of the experience to solitary confinement, because we’re creatures that need communion with others and connectedness (that is deeply true for me), not speaking or reading the language will be isolating. Solitude, chosen or imposed, causes us to rely upon our good internal resources, as my friend expressed to me, the struggle will be real. This vulnerability will certainly press me to either retreat inwardly or to be more open in connecting with and receiving from others and sharing my self, too.
Another friend, who is an expat here in America, shared the wisdom with me that no amount of preparation can truly prepare me for arriving in a country and culture so different from my own. He further shared that Westerner’s, American’s specifically, have an arrogance of believing we know best and we know all, and he reminded me that we don’t. I get this and realize that opening my mind to new ways of being and moving with the rhythm and flow of my new surroundings and home is vital, and, I’m up for it all.
I recognize this is my choice to make this move, to taking this adventure, and to see and be with others… and I’m super excited about it all! This has caused me to reflect on immigrants and refugees and the difficulties that these people have, and many are fleeing difficult situations in their homelands. I’ve been aware of this working with immigrants here in the San Francisco Bay Area, however, my moving and recognizing that I’ll be similarly in their shoes, has put a different spin and feeling to my earlier awareness. It is difficult being an outsider, being new, not knowing anything, and oh what a difference neighborly kindness can make in someone’s life.
I am definitely humbled, and expect to be even more so as I arrive and struggle to find my way in a new place, with new people, a new language, new currency, new everything. I am blessed with smarts, and I am willing to trust that I’ll have the companionship of my coworkers, a secure flat for living, and my work as a solid base for me to venture from and build upon. My enthusiasm remains, as does my optimism and open hearted-ness, though all is now properly tempered with a blanket of humility for the unknown and all that is to come. Life has been gearing me up for this experience, for that I am sure.
China in two days and counting…