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I gave myself a list of things I wanted to write about today. I was inspired by Glennon Doyle; surprisingly and deeply. But it seems none of those topics are what I am writing about; not quite where my “pen” is leading me.

My “pen” is leading me to write about the conversation I have been having with myself for days: to go home or not to go home? It seems ironic that I decided in June that in my gut I knew that I needed to stay in China. I guess at that point in time, it brought me peace. But, with the forces that be, a new situation has arisen. I am being offered a very interesting opportunity in Europe, and one that does not really excite me here. The realization that China is not opening up any time soon, and that the rest of the world has started travelling is awakening. And the hole of longing for my family, engendered by my dad’s accident, my grandpa’s passing, and my dad moving, is gaping.

In June, I felt staying in China was braver, the bigger challenge, the “right” thing. Now, I realise, what is scary is listening to my instinct, taking an opportunity, resigning, returning to realise relationships have changed, I have changed. It is harder to change, to challenge one’s core beliefs, to grow out of who you are from home. Home is what shaped these things, it is what made you who you are. When in China, I do not have to deal with them as directly. In Beijing, in Hong Kong, in Chengdu, I started afresh, I could be who I wanted – to a certain extent. In London, in France, in Morocco, people love me, yes, but they love a certain version of me. Is the reason I thought I should stay in China because I actually fear going home?

Our life is a winding road. I viewed my career in a linear trajectory. I did not trust that I can return to China, without Swire or a different conglomerate securing my work visa. The truth is, that it is all unknown. I cannot know whether or not China will close itself forever, whether foreigners will require a PU letter for visa, or whether I will miss opportunities of being one of few foreigners on the ground now. What I do know is the now. It is that in 2022, I want to go home, I want to travel, and that those things will be difficult to do from China. That my mandarin is excellent, that I have an understanding of China like only a handful of foreigners do, and that my fate and life has intertwined in and out of China since that first after-school club in the basement of Broomwood Hall Girls School, where I learnt “bo, po, mo, fo”. Noone will take the China out of me, just like they cannot take the French, the British, the Moroccan, or the Latin – sometimes to someone’s dismay.

This last week or so has been a series of conversations, of people advising me to do this, advising me to do that. Perhaps if I had been in Shanghai over the last years, I would have a greater network with more available opportunities. Multiple people have mentioned this to me. However, I do not regret my experience in Chengdu for the world. This experience has shaped me. And while I really do appreciate the advice that has been given to me. Ultimately, nobody knows what is best for me except for me. What I need to do is trust me.

And trust in the universe, stop fearing. Fearing that if I leave China, I will not come back; that leaving shows weakness; that going home might bring me back to where I was four years ago; that I won’t grow as fast; that I will compromise my career; that my friendships will have changed; the list goes on. In the TV show “The Bold Type”, Jacqueline recommends to run towards what you fear most. At this current moment, I fear going home more than staying in China. Staying in China makes sense, it’s a “natural progression”, not some leap of faith.

On a professional level, this year has meant that I do not fear all that much (apart from the terrifying prospect of starting a business of my own, which I will do eventually; and the prospect of changing careers totally to go into policy, which I also will do eventually). However, on a personal level, I do.

These years in China changed me: it is where I had my first relationship, it is where I started dealing more deeply with my poor eating habits, it is where I became confident, it is where I learnt to trust myself. Going home, and keeping this, continuing the learning – in particular rejecting the need to please, body confidence, and showing my cracks – that will be hard. It will, let’s not pretend.

It will be a roller-coaster ride.

Ups and downs:

Joy of seeing family; anxiety around the pressure they unconsciously put on me.

Excitement in rekindling old friendships; sadness in realising some no longer bring me up.

Ease of using my mother tongue; yearning to practice my Chinese.

Expecting that romantic relationships are easier in Europe; realising that not at all.

Eagerness to travel; not having the time.

Delight of catching up with everyone; forgetting to take time for myself.

Expecting to fit back in easily; understanding that I got used to planning only several hours ahead.

However, I am ready for it. I am even excited for this roller-coaster. Though once again, I have no way of knowing where it will take me. Here’s to an enjoyable ride!

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