It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on the past 12 months, think about life in general, and make some promises about the next 12. It’s time for the end of the year recap, and this year, just like the past few years, has been quite an adventure.
This year didn’t have a good start. I was just preparing to leave a miserable job and situation in rural Qinghai. It was a relief to leave that school, but instead of renting our own place for a while (like I expected) we instead went to stay with K’s relatives for a couple of months.
Those were some of the hardest months of my life. The stress of everything eventually led to me having an anxiety attack. Finally after two long months, our little family moved to our own place in Xining, where KL would resume kindergarten and K would continue his work with the milk factory, occasionally staying in the grasslands sometimes for a week at a time.
I needed time to heal. During our half-year stay in Xining I did not get a job outside the home. I couldn’t get a work visa anyway, and a similar soul-destroying job like I’d had for so many years before would have finished me. So I “rested” (though taking care of a three year old can hardly be considered a holiday) and tried to find ways to earn a living that didn’t require me to teach.
One thing that I started was submitting my photos to stock photography websites. I spent many hours in front of my computer typing keywords and titles. Some were accepted. Many more were rejected. I went out with the purpose of capturing desirable stock photos. I learned a lot and it changed the way I took photos.
All that hard work was not wasted. Soon I started getting the odd commission here and there. Then the amount per commission started to increase. Now I have a way to earn some passive income. It is really exciting!
The other wonderful thing we started was our Shema-lep Tibetan Style Blanket business. It was something that we had been toying around with since Jiangsu (Where K made our first blanket) and finally I couldn’t bear to put it off anymore. I started a WeChat group of potentially interested people, showed K (who had a very difficult time believing something as “ordinary” as a Tibetan style blanket could be a desirable product (can you believe it?)), and finally he agreed to seriously start the process.
We’ve hired and trained tailors, and sold more than 50 custom ordered blankets, all with very happy recipients. Now K is really eager to keep it going, and we are going to try despite the fact that he will be moving to Guangdong next month.
Despite having a growing business, we knew that our current situation wasn’t stable. It was a “waste” of my earning potential to not work, and K could no longer stomach our nomadic and rent-paying lifestyle. He encouraged me to move to another place where I could earn money faster. Somewhere away from Qinghai, where it was easier to get a better visa type or at least be closer to Hong Kong for visa runs.
If the idea was for us to move together, I would have been more ok with everything, but since the milk factory had potential to be a stable and enjoyable job, K was reluctant to leave it. I was encouraged to do things the Tibetan way: leave your family and go to where you can earn more money. I hated it and fought against the thought, but in the end I agreed to do it. I couldn’t see any better solution to our pressing financial problems.
Fortunately, because of my network of WWAM friends, I had the opportunity to go to Guangdong and work with B. It was difficult to leave my life in Qinghai to start over yet again in a different place in China. Bitterness and resentment about my decision combined with stifling summer heat made me a fairly useless new recruit. But B and her team were welcoming, helpful and patient. Most of all, it was such a relief to finally be around someone who could really understand my situation.
Slowly I started to realize that it has been in Guangdong that true healing has taken place. Being removed from the intense sources of pressure in my life (my Tibetan family and their expectations, my husband, motherhood stress) was exactly what I had been needing. I came back to my old self, a self that I had not seen for the last few years. With support, understanding, and encouragement from B and our team, I’ve started eating much healthier for me (no wheat!) and I’m very satisfied with the results. I’m losing weight and feeling good.
Another wonderful thing that’s happened here is that I’ve changed how I think and feel about teaching. B said that in time I may remember why I originally liked teaching, and she was absolutely right. Working at her school has been such a life altering experience and I will be forever grateful to her for allowing me to do so.
I’m also really happy that I gave Guangdong a chance. There are so many beautiful things here, and such a rich culture. I feel like it will be a long time before I’m finished with China’s sweaty south. I’m excited that K and KL will be joining me here next month. They too can be charmed by Canton. It is very important for me to have my family reunited as soon as possible. I’m sure that the start of 2018 will actually be a positive one.
And how about New Year’s Resolutions? Hmm, This year I have only one. I want to start Bullet Journaling. (Yes, you can blame my recent obsession with Instagram for that.) I’ve purchased some really exciting and beautiful products, and once the New Year rolls in, I hope to be journaling away to my heart’s content (and sharing my creations with my IG followers!) You can follow me here.
So this year, 2017 probably won’t go down in history as one of my favorites, but it will be remembered as a time where I was asked to do really difficult things and came out of it better than when I went in. I think that’s all we can really aim for.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!