memory, mental health, travel

Chinese New Year- A Reflection

I didn’t give China a fair shake. THERE. I SAID IT.

All this time I have said with confidence that I didn’t like China and that I would never EVER go back. So, what’s changed? Simply put…I did.

I went to China to work out of a cruise terminal in Shanghai a few years back- that is strike number one. Cruisers, regardless of nationality, are, as a general rule, difficult people.

Now, before you cruisers reading this go for the throat, you may be one of the above average of the cruising folk that don’t have a superiority complex, namely over other nationalities and ethnic groups, and for this I don’t applaud you, since that is what being a nice human is.
Simply, the majority of cruisers suck to be around and “serve”. It’s just the truth.

“But Jen, if all cruisers suck- why did being out of Shanghai matter?”
My own cultural bias.  

I know how to talk my way out of a situation of name-calling in my native language or even most Western-European languages because of my base knowledge in them. I know the lingo, know the traditions, know what social norms are for most of the Western World. I expected when I went there, that since the rules of the ship where the same, that they would be as well.
I was wrong and it wasn’t their fault- I was the outsider.

I am allowed to be uncomfortable being in an environment and society that is beyond foreign to me, but I am not allowed to pass judgement to others for it. That is racism and xenophobia. I am hereby calling myself out for my past judgements and prejudices in this regard.
I have grown since then, and I am allowed to grow, but I also need to acknowledge that it is okay to be wrong and learn from your mistakes.

Next point (which I think is the largest of the contributing factors) was that I became sick-really, REALLY sick. My Gastroenterologist, in laymen’s terms a gut doctor, basically told me that I got a bug that made me allergic to pretty much everything. I don’t lie when I say that watermelon kept me alive for a few weeks there. I don’t envy the calls my parents received and the skin and bone that arrived at the airport that they picked up and nursed back to health.

That negative experience, being so far from home, made me attribute my pain and suffering to a country and people that likely had nothing to do with it. This is often what happens with trauma and traumatic experiences, we associate those feelings and memories to the surrounding events and environments-which for me was China. (I loved Japan too much to call it their fault.)

What is so different now? Why the clarity?

I have been so on the move since then, I have been so guarded and didn’t want to admit my own faults, and I avoided those conversations that I needed to have with myself.

So, I may be a couple years down the road, but it is NEVER too late to grow and progress and address the biases that we have within ourselves.

I will likely be going back to China sometime in the future to allow myself to challenge the prejudices I have unfairly assigned to it. I have incredibly positive memories from China that I clouded myself, that I am now slowly getting back as I unravel the knot I tied in myself regarding that time period.

Happy Chinese/Lunar New Year, may we work towards being the best people we can be through the next Lunar Year. #NewYearNewMe


chī yī qiàn, zhǎng yī zhì

One only learns from one’s mistakes
-Chinese Proverb

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