Saturday, April 12, 2014

Between two selves

Present life often seems more like a child's scribbles than a well-composed narrative.
How long before I'm whole again? When does the feeling of weightlessness lift? When does life cease to feel like a mirage.

This morning I received an email from one of my closest friends (in China) about his new album, including songs we once performed as a duo and in our short-lived band Tarheel. I quickly downloaded it and ran through the tracks. Memories flooded back as if from a past life. Where am I?

Two months ago I wrote this:
I wake up every morning knowing that I'm in Texas, knowing that I'm at my father's home, knowing that ahead of me is a day of activities mostly revolved around getting a job and getting my family into its own quarters. At the same time, I wake up every day as if in a dream, as if I could wake up and still be in Changsha, in my apartment, in my bed, breathing emphysema-inducing pollution, ready to face a new day.
I'm not really here.
Now two months on, not much has really changed. I have new habits (e.g. making coffee daily as opposed to just on the weekends; checking out library books). I have new craft beers. I have new friends (whom I will soon basically leave behind again). I have a new, much less polluted environment.

But I'm still not fully here.

I suppose I would describe it as being two selves. There was the self I knew, the self of my post-university adulthood. That was the China self, the self that had grown confident, capable, comfortable in its own skin. The China self knew its place in the world, or at least thought it did, which is almost one in the same. The China self is the self of my memories.

Then there's the self I'm still trying to get a feel for: the new US self. This is the self that's somewhat uncomfortable, somewhat ill-fitting, and completely unsure. The US self doesn't know its place. The US self has no cache of memories or anecdotes to draw on. There have been both losses and gains, but the US self still doesn't know how to react.

What happened to China? It seems a world away, and it kind of is. It seems a lifetime ago, if it ever happened at all. Perhaps I'm Rip Van Winkle and I've awoken from a decade-long Chinese nap, bewildered by what has changed and what hasn't.

I'm watching cardinals hop around in my backyard. Cardinals are odd to me. They're completely ill-suited to a green environment, yet they persist, they survive, and they even seem to thrive.

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