Sunday, April 22, 2007

Essay: Why Am I Leaving Again?

It's been a month and a half since I lost my job at Diesel, and I've decided to return to China.

When I came back to the States, I didn't really know what I would do, but I figured I most likely wouldn't come up with any ideas, and just go back to Beijing. But I decided I wanted to try sticking it out for a while and seeing what possibilities I could explore while supporting myself in the States. When my friend Sarah recommended I come work at Diesel, I thought it would be a good way for me to get out of the house and meet some fellow Americans, and get an idea of what kind of jobs would be worth pursuing around here. Well, actually, I don't think I even really wanted to think that far in advance. I just wanted to take a bit of a break from thinking and just make coffee and sandwiches for a while. Of course that was cut short, so I've been forced to reconsider my future at a bit of an accelerated rate.

What I've decided is, I'm ready to go back. I know I wanted to prove to myself that I could make a living for myself in the States, that I'm not a hopeless expat who's just running away from home. But I also wanted to experience living in the States, not being special, and being poor, so that I could appreciate China better when I went back. Being unemployed and living in this apartment with two strangers has certainly given me that. And when I look at what other people my age who stayed in the States are doing, for the most part they're either in some tedious office assistant or research assistant job, and are mostly looking at going back to school already. Of course I love all of my friends here, but I don't envy any of them their jobs. Except for maybe Masha, who lives in magical Google-Land. And there is no way I am ready to go back to school.

Then there are my few friends with China backgrounds who are working in the States. They live in D.C. I wouldn't mind living in D.C., and I've certainly applied to enough jobs with various government agencies.

My job search strategy has essentially consisted of two tactics: I look through Craigslist for any job in the Boston area that catches my fancy, or I search through a number of forums and locations on the keywords Chinese, Mandarin, or China. Lately I've been thinking, though, I don't actually particularly want to get a job in the States that uses my Chinese, because using my Chinese just makes me frustrated at how bad it's become, and makes me wish I were back in China. But other than a China job, I can't think of any one thing that I really particularly want to do here.

Last month, my family was generous enough to buy me a trip to this aptitude testing center. The results basically said that I would be very good at and enjoy foreign language, journalism, and consulting. They said some other things too, but if I just look at these suggestions, they basically tell me to go back to China and pursue writing opportunities and take another look at market consulting firms. I had already been looking into these fields in my last job search in Beijing, so I think I was on the right track.

Of course, I still completely reject a careerist view of life, and by no means am I talking about committing myself to one of these two fields. I'm interested in taking any interesting opportunities that come to me, so I'm going to go back to Beijing, where interesting opportunities come to me.

The immediate problem is next three months' rent, and how to save up for a plane ticket, my cellphone cancellation fee, a visa, and still have enough for cushioning for a month or so of settling down in Beijing. I'm signed up with one temp agency who hasn't offered me work in the past week, and I'm waiting to hear from another agency that provides temp services to Harvard. I still have a wad of Chinese cash sitting in a safe deposit box that I can change in an emergency, but hopefully I can at least keep myself afloat so that I can hold on to that money for when I get back.

It's nice to have a goal. And I'm trying to remind myself to enjoy the air and the grass here in the meantime.