Saturday, November 29, 2014

THE FOLLOWING IS A MESSAGE FROM A FORMER STUDENT AND MY ANSWER.


Hey Dad,

It took me a while to write this email. I only get the feeling but not quite sure what is happening.

Last time I called, I told you I was looking for a position in new media operation after I realized that I would not practice journalism in a domestic newspaper anymore. But at that point, I don't quite understand what I can do in this field and decided to talk to more people. It turned out in vein. The situation of new media in China is that people take it so easy and want it so big. I talked and worked with some leaders of new media projects(not very good one but the best I could find at that moment).  The working experience wasn't so good and I really lack the motivation and ability to take the reform. So I left. 

I have many interested things that I want to learn. I have a list for them. So I decided maybe I should try a different field on my list and see what will that do to me. My next try is fashion. Changing career is so hard...my resources are all in journalism so no one can help me out. I wait for a long period and get rejected so many times. I got panic and later...desperate. Then I got a job in a fashion studio and started as a PR and marketing specialist. You can tell how excited I am. The passion faded soon because of the boring work and repeated life. And I met a group of colleagues that I never met before, in a bad way...I got nothing to gain from the work and I could not see a future career, and that's the worst I could expect. But I am so afraid that the pending period is gonna happen again and I don't have more money to get me through this. I was facing the most severe financial crisis at that moment. If you told me this situation years ago, I would've told you it's a piece of cake. "Just follow your heart." I would say. Now, it's such a hard decision. I started to wonder if it was my own problem and became very stressful. I hate myself when I was like that. 

Anyway, I was job-hunting again while I'm still working for the studio. Everyday work is killing me but I am more clear of what I want. I know marketing or being an entrepreneur wasn't my interest at least for now. And there is still a couple of things on my list that I want to try. Foreign media, foreign affairs, UN. After a month, I was offered to work with Le Monde. I wasn't as excited as the moment I get the fashion studio job because I am more familiar and give more thoughts about the job. And I know that job will suit me. 

I am a dreamer. And being a dreamer takes prices. That's the first time I realize how many and how harsh these difficulty might be if you want to make your dream come true. It takes me a while to pull myself together again and I am all back now. I think part of the reason why I break down so much is that all of these happened too fast. It all squeezed in half an year. I hardly had time to breath. 

I believe in optimism and I am trying hard to practice it all the time. But I find it harder and harder to always keep that in mind. What happened to me is all that we've talked about or I've read about before. It's called life. But the feelings are so so different, so real and sometimes cruel when you're really living it. "KEEP YOUR HEADS UP'' or "KEEP OPTIMISTIC" sounds more like a slogan or a bit cliche to me before. But now I realize how heavy these lines are. I am not afraid of or hate life, love it instead as long as I still have dreams that I want to accomplish and optimism as my belief. 

And relationship is still fresh and good. It has been hard for Vincent and I during the last six months. We experienced my depression, my sickness(I was quite ill and in hospital for a couple of times) and financial crisis. Nothing particularly good had happened this year but we deal with it well. I'm very sure he is the kind of guy I am looking for. 

So far so good. It is a good lesson to learn. And it makes me stronger.


MY ANSWER:

Thanks for the detail. I learned again how hard life can be in your generation of China.
Try this.
You are a victim of the accelerated growth that has been the foundation of China since you were born. I/we tend to throw statistics around without due consideration of their consequences. How easy it is to let the facts trip off the tongue: 35 years of growth at between 10-12% a year, never before in human history.

Yes but what does that mean in human terms?
 It means changes not only in infrastructure, dams, roads, airports, planes and urbanization, but the cultural changes from a society that developed from famine levels of starvation not that long before you were born to a nation that now exports food and has become the world's second largest of economy before you reach your 30th birthday.
The only equivalents are in European societies that emerged from World War II with destroyed economies toward a return to the days of mature and prosperous Middle Class societies 30 years later. But that was on a small geographical continent with a tiny population compared to China.
But what does it all mean for Hu Pther you could swim in this universe of rapid change. You were pushed into the pool and have had to swim for your life ever since. 
Your parents split over the strain and they are among the relatively privileged. That only added to your burden of trying to figure out what this life is all about.
You and your colleagues have had to find their way in a universe where not only is change the one constant; accelerated change never leaves you a moment to think and breathe. 
Stimulation is all around you. The media may be the vehicle, but consider just one difference in your life from not that long ago. 
Mobility. 
How many places have you lived and for how long? This was not a part of Chinese culture until relatively recently. Yet the ease of changing jobs and changing your life is all around you.
Don't like what you are doing? Change.
Don't like where you are living? Change.
Don't like your partner? Change.
(2009 was the first year divorces in China outnumbered marriages. The rate has fallen only slightly. But given the national statistics consider the fact that rural divorce is still relatively rare. That means urban divorce rates likely top 60%.)
You can look on all of this as "opportunity" which is what the optimist and the marketer do. 
Or you can be in the middle of it, as you are, and be confounded by the choices, the pressures and the demands; to say nothing of your own expectations.
There are no priests to go to with sage religious advice. Confucius is no help, really. Some of his principles are useful. Many of his principles are hopelessly outdated and damaging.
There are no parents to go to because their worlds were so vastly different that they have a hard enough time coping with their own lives.
More often than not they do not begin to understand what you are talking about.
Yes you are part of the unique generations between the old China of your parents and grandparents that might as well be ancient history because it bears no resemblance whatever to today, and the China that your children will inhabit (and that you will have difficulty accommodating).
The one thing you do not have that you must find time for is TIME. 
Time to breathe and think and contemplate.
My analogy is the journalism my colleagues and I practised in Vietnam during the war. Ours was a war with limits. In the field we were at work 24/7 but without satellites and digital infrastructure we had to return to a base to file or ship film. The TV day ended at 5:00p when the last flight left Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon for Hong Kong and beyond. Only the AP had a wire service that filed 24/7. Evening meant a meal and time to think and contemplate the day and plan the next day. 
Even in the field you found a place of relatively safety to recharge the body and the stomach and energize for the next day.
Today, journalism is a 24/7 enterprise. Anything that happens anywhere we expect to pull out a smart phone and "see" the event, and hear it, and read about it within  seconds of its happening.
The mind doesn't work that way. Our minds are not perpetual machines that can work constantly without regeneration. And regeneration means time.
When the time is taken away from the system and society, we need to make the time for ourselves.
In your case it may mean finding a way to be more patient dealing with the pressures of: "this is not right for me", 
"i don't know what I want to do and it is not getting any easier to chose", 
or "this is a good opportunity". 
The latter is one worth considering.
Part of the pressure you feel is what a person twice or three times your age often feels. 
Fleeting time. 
Time is not fleeting for you. You have a cushion, even it doesn't feel like a cushion. You see friends who are settled, seem content, happy, fixed and prospering.
Closer examination usually reveals others are in their version of turmoil as well and all is not what seems if it seems so good to us. We all have our demons, large and small.
Much of what you are experiencing is normal. 
It is exactly how you are supposed to feel at this stage and it may not get better soon. What does change is your ability to live with insecurity. Accepting insecurity as normal is part of the challenge. Understanding that insecurity usually stems from fear of the unknown can be helpful. 
"I can't do this." Nonsense. Of course you can. But you may not want to and that is legitimate.
"I don't like this." May also be nonsense. Unless you can answer the question: "why don't I like this?" you feel lost.
Norman Lear, the most prolific TV writer/producer/director of his time (he is 92+) has written an autobiography. 
(At one point in the 80s he had 7 of the most popular TV shows in the USA one the air at once.) 
At his 90th birthday he had to escape at one point and walked the beach near his home, alone. 

Lear is a man who loves people and work and activity and parties, and family. Why alone walking the beach at 90?
Lear has lived his life in chapters that he calls: NEXT. He realized that facing his next NEXT it was unlikely that opportunities would fall into his lap. He had to contemplate and make decisions that he had not had to make before. Choices had always been easy for him because there were so many opportunities.
Like you he had to create opportunities.

Find a beach to walk on and keep thinking.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Nationals and Nats Fans: Are We There Yet?

Past midnight, huddled in doorways, with loved ones and strangers, wearing whatever we had to keep us warm, we hoped. Game 2 of the NLDS had begun with cheers. It breezed by us until the ninth inning. We screamed, sure our moment had come. That's when the winds came. The score was suddenly tied at 1. Before it was all over, we had sung take me out to the ball game a second time, jumping around for warmth. And the final blow came on a single pitch from Tanner Roark, a ball that crossed home plate and was sent by a Giant swing high over the right field fence, shattering our fragile visions of victory. Then we went home.

Defeat was written on our hearts. We began to complain, accept, and then we started to rekindle hopes for an improbable recovery. Win in San Fran. Win again in San Fran. And come home to put it away. Talk about impossible dreams.

That was Saturday evening, a Saturday that bled cruelly into Sunday. As Nats players had to make the trip west, we who remained behind experienced the hangover of great expectations dashed in the wee hours of the night. 

On Monday, we still hold on to thoughts of an improbable finish. Now, the hours grow short. It won't be long before we know if there will even be another game. And as we brace for the answer, ghosts loom. Our collective memory includes collapses, stunning turns of fate. We are superstitious. We fear the wrong shirt or hat may dampen our chances. We are afraid that the wrong patterns will repeat, that another closer will give it up again if we get that far.  We are only fans after all. We take losses hard. 

The Washington Nationals are now in our blood. We are a community, calling out play-by-play of Nats games during Little League evenings, reliving glorious moments - walk-offs and now a Jordan Zimmermann no-no -- and second-guessing anything that doesn't go right. We debate Zimmerman's shoulder problems. We wonder about Gio's ups and downs. We cherish the comebacks and walk-offs. Day after day, night after night. Driving home. At work. Everywhere.

Now, we've added questions about the latest miscues. What if Jordan Zimmerman had stayed in? We envision an alternate universe where we won because all the right decisions were made, where we didn't make those mistakes. We second guess because, after all, that is part of being a fan. And sometimes we simply whine like someone played a cheap trick on us.

As we emerge from years of losing, seeking respect from our adversaries and savoring precious moments of joy, like being in the stands with our smiling kids dancing and high-fiving everyone around us, we are far from secure. We want to punish the Cards -- and now the Giants Tim Hudson -- for belittling our TEAM, for under-estimating US. And when things don't go our way, we have painful memories. The dreadful silence at Nationals Park when the final out was recorded Saturday night or the gasping sounds when our Drew gave away hits and tossed away victory; who will forget the sounds or the punch to the gut?

We have joined the baseball world. Cubs fans wait in baseball purgatory still. Red Sox fans emerged but are always falling back. Very few franchises are consistently good, much less perennial contenders.

We now share that pain and the possibility of better to come. Drew Storen blows saves in our dreams. He also shuts them down. Which will it be this time? We watch. We wonder. We want to believe. We don't want to live in fear of Rafael Soriano walking to the mound. Harper takes our breath away one minute and makes us want to bang our heads the next. Espinosa plays his heart out but when will he get that loop out of his swing from the left-side? We see weaknesses, flaws that can and have thwarted our dreams. We are so close to victory, we can taste it. But we are so so far away.

As a city, as a community, we have been here so many times. We've been taken up the hill only to fall back down. DC RISING? Maybe. But the records of the Capitals, Redskins, Wizards, DC United, etc.  show we are not there yet. We probably spend more time whining on the sports shows than enjoying the moment. And what fabulous moments there have been.

That's what struck me the morning after the longest game in post-season history. All I could think about was moving on, getting past this hurdle, and fearing it will be another year at least. But maybe that is the difference between winning and losing. The Giants and the Cards know they are winners whether or not the score shows it. They broadcast it. And, yes, they earned it. But more than that, they play like they deserve it. We are still stuck wanting to BECOME. When it finally happens, it will seem like DESTINY. But it won't be anymore destined than going home early. Speaking for myself, i just want to skip to the good part. Of course, that's not how it works.

In life, in work, in so many things, that is a losing philosophy. If we defined ourselves solely by our victories, what kind of people would we be. To win, we have to embrace what we have and be the best we can. That's what we tell our kids. I have no doubt that every Nats player gives his all. That's the kind of team we have. That's why I am glad we have few boo-birds screaming out against our own. Nats fans are becoming something special. We may not be as expert as Fans in St. Louis, but we aren't down-right stupid like some of our brethren who shall remain nameless. We are tied together by love of a baseball team and even the suffering as it fights for life. We are learning to cheer together, to clap at the right moments, and more. 

Now, as I prepare myself for what could be the last Nationals game of the year, I know that the Nats will fight to the last out. "Never Give Up, Never Surrender" - the Galaxy Quest cry - could easily be the Nats theme this year. I also know that noone can take this season away from us. We are a stronger city. We are more connected. We have more shared hopes and fears. Maybe, if we can be the kind of fans we truly are, it will be easier for the Nats to focus on what matters - not on whether they win or lose, stuff they cannot control - but on being in the moment, being the players they are and not trying to be something else. We know the s season was no fluke. We know they have more than talent. Hopefully, they will realize it as well.

The fact is, as my artist father used to say, the process of creation is painful. That is when things are happening you don't understand. But you can't skip it. You can't fast forward. The Nats and Nats fans are in the process of becoming something special. It may happen today or next year or decades from now. But the only way to speed it up is to be focused on the moment. One way or another, this is an amazing year. Glad we finally got here. I'm ready for anything.