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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005