Since I left high school, most of my friends have always been older than me. I value the opinion of people who’ve been through it before, and to be honest, my priorities are normally completely different from most of my peers.
But that doesn’t mean my anxieties aren’t the same.
“What is my life going to be like after college ends?”
Most of my older friends have it roughly “figured out” or they’ve started to at least TRY, but I’m still in my early 20’s so I’m 100% sure that I have 0% of things figured out.
But it’s not like I haven’t been trying.
It feels like I’ve been sprinting since the moment my feet touched the ground in China. While most English teachers enjoy the lazy afternoon break that kindergarten provides (normally 3-2 hours), during lunch I’m furiously photoshopping or writing to keep up with my blog and other freelance marketing jobs. On Monday’s and Wednesdays, after school ends at 4, I hike up to Sanlitun to teach Business English to eager Chinese professionals and then I make my way down to Yonganli to lift with my CrossFit family. I’m literally traveling back and forth from opposite sides of Beijing all the time, but for what?
I don’t want to be a teacher. I don’t want to design, forever. But, I do want to stay in China.
So here’s the crux: Do I make a career change? And how?
For most of October, I’ve been trying to figure it out. I scattered my probes along the outer corners of my various networks and made sure everyone knew that I was looking for other opportunities in Beijing. People don’t know you want something unless you ask for it.
Surprisingly, it worked.
Everyone immediately scattered and connected me to anyone and everyone they could find. I followed up on lead after lead and I was actually qualified to do a few of the positions, but here’s the problem: I’m 22.
The new China Visa requirements stipulate that, to be eligible for a Z work Visa, the employee must be 24 and prove that he or she has 2 years of experience in the proper field in order to be deemed “qualified” for the position.
Duck. Ducking mother ducker. This is such a ducking shit rule. (My mom reads my blog).
So ONCE AGAIN, my age is an issue. Whether I’m struggling to “fit in” with my peers or trying to get my foot through the door in the corporate world, it feels like I’m trapped in this perpetual limbo. I am the youngest in my immediate friend group and my life is consequently the biggest mess. Add the fact that I’m going through this transition in a country I’ve never lived in before, that speaks a language I don’t understand, within a culture that baffles the rest of the world… then you have the makings of a full blown anxiety attack.
It’s hard to find someone to confide in and compare notes with because, on average, there’s an 3-4 year age gap. Sometimes, I don’t need someone to “fix my problems,” but instead, I want to share 6-10 cocktails with someone and just laugh about all the stupid shit that we’re dealing with.
When I voiced my frustration-in lewd and obscene language unfit for publication-to my best friend in LA who’s in her early 30’s, she told me: “It was never about the teaching. It was about the experience.”
She was right. I didn’t come to “start my career,” I came to wander, explore, and figure out what I actually want to do. I am 22 and it’s time that I embrace it and stop measuring my success against someone who is 30 and has their shit together.
After my “go-immediately-to-law-school” plan didn’t work out, I’ve been floating in this perpetually limbo of hell where I feel like I’m constantly not doing enough, but at the same time, I can’t possibly take on more. Many of my fellow Boston College grads have already got their foot through the door at various Fortune 500 hundred companies back in the States and I’m here in China hitting wall after wall. But that’s not MY plan for MY life.
While I waited patiently for my big move to China, I developed the best plan I could have possibly created with all the love and support of my mentors, friends, and family around the country.
Because I’ll never get to pick up and wander the corners of the world like this again. After the Boston Marathon Bombings, it became painstakingly obvious to me that I may or may not have my legs tomorrow. I may not have my arms. I may not have consciousness. I may not have my life.
So why should I spend these precious moments in a cold, depressing office crunching numbers?
So now I have to have faith in the plan. I came here to meet people, write, explore opportunities, and to wander; and NOT to start climbing the proverbial corporate ladder. There’s plenty of time to sell out in the future.
AS OF NOW, it looks like I’m staying in China another year to study English at an International Business school near my new apartment. It’s the only way I can stay AND not teach full time. China till 2015… at least. And if I so perish during my time here, know that I did everything I could have ever dreamed of. It was enough, I am enough, and I am at peace.
Please enjoy this demonstration of maturity. Maybe I’m not doing too bad for myself…
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About Vanessa Elizabeth
Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.
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