Five Life Lessons I Learned Living in China

China has shown me another side of the world, a side I had no real knowledge of, and at the same time, it’s shown me other sides of myself that I’ve been neglecting. And if nothing else, the challenges we’ve had here have helped me make some self-improvement discoveries that I’ll take with me when we leave.

Here are the five life lessons I learned while living in China:

1. Get Off Your Ass

I know you don’t need to read another article telling you to be more active. You’ve read enough of them. But since moving here I’ve lost 25 pounds I didn’t even know I could lose. My life before consisted of sitting at a desk all day and sitting on the couch all night binge-watching Netflix, which really wasn’t doing much for my health.

In China, I’ve averaged about 9,000 steps a day by walking to work and the grocery store, having a more active job, and actually sticking to a consistent gym routine. It bears even more weight (no pun intended) to look at my average steps per day in 2018–a measly 2,500! I’m lighter and in better shape than I was in high school by simply adopting an active, healthier lifestyle, and it has done wonders not only for my body, but also for my mind. I look and feel better than I have my entire life and all it took was changing my comfortable environment.

2. Celebrate Yourself

I’m a person who doesn’t tend to reflect on the things I’ve accomplished. I barely got excited about big life moments because I was so busy thinking about the things I hadn’t done instead of feeling proud of things I had, which just left me feeling kind of inadequate. But I realized, especially after moving to China and overcoming so many challenges here, that I have accomplished a lot of things I can be proud of; things like paying off my student debt, and buying my first car. When I start celebrating the great things I do, I get even more excited for the next items on life’s checklist.

Of course, these things are totally subjective to you, your dreams, and your situation. But no matter how small or large something may feel to you, take the time to celebrate and appreciate all you’ve accomplished. If you paid off your credit card on time, if you bought a house, if you ate a vegetable, if you got out of bed when you thought you couldn’t, celebrate. Have a nice dinner, have some cake and eat it too, buy that thing you’ve been wanting, go see your family, go see a movie. Whatever brings you joy, do it. You deserve it.

3. Practice Introspection

While in China, I’ve adopted the practice of journaling and it has helped me make sense of some of my thoughts and feelings, mostly when I was upset about particular circumstances or having anxious feelings about life in general. It helped put those things in perspective and the more I journaled, the fewer darker moments there were. I found more ways I could be proactive about the future and keep things in positive light. I understand it’s difficult to make it a habit, as I’m still working on it, but I actually look forward to time when I can get some writing in. There’s never a bad time to learn more about yourself and grow into a better person. So reflect more and take care of your future self.

4. Time Is Your Own

I was a person who used to care a lot about the structure and schedule of my day. Home is where I felt most comfortable and if I wasn’t in the comfort of my home by a certain time in the evening, I felt like I was losing time to the world. I rushed home after work and on lunch breaks, rushed through workouts, stressed out when public transport was taking too long, and checked the time constantly just to make sure I got the most minutes out of my day. But in reality, most of my time spent at home was spent doing nothing of importance.

So why was it such a big deal? When I realized the amount of enjoyment I was actually losing out on while worrying about the final destination, things changed. I didn’t need to waste all that mental energy, I didn’t have to be at home to enjoy my time, and I was able to be more present in situations because I didn’t care about how long they were taking. And I found that when I did finally get home for the day, I spent my time more meaningfully. All time is your own. Don’t put too much weight on a location, but enjoy life wherever you are. Stop and smell the roses.

5. That Stuff You Think You Can’t Live Without, You Probably Can

Even after purging a ton of my belongings before moving out of our little apartment in Hamilton, I still managed to lug the max luggage allowance on our trans-Pacific flight. But when we decided to take a six-week backpacking trip after our contract is up, I knew I couldn’t take it all with me, so I actually started to analyze what I had and why. When you put space constraints on yourself, what’s actually important to you ends up coming to light. Since then, I’ve relinquished almost three quarters of the wardrobe I brought with me to China, begging the question: what the hell was I thinking?

However, maybe I needed to bring all of it with me to see that it truly wasn’t needed anymore. I’ve come to learn a clearer closet equates to a clearer head. That’s not to say you can’t have a larger wardrobe if you want one. Just don’t hang on to that outfit you’ve never worn but think might be good to wear to your third-cousin-twice-removed’s wedding that may never happen. Let someone else in the world enjoy what you no longer do. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Read Rose’s Five Lessons by clicking here.

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