The word for 2014 is balance. I struggled to find it. Last year, I didn’t write my year-in-review until nearing the end of January. To start off 2015 right, I am writing it with 4 more days to spare!
January: I ended the year with a trip to the East Coast to reunite with my friends. It was wonderful to catch up with so many people on one trip. The struggle of the expat life is that I have to carefully divide the very few vacation days to visit family, friends, and then do some traveling on my own. Tough to balance. Fortunately, I have great friends whom I can see once a year or two, or three, yet still feel as though no time has passed. I began the year giving a lot of gratitude. I ambitiously wanted to document daily gratitudes for the entire 2014. While that endeavor didn’t last, I did live a very grateful life.
February: Most of the month was spent in Ethiopia, visiting a grad school friend and discovering the country. The trip made a great deal of impression on me, and stirred up my love for the African continent in a way I haven’t felt since leaving Cameroon in 2010. Immediately upon returning to Shanghai, I had a business trip to Hong Kong. Life as a young professional was picking up, and I was struggling to balance life and extracurricular activities. I decided to let go of my tutoring duties in order to devote to my full time job and still maintain sanity.
March: Spring has sprung, and I took a few lovely weekend trips. One to Nanxiang, a water town just outside of Shanghai, and one to Wuhan. In writing this review, I realized I didn’t do a post on these trips. Perhaps I will play catch-up in 2015. This month, I struggled to find balance with intellectual pursuit. I was in need of something more than my day job. I craved intellectual stimulation, so I went to many talks, and started book clubs with friends. Still finding the right balance between all the elements in a young professional life.
April: I was playing catch up. Writing about my February trips in April. Spending a great deal of time meeting friends for brunch, for coffee, for dinner. Social life was becoming every so active. I took my intellectual pursuit to a next level and engaged in a +Acumen course on Human-Centered Design. I met wonderful people, and my mind was occupied. My entire life was occupied, and I began to earn the reputation of needing a two-week in advance appointment for a meeting.
May: Still playing catch-up with life, but feeling fulfilled. It was a beautiful month in Shanghai, and I spent a lot of time photographing intriguing aspects of the city. I’ve learned that it’s something I find immense joy. I also took up running a little bit, and attempted to get more devoted into my yoga practice. All things that require time.
June: I took a trip to Luoyang to visit the Chinese family that I knew from Cameroon. It was a wonderful visit, and a necessary break from Shanghai. Social calendar was constantly full, and got fuller when I was contacted by a group of people interested to start a Shanghai chapter of +Acumen. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity to participate. Oh, did I mention dating? Dating takes up a lot of time!
July: +Acumen activities were in full swing. I spent most of my weekends meeting with our group. They are a fun bunch of new friends and I was energized by our gatherings. So refreshing to be around such motivated individuals eager to do something outside of their day jobs. By this time, I had built up a solid network of friends where I was constantly out meeting different people on rotation. No complaints. Oh, and the New York Times published a short essay of mine!
August: I spent most of the month in California on a business trip. It was almost exactly a year ago that I was there when I started my job. It was interesting to be in that same setting, and reflect how the year has changed and how much I’ve grown professionally. I took advantage of summer in California and enjoyed the fresh air to the fullest.
September: I tagged on a trip back to St. Louis after my business trip to Cali. It was the first time that I had been home since I had moved to China two years prior. For the first time, I immensely enjoyed being in the suburbs. Even the most mundane task of mowing the lawn was somehow soothing. It was equally wonderful to catch up with old friends who by now are decade-long friends. The day after I got back to Shanghai, I celebrated my birthday. It was a casual Tuesday night, and I invited friends to meet me at a wine bar. I was astonished at the number of people who turned up, and it really showed me what a wonderful community I have here in Shanghai. Each encounter left me with immense gratitude. The rest of month was filled with business trips to Wuxi and Chengdu.
October: Immediately after the business trips and a very busy time of year at work, my Peace Corps friends made a visit to me during the October Holiday. I played host, and it was a bizarre yet amazing experience to see and feel the world converge. It’s nice to have people who are so close to me to feel and see the happenings of my daily life. The month ended with another business trip to Shenzhen. My life was in constant motion.
November: The busy year was catching up with me, and I began to feel tired and not in control. I moved out of the apartment that I had been living in for the past two years. It was time for a change, and since I am not leaving the city any time soon, changing apartments was the next best thing. I was busy with the move, but also reflecting upon my life and reevaluating priorities. I had tried to do so many things, and I was left exhausted. I wish to have more time to write. So many wonderful events took place this year that went undocumented, which meant I didn’t have the chance to properly reflect.
December: Holiday activities took over, and I was happily spending many nights cooking in my new kitchen! I paired down social engagements and consciously carved time for myself. Finding balance is still work in progress, but at least I feel I’m heading towards the right direction. I spent the third consecutive holiday season in Shanghai, and homesickness definitely crept up on me. Yet, the lovely people that I’ve gotten to known in this great city ease the sadness with great company.
2014 wasn’t a year with earth shattering changes, but it was an important year in terms of my personal growth. The lesson of finding balance is a significant one, and I am glad to consciously struggle with it to make progress. Many more wonderful events took place, and I had many more thoughts that I intended to write about. It’s better late than never, so it means more writing materials for 2015.