Zheli

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Malcolm Gladwell proposed that it takes about 10,000 hours to achieve mastery in a skill. Not that I can ever pretend to be on Bill Gates’ level, but if I apply Gladwell’s theory, I’ve am officially an expert at living abroad.

For the last 10, 224 hours, I’ve lived and breathed abroad-ness.

I’ve memorized my passport number, learned how to cross traffic-lawless roads, how to bargain with the best of them, how to buy bus, train, and plane tickets in nothing but sign language, how to find the best dumplings in the city, and how to make sure students will never forget the alphabet as long as they live.

I’ve learned how to be alone and enjoy it. How to be vulnerable. How to be confident even when I’m not. How to rock a fanny pack. How to be me. And, what I didn’t realize before I left on this wild ride 494 days ago was that it would be possible to feel so much love from perfect strangers.

Strangers never stay strangers for long.

This week, I went indoor rock climbing in Phnom Penh, and my friend teased me about how I was going to work it into my blog. Well, it was a seamless fit. A group of us in our 20’s and 30’s took over the Kids’ City Clip & Climb, and I quickly discovered that I loved climbing up the wall, but with no one standing behind me to tether me down, I was nervous to let go and come down. I just had to trust that the rope would hold.

You see where this is going.

I’ve been on this emotional high for the last 14 months, always going up and finding my next adventure, and now I’m lowering down. And I’m nervous about reintegrating into mainstream American life. Into Cape Cod. Into my relationships back home.

Why is it always the way that just when you get good at something, it has to end. Like college, just when you become a senior and run that ship, they boot you out. Robert Frost, you crafty bastard, how did you know so well that nothing gold can stay?

As I wrote in the dedication of this blog, “zai nali” means “where” in Mandarin, and I was using this year to find out where I wanted to be. But I’m calling this final post “zheli” because I’ve found where I want to be and it’s simply “here,” wherever here is at that given moment, day, month, year.

Sorry I’m not sorry for any cliches that appear in this post (or any along the way). It’s hard to end this blog without them. A sincere thank you to those who have read faithfully over the last year, it has been my sincere pleasure to share my adventures, at least once a week, with you. It’s kept me accountable to my own self-reflection.

If you enjoyed reading, I’m just going to use this opportunity to put in a shameless plug that I am currently looking for full-time employment. Give me a shout if you know of anyone hiring.

So. I’m going home (Kaohsiung), before I go home (Cape Cod), before I go home (Georgetown).

To everyone I’ve met along the way, I’m carrying you with me. You are always within reach.

With no belay, but a full heart, I’m climbing on and signing off.

Thanks Rachel Platten for capturing in song what I cannot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJqSITP_lVE

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