Taking a Leap (Prompt Post)

Flight booked. Visa issued. Resignation notice handed in. Looks like I’m quitting everything to go back to China.

…but is it the right decision?

It’s been nearly two years since I started my current job in London. It’s a straightforward nine to five arrangement, without many surprises – or room to progress. At first, it was a great opportunity for a fresh graduate eager to get some kind of grubby foothold at the bottom of the career ladder, and now nearly two years later, I still find myself on that bottom rung. Having searched a while for the next opportunity to spring up to, one of them unexpectedly came back and said yes. It was a scholarship to study Mandarin in Shanghai.

“What about when you get married? What about getting a mortgage? What’s your plan?

…was the reaction from my supervisor at work when I told him. I was a bit shocked by his reaction, as the impression I got was that after two years of work he didn’t know me at all. Anyone who knows me would know that while I’m reasonably organised and mature, these are ridiculous questions to ask me at the age of twenty-three!

Except for the part about the plan. That’s when I became afraid of my decision.

When I was younger, I did actually have this vision of a future for myself learning as many languages as I could and travelling the world. One particular memory was my mother asking me what languages I wanted to learn and I ended up counting off ten languages on my hands. Since then I’ve decided to stick to a slightly more modest number of eight, but since I graduated in 2012, this desire has manifested itself in stops and starts at best. What better way to push my boundaries again and live somewhere else for a while where I can practice?

My attempt at a speech in Korean

 

Unfortunately the way I feel about my life at the moment is comparable to my food purchasing habits. I’ll buy things with the intent of making something that sounds really delicious, and I’ll get so excited about making it that I buy everything at once and commit to the idea of making this meal. All the ingredients start off fresh; then I get held back by day-to-day responsibilities and get home late… not feeling hungry or energetic enough to start cooking. I buy quick alternatives for instant gratification instead going ahead with my original idea. Before I know it, these ingredients become rotten and I can no longer use them to make the amazing meal I’d imagined to begin with. On the other hand, sometimes something really unexpected happens – such as recently when I came into possession of several dozen mangoes – and I found the time to puree two boxes worth and keep churning out mango pudding.

I wasn't joking - I had bananas too. At this point I'd managed to get control of the fruitapocalypse.
I wasn’t joking – I had bananas too. At this point I’d managed to get control of the fruitapocalypse.

I also had edible flowers lying around, and added them for decoration. The great thing was, I didn’t plan it and felt like I hadn’t had time for cooking in a long time, but I managed make something on the spur of the moment.

“Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart”

Recently I’ve been listening to ‘Elastic Heart’ by Sia quite a lot. Understandably as part of the Hunger Games franchise, this song is perhaps more meant to be dedicated to the central conflict and relationship in the film. Yet I do like the term of having an “elastic heart”. I interpret it more as having a temperament that means you are flexible with your desires – so if one avenue of possibility is closed off to you, then you can change your mind.

It took me a while to get used to the idea, because I started off being terrified of the idea of leaving a secure job for something more unpredictable and uncertain. It seems that I didn’t realise that at some point over the past two years, I’d started to lose my desire to defy the conventional ideas that were expected of me. Eventually I remembered that it wasn’t like me to try to steadily climb up the career ladder and fall into marriage and kids somewhere along the way. I have always been trying to create my own opportunities, and while I’m grabbing onto a particularly short-term one (it is only six months after all), I feel like I’m opening myself up to even greater possibilities. Some of the best opportunities are the ones that aren’t the most immediately visible.

Mango Pudding
I now see mango pudding as a sign of freedom.
The original prompt post is available here.
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