I went to work to China to work as a coach to feel alive again. To experience new culture and look at my life from the farthest spot possible and reevaluate the things it consists of. I went to China to escape the office work that had me sitting on my ass for the bigger part of my life, talking to pretend specialists about the things no one cared about.
I know people who would do this kind of work gladly and just get paid for making a serious face and pretending to listen during meetings. And that’s fine. I totally get that. It’s just that for me, at the age of 18-23 it was soul crushing. And not that much because of the work itself, but because I tried to find the reason to live in it and in its fruits.
It’s hard for me to write about where is all started for some reason. I know all the reasons perfectly well, but I’m kind of tired thinking about them.
Nonetheless, several months ago I finally figured out that my job and my relationships weren’t right for me at that time. Even though everything was objectively going fie, I was really unhappy. Truth be told, the main reason for it was me. It was my forth year working in marketing and over the years I kept getting more stressed out, critical of myself and unhappy. Even though I had some amazing work opportunities and climbed the career ladder rather fast, I wasn’t enjoying it.
I won’t get too deep into all of the reasons for that, that’s for me and my shrink to discuss, but in a nutshell, I wasn’t able to just come in and do my job halfassedly. I had to deliver, I had to always prove something to everyone. I had to push myself to the verge rather than just work and do a decent job of it. I had some great bosses, some coworkers became my good friends, and my fiancee at the time was an extremely kind and the sweet person.
For now, sounds like I’m just humble bragging, right?
Well, I’m not. Because for three years or more, I was very, very depressed. I limited MYSELF and stopped meeting new people, I became reserved and bitter, I had an awfully hard time getting out of bed every morning and none of the things I did or had were making me happy. I felt royally ungrateful and pressured myself into feeling even worth for not being happier. Not a good strategy, FYI.
At some point, having gained 17 kilos I didn’t need, having developed mild health issues, having made everyone around me significantly less happy just by being miserable myself, I saw that something was wrong in my life and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. Because if I did and kept on going the same route I was going, I’d become the type of person I dreaded becoming most. Namely, someone who’s given up, who accepted the status quo, who doesn’t care about neither their close ones nor themselves. Someone who stopped in every sense of the word and turned from a promising kid into a disappointing grown up.
The thing is that what society accepts as doing good isn’t always what you need. You may want a family and a career at some point. But if you’re not happy pursuing that now, why do it?
I’m being longwinded, I know. But I want to give anyone reading some context and possibly show them that there are ways to fix the awful state of a long-long depression. And it doesn’t necessarily mean working in China. It’s about believing that it can get better and therefore finding the strength to fix the things that are out of place.
Because speaking from experience, I didn’t think it I would ever get better. I was dead sure that this half living state was forever, that it was just the way I was and nothing could be done. So whenever anyone told me that I will feel better at some point, I was just getting more and more angry at the world that didn’t see the effort I put into daily functioning and how much it worth me.
I know that there are many of us out there who maintain decent social lives, look good on social media, build careers and stay in relationships at the same time feeling absolutely devastated. I’ve been there and it’s awful.
So, to cut a long story short, after I broke up with my fiancee and put most of my marketing projects on hold, I already felt significantly better. But now I needed some proof of concept to show me that my newly gained freedom is really something I imagined it would be. That’s why I googled around and found an agency that would help me find a job in China (doing whatever, I didn’t care all that much).
I wasn’t specifically keen on going to China. It’s not like I dreamt about working there or even visiting for years. I just thought about the biggest change of surroundings I could make, that biggest shift I can make in the shortest period of time. And China seemed like a far better spot than the stuffy old Europe.
For some reason, on every step of the way, when the perspective to go to China was getting more and more real, I wasn’t anxious or stressed out. I just chilled, saw the girl I really-really liked and finally felt relaxed and calm. It was so unlike me that every so often I’d snap out of it and ask myself why I wasn’t panicking. But this new happy state of being was so unbelievable and refreshing for me that I just kept on living.
The 2 month of preparation, while extremely packed with events and emotions, were the calmest times I’ve lived since I was probably 13. I just knew that I was doing the right things in my life on a bigger scale. I felt like I moved the huge pieces that were holding me back, so everything else started falling in the right places automatically.
As I was saying, I felt skeptical about this trip working out. On each and every step something could go wrong and I wouldn’t be able go. But at first the agency found the company where I’d work, then I passed all the interviews successfully, then the documents started moving between cities and all the to-dos required were just happening. Strangely enough, me not stressing out didn’t make this whole venture harder to happen. On the contrary, I just showed up, did what I had to do, everyone else did their part and it all kind of happened.
Because going to China to work isn’t rocket science, despite what it looks like from inside the box. It just takes one person willing to come and a couple of other people willing to give them work. That’s it. The bureaucracy and papers may be messy. But overall, it’s very doable.
Only while I was flying over Beijing, it struck me that all this is really happening. That I just decided I wanted it, did all the needed steps and here I was, looking at this amazingly huge entity from the sky, with 21.7 million people sleeping right below me. For several minutes I was overwhelmed by the fears I used to live in. The ones that try to block you and rob of any joy you might feel.
But then, they faded away. And you know why? Because in the last months I learned that even if something in China will be making me unhappy, that’s not a problem. I will either fix it or change it. I learned that leaving in fear of being unhappy in the future limits you incredibly in terms of the choices you have today. And even if you are unhappy because of the choices you made in the past, it’s not that big of a deal. Take new conditions into considerations, work out a new acceptable plan and stick to it. If the plan doesn’t work – adapt. If you fail at something, don’t give up and try again.
I artificially limited myself for several years. And I know that a ton of people in their twenties do to. That’s no way to live your life. You can and should be happy. It’s not something only the chosen ones are worthy of. You just have to try. And of course there can be tough moments. Deal with them and move on. I promise you, it feels so much better to feel alive than to feel unrealized but secure.