10 / another year older, it could be worse

It’s been a while. I know I disappeared after promising to keep up with this newsletter, but I promise I haven’t forgotten about y’all. Over the past three months, I’ve tried writing multiple drafts, but the truth is, I’ve been feeling lost and I’ve been trying to find my way back home. I stopped meditating, writing, and drawing. Every time I try to talk or write about this ambiguous “it,” it feels wrong, self-absorbed, insignificant, trite. I’ve been running circles in my head trying to explain it to myself but maybe there is nothing more to explain, and again, I need to remind myself that it’s ok to feel sad sometimes. It feels weird to share my unresolved thoughts. But I’d like to update y’all with what I’ve been up to since leaving Japan in December:

  1. I am safe from COVID-19.

  2. I spent January bouncing around Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia with my childhood friend Malorie. Being taken care of by Malorie’s family in the Philippines was a blessing and reminded me of the childhood summers I spent with my Uncles in China. Southeast Asia was too overstimulating for me. I loved Taiwan so much I’m considering living there (tbd depending on how COVID-19 develops).

  3. Since leaving America, I’ve encountered the most diverse range of humans I’ve ever met. I realized there are a million ways to build a life for yourself and no matter where you are, there is always shit to deal with, even in the mystical land of NZ. Nowhere is perfect so it’s best to stop searching for it. Instead of finding a new job or the best place to live, I’m trying to understand how to build a purposeful life based on my own values.

  4. I’ve felt the extreme generosity and kindness from complete strangers. Friends of friends put me up for a couple of nights when my visa got fucked up and I got stuck in Australia for a week by myself. My farming hosts feed me so well I don’t even miss Cantonese food (that much).

  5. While abroad I’ve pushed myself beyond every preconceived definition I had of myself. Every “never would I ever” statement basically went out the window. Side note, I am an OCD neat freak who moved out of her last apartment cause of a rat and I will still ask someone else to kill a bug. So far I’ve slept in extremely questionable beds, ate balut, crawled through deep forests, cleaned spider webs, spent hours opening spoiled maggot filled milk bottles, drove through the winding roads of NZ on the opposite side of the road, worked on a farm, and hiked the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in 7.5 hours. Most of this was about overcoming irrational fears and challenging my OCD tendencies. Would I do some of this again? Nope! But at least I know I can.

  6. Basically, I spent the first three months mostly discovering the things I enjoy and the last 3 months mostly discovering the things I don’t enjoy. Both experiences are equally valuable, though one is a harder pill to swallow. I learned that: I am very privileged in the US, disappointment is inevitable, long term traveling is not for me, retirement life is not my end goal, I am the best version of myself when I am alone, and feeling in control about my life is just an illusion.

  7. Best story: The second farmer Malorie and I stayed with tried to convert me into Christianity after I told her I don’t believe in God, but I believe in Buddhists’ teachings. On our second day with her, she accused us of cheating her out of a free stay on her farm (trust me when I say I would’ve rather slept in my car or in the woods). We basically worked from 8am to 8pm. On our last day, she told Malorie, “All Buddhists are selfish. You should drop Bianca as a friend because she is dragging you down.” I could go on about how insane this experience was, but I’ll spare you the details. You can ask me in person to tell you more. Her behavior was inappropriate and frankly, scary at times, but now it’s a hilarious and wild story I get to tell. Please note, I am not insinuating God-loving people are crazy, but I do not tolerate rude, disrespectful, judgmental behavior. Bye!! No thank you.

  8. Currently, I’m on a farm on the South Island. This Kiwi couple is what I’d imagine having white grandparents would be like—super caring, slightly racist, amazing cooking, lots of cursing, funny as hell, wild stories, and history lessons to offer. So far I’ve driven a tractor, made plum jam and tomato sauce, put together some heavy-duty machinery that I already forgot the name of, and helped drench the sheep. This farm feels like a safe haven from the chaos of the world and a bright spot from a long three months.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Just last year, I was celebrating my bday surrounded by my closest friends and delicious food. Not only that, but I was celebrating paying off my student loans and basking in a sense of freedom. Now, my low-key depression is replaced by my low-key anxiety about the uncertainty of my future and the safety of my loved ones. I miss my bed (of all things this is what I miss the most), family, friends, community, and the familiarity of a place I already know. This birthday I’m grateful that everyone I care about is currently safe because I know things can always be worse. Hope y’all are staying inside + safe wherever you are.

p.s. I’d like to hear from you: please send me your life updates, words of wisdom or encouragement, book/movie/podcast/music recommendations, etc. What’s one valuable and/or unexpected lesson you recently learned?