Looking back at my 35 year old self – #14

In 2013, I spent a term of studies in Nanjing, supported by a Hamer Scholarship. This was a transformative experience, and a moment to pause and reflect after an intense early period of migration. At the end of that year, I wrote down a series of journal entries, one-per-day, capturing my thoughts. COVID gave me the chance to revisit them: I was somewhat moved at meeting a younger version of myself. Now that I near the end of my PhD and a major book, and begin a new major venture in green energy, I realised patterns and struggles remained oddly similar. So, I thought I might share this journal here over the coming weeks – who knows, it might resonate with someone, trigger a useful insight, or just a passing moment of self-compassion.

29 december

In March or April this year, I sat down at a Turkish café inside the Queen Vic market, thinking of what I really needed to accomplish this year. At the very top of the list, I wrote, learn Chinese. Now, I believe I have done that. I can keep up conversations with Chinese people for four hours or more, I can read, I can write small messages and emails. I still need to improve – but I have become operational.

This has been the biggest change in me this year – I learnt about China, I integrated the country deeply. This scholarship and these four months have radically changed me and what I feel that I can do. I am now someone who can speak Chinese.

I also feel very drained, more tired than I was the previous years – cautious about my health, I should be. My brain and body are tired – I have lived on very limited income for 18 months (though I relaxed a bit during the time of my scholarship), and this has taken a toll. I have also lived with high uncertainty – where the money would come from, what would happen next. Am I losing faith in what I can do, or just getting old?

I have largely confused work, life, holidays – I don’t say I don’t enjoy it – but it’s making it very difficult to identify socially, what I do, how I generate income. Maybe it’s OK? Or I can learn for it to be?

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