Last week I celebrated my first birthday in Hong Kong, as one of my recent friends termed it in what was also my very first birthday text here. It immediately struck me — does this mean it won’t be my last birthday here?
It’s been six weeks now. A few friends here have remarked how it seems that I must have been here much longer, as I seemed to have quickly acclimated myself to the lifestyle, made many new friends (my birthday drinks e-mail had over 2 dozen friends copied), and am just generally much more “in the know” than others at this stage (although still so far to go). I’ve made the determination that I should look for a full-time job here, which is a much bigger deal for me being that I stopped full-time work over a year ago as of September 2008.
I was so lucky to be surrounded by kindness, friendship, and joy this week. The eve of my birthday, I was meeting with a recently made friend and a recruiter to discuss work possibilities. Drinks turned into dinner, and of course late conversation. There were several toasts to my birthday. Then on my actual birthday, at least HK time, I received that lovely first bithday text message at 10:30am, followed by another a few hours later. I also got several e-mails from friends back home that remembered the 12-hour time difference. In class, I got my first birthday present. Two of my classmates gave me these paper fans from Korea, and on one of them, had written birthday wishes. It was really touching.
That evening, I texted my first HK friend, who was actually introduced to me while he was visiting in NYC over the summer. Although he hadn’t planned on being out, he said that he’d make the time for whatever I wished. I treated myself to a birthday acupressure massage, and then met up with said first friend with a bunch of other friends who were gathering for drinks and eats in Lan Kwai Fong. I received a so-called obligatory birthday shot, and was surrounded by people again.
Next day the e-mails/facebook messages continued to flow, and that night, I’d have my first social gathering completely initiated by me! I felt like a debutante, and I wasn’t sure who of the more than 2 dozen people I’d emailed would show. I arrived at the planned location on time in my best dress, and waited a while by myself. I wondered if I’d timed the event right, or had even picked a suitable venue, but then eventually one classmate from school showed and I received my first birthday card in HK. After a while, an unexpected guest arrived with two friends, then more and more filtered in. I felt so lucky!
Eventually it became a real party with about a dozen folks joining in. We then went from the pub to a club, and then another in traditional HK style (you can never just go to one or even two places in one night), danced heartily, then got myself in a cab to be home around 3am (I stopped for obligatory post-party noodles) — early for HK, but I’d been invited to another junk boat party next day and would have to be at Central Ferry Pier by 10:30am.
The weather was perfect for the two-boat junk and I had lots of fun meeting yet more new people. Three other birthdays were being celebrated, and it was just such a pleasure to constantly be in the company of happy souls.
For well over 72 hours, I was blessed to know I had friends both here and there. I was not alone, and yet, once it was all over, and I had time to myself back in the ol’ serviced apartment (I just needed to stop and did not join in on the after-junk land party), I started to feel a bit down, actually. It’s no secret to you readers following who are friends, but for those who are not (and I am learning that you exist via the comments posted), I turned 30 this year!
Yes, that first “scary” birthday for many of us, as it seems to be the age for becoming what ought to be an “adult.” I thought this birthday would be faced with the utmost security especially considering that my 29th birthday was rather difficult. The way I saw it a year ago, 30 was just within sight’s distance, and I was wondering, as I sat alone in my favorite pub in the East Village, where on Earth was my life headed. Last year this time, I’d very recently made the decision to stop full-time work, had little to my name in terms of home ownership or a significant other, what always seemd to me to be two very “grown-up” matters, and felt very much far from being the adult I’d always envisioned I’d become.
And here at 30 — where am I? Well, let’s sit down here and assess a bit. I’ve completely uprooted myself from my long-time home to come halfway around the world, where I had nothing — no friends, no family, no job, not even a home! And why? Well, the whole stated purpose of this blog was to try to ascertain that, and I wonder if I know more than when I started?
I know this — I’ve gained a lot of new knowledge about the world I live in and where I come from (culturally and geographically). I’ve also started to feel feelings again — particularly of curiosity and excitement. As I said, I actually want to be gainfully employed again, which is quite a big deal for me. I find myself exploring so many big questions, too — like, what does it mean to feel “at home,” or to connect with someone, and how to just truly be by myself. I’ve challenged myself and delighted myself with all that I’ve accomplished so far.
The thing is, though, no matter how many new wonderful friends I’ve made in the past 6 weeks, it’s still a solitary existence as I try to work through many more big questions — like what will I be doing in 6 months, will I find a job, will it be the right job for me, will I find people I can really feel close to, someone to love and love me? I don’t think I’d be over-pressuring myself to consider these, and it’s reasonable for me to not ignore at this time.
And so, after all the celebrating, I suddenly felt very alone. Fortunately, a local friend of mine I’ve confided much of my anxiety to (hopefully that’s not a mistake!), called and listened… and listened. I told him I was worried, and just not sure of myself anymore. I finally applied to some jobs last week, and not only was I afraid of rejection, but I was afraid I might end up choosing incorrectly out of fear, should a job offer arise.
I wondered aloud if my decision to try to stay here more permanently was a mistake. Will I find satisfaction in my professional and personal life here? Am I running towards something or away from something? I guess that continues to be the big question for me, and I am continually seeking affirmation that it is the former than the latter.