Category Archives: feelings

Letting Go

I’ve been writing quite a lot about reasons why I left Hong Kong (here and here), and I do this because I really need to reinforce my thought process behind this big decision, and more importantly, I need to let go.

Since moving back, I’ve already gone back to HK twice — TWICE! It’s not even been a year! I was clinging onto so much of my HK life, it was just not healthy.

It was in my last trip to HK that I realized at last how much I needed to let go – and so I have been doing that and working harder on reconnecting with everything that has to do with me and my life in NY.

Today I took yet another big step – I deleted my kayak flight alert to HK.  I had months ago created a flight alert to tell me whenever flights from NY to HK were under $900…. just in case I really needed to get a touch of HK THAT badly. That’s kind of ridiculous, but I did that.

But today I logged into kayak.com and deleted that alert.  No no, I won’t be making any spur of the moment trips to HK just because I have to have me some wonton noodles.  I will just wait til a trip is really needed, and then search for tickets like normal people.

Stillness – A Meditation

One of my best friends in Hong Kong sent me the following Ted Talk by writer Pico Iyer on “Where is Home” – and of course the man of “multiple origins” speaks of a new age of finding your Home, where you are not bound by the constraints of our “grandparents’ age,” as he puts it.  Plus, unlike most immigrants of prior generations, many of us move out of choice – not necessity.

I’d hoped to hear some revelation about what it means to be at Home. I’ve been struggling lately with this as I have frequently found myself yearning for Hong Kong again, but then finding it doesn’t suit me, and yet discovering that New York is not coming as easily as I thought it would. Am I just being fickle?

Why wasn’t I happy in Hong Kong? Why did I have to leave? I had the best job of my life, ample opportunities to travel and explore, and to top it all, just as I was leaving Hong Kong, I experienced an immensely beautiful human connection — something I hadn’t felt in a long while.  And then I just upped and left.

Pico Iyer states it neatly when he says that living in someplace foreign is like being in love, and that you must awaken all your senses, since you have nothing to fall back on that you know. That was exactly what HK was like for me – and it was absolutely necessary in getting me out of what I self-diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). But then it faded, and I felt that instead of being in love, I felt like I was in a rush – feeling as though I constantly needed to be somewhere, do something, see someone in order to make my life “complete.”

I left because I needed to rest.  Iyer mentions “standing still.” He explains how this is as important, or more important, than going someplace new, and how much more we can gain from just taking that moment and NOT going anywhere.

Incidentally I’ve decided to commit to 40 days of meditation – which I started about a week ago, just shortly after I got back to the US after my second trip back since leaving HK. I started with just 10 minutes in the mornings, while I was still getting back into the routine of things in the US.  This was easier since I began my transition back to the US again with a career conference in (warm) Florida and did not have my usual early morning routines.  Then my first week back in NY, I was still not doing my usual gym class in the morning (being still rather ill), so able to continue my morning meditations, which I expanded to 15 minutes, before my commute.  Today I headed back to my gym (how I missed it!) and plan to take on my 15 minutes before bed, with a view of making t up to 20 minutes a day by the end of the experiment.

And this stillness has been a treat – not at all the way my first meditation experience was like back in 2008 or so, when a friend brought me to a meditation center in Chelsea to try it out one time. Back then, meditation made my legs fall asleep, and I could not stand one more minute than oh… one minute.  I could not relax and got irritated with my every thought. They say if that’s how you feel, then you are exactly the person who should be meditating!

Today, the ten minutes easily slip by quickly, and I yearn for more.  So I’ve upped it to 10:30, then 11:00, then 12:00, now 15:00.  It isn’t hard, it’s wonderful.  Have I felt any special benefit? Not sure yet, but I enjoy it.

My meditation sessions are by no means perfect – I notice myself thinking all the time, but I also get in a few nice breaths of air, free of any thought.  And when I do think – which is just about all the time, I just tell myself to let that thought move along and focus on my breath – which I try to enjoy deeply, listening to it roll like a wave, feeling my belly inflate, and looking to notice any tension in my face or chest or back.  When I get to each breath, I feel myself just letting go of any thought and control, and just being in that moment, as they say.

Has meditating done anything? I think it has calmed my mind, the chitta vritti, monkey mind.  But I most certainly still obsess over things that I shouldn’t, I still get angry with some of my own thoughts, I still feel troubling emotions – but I think not as much, or that I’m able to acknowledge those feelings and just move on.

And so while I’m not sure what to expect as I continue to transition back to NY, I know I just need to take these moments to just be.

Coelho Again!

I’ve just come home from a second trip to Hong Kong since my great departure last Spring, and this time I come home with some better understanding of what has caused me so much struggle through my transition Home. (But more on that in another post.)  Importantly, I remembered and re-experienced the feelings that led me to finally leave Hong Kong and come back to the US – and that was simply put, loneliness.

Paulo Coelho continues to influence me at interesting times in my life — the first time was when I read Veronika Decides to Die, my first Coelho novel (to date I’ve now read 4).  It was 2008 or 2009, during a time I was facing so much turmoil.  When I read it, I just realized we all feel like we are crazy some of the time.

Then in 2012, my last book read to meet my reading goal for the year, was Aleph – which helped me realize how it is that I came to coming to HK – that it was not as random or unguided as I initially thought.  Rather, my coming to HK was a necessary part of my life, and that my “decision” to come had been whispered into my ear all along.

Now in 2015, after thinking again that I won’t read Coelho anymore, I pick up Adultery: A novel.  I’m not finished, but there was a passage in it that just resonated on why I left Hong Kong:

It’s loneliness. Even though I’m surrounded by loved ones who care about me and want only the best, it’s possible they try to help only because they feel the same thing—loneliness—and why, in a gesture of solidarity, you’ll find the phrase “I am useful, even if alone” carved in stone. Though the brain says all is well, the soul is lost, confused, doesn’t know why life is being unfair to it. But we still wake up in the morning and take care of our children, our husband, our lover, our boss, our employees, our students, those dozens of people who make an ordinary day come to life. And we often have a smile on our face and a word of encouragement, because no one can explain their loneliness to others, especially when we are always in good company. But this loneliness exists and eats away at the best parts of us because we must use all our energy to appear happy, even though we will never be able to deceive ourselves. But we insist, every morning, on showing only the rose that blooms, and keep the thorny stem that hurts us and makes us bleed hidden within.

In Hong Kong, I thought I was happier than ever — I had the best job of my career to date, enjoyed my daily living, and even just started to make some really incredible friends by the end of my stay.  I was travelling, feeling fit, and free to enjoy the world.  But I was not.  I was lonely.

I surrounded myself with events, parties, new places, great work, amazing people – but it was not enough.  I still woke up Sundays, feeling anxious and antsy, unable to relax in my cell-like tiny flat, trying to find something to do – when really I needed nothing more than just to relax.  Yet I couldn’t.

In Hong Kong, you’ve always got to be Type A and go somewhere, do something.  If you’re not travelling someplace exotic, you’re hiking, or dragon-boating, or volunteering – something. You’re always doing or going – never still.  And why?

It’s because you’re lonely.

I can’t say that’s the case for everyone.  Obviously there are loads of folks who find their way to HK and lead completely fulfilling lives, plus all those who have the luck to be born there (or misfortune). But that was my problem.

And so I left.

6 Months In

Christmas Eve – I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by! I’m actually sitting in the (New York) office, unable to focus on the massive last minute work I have to get to, so instead I will take a time to reflect.

I’ve now been back in the U.S. for more than 6 months (that’s counting the overseas travel too) and so far my repatriation process has really been a series of ups and downs.  Certainly from the start, I had a feeling of panic – “what have I done!?!” and could not wait to go back to Hong Kong the moment I could.

That desire to go back was so strong, that instead of waiting wistfully for an excuse, I just made up my mind to head over there “just because.”  So within 3 months of exiting Hong Kong immigration for the last time as a proper resident, I was back.

The trip was like wrapping myself in a blanket of comfort and familiarity, but it probably took me a step back in my repatriation process, since I was meant to be forcing myself into this transition of going back into what should be (and will again be) familiar, by first stepping through several layers of unfamiliarity.

But I’m stubborn.  Plus, I admit I was just being a bit of a romantic in going back. I was following a feeling – something that led me to Hong Kong and all the necessary life growth that came with it in the first place.  It’s at once crazy, perhaps brave, and definitely impetuous – but I suppose that’s who I’ve become — quite a 180 from the conservative, play-it-by-the-book, always wanting to please nerd-type I was when growing up.

When I came back from my first return trip to HK (I say first, because a second one is coming up very quickly actually), I felt worse.  Work was extremely slow in NY (it was August though), and I kept longing for the South China Morning Post headline cases I knew my boss was working on in Hong Kong without me.  I had said dating had picked up in NY, but the person I met before my HK hiatus didn’t exactly want to wait for me (NY goes by a totally different watch, and if you are not present for just a week, well you can consider yourself gone), and in the meantime a piece of my heart had been left behind in HK.

But then I filled up my longing with travels across the US, spanning from the Northeast to the Southwest, visiting some of my very best friends, catching up with babies who are now toddlers, attending a pair of weddings, making new work connections, and even patching up one frayed friendship.  It was a pretty productive time in that sense, and of course I was loving the regular contact with my family.

While my progress professionally has been slow, it’s getting there.  In addition to adding more matters for my first client, I was part of a successful pitch to a big client in China, and had been given a shot to prove myself to one of the firm’s more prominent regulatory partners.  I still don’t see myself as a traditional “BigLaw” lawyer, but I’m happily looking to finding my way.

And with all this US momentum finally gathering again, of course I have a trip to Hong Kong scheduled in about ten days’ time! Of course!

And the strange thing is that this time I’m not as anxious to roll back into Victoria Harbour. I feel a little regret in making these plans – it’s a bit of a dent to the things I’ve been working on in NY (I’ll be in the midst of a filing deadline for a Missouri based case from the other side of the world, and once again gambling on whether or not another nice person I’d just met will wait for me); and in all (expected) actuality – life is moving on in Hong Kong WITHOUT ME! I just found out that I won’t be sitting at my old desk as I did before, and won’t even be able to sit in my own team since we are adding a “new hire”!

When I heard about this “new hire” I was just gutted. I knew I was wrong to feel upset, but given how rare and selective my team is about hiring laterals, I thought there was no way I could be “replaced”! Of course, that would be unfair thinking – I did leave and life must go on. I was being a bit immature – much like the person who breaks up with you and then cannot tolerate there being someone new in your life either.

Fortunately, I got over that sore feeling – especially when I heard the “new hire” was a secondee from the London office, who was not staying permanently.  Instead of there being a new “significant other” it was more like a cousin moving in temporarily.  That I could handle.

In other news, another of my greatest friends of Hong Kong has finally made concrete plans to also repatriate, and by the third time I come round to Hong Kong (I get a feeling there will be more visits) this friend, who had become a rock for me in HK, won’t be there.  She was the kind of friend you could call on randomly for an impromptu visit that would end up spanning the day, taking you to random places, ingesting and imbibing an assortment of goodies, and making exquisite purchases you’d never make on your own.  That’s the kind of friend that’s surely always with you no matter where in the world you are, but still, I will miss having her in my second home of Hong Kong.

But the truth is – life is always in flux, and I need to accept that I’ve left Hong Kong. I do and I don’t. On the one hand I’m getting back into practicing US law, and yet  I carry on with a cross-border practice, with a focus on business development aimed at providing HK advice to US-based clients; I’m reconnecting and meeting people in NY, and yet I find it so hard to let go of special emotions I have associated with HK.

The best advice I’ve heard so far as to how to deal with this – just go with the flow.  Right now the flow goes every which way, even up against itself.  So all I can do is just tolerate the turbulence for now.

Time is Flying!

Shocking – I have not posted anything in more than two months, and the year is fast coming to an end. Just last week my office building put up its Christmas decorations, and this morning I heard Christmas tunes in the building muzac. What is going on?

A part of me is not as inspired to write. I admit I am coming to a confused stage in Hong Kong. I am trying to love life here as much as I did four years ago, and yet something about these four years of excitement and adventures have also left me a bit tired. Since my falling fita, I have been thinking a lot more about me just pre-Hong Kong, and have been reading my old diaries from 08-09.

My frame of mind was very different then, and I can see easily why it was that I came to moving (the initial reason for blogging), no matter how sudden and seemingly out-of-the-blue it was. I really needed a drastic change in my life to help me feel myself again after so much sadness and stress.  Something inside me pre-Hong Kong was dying or had gone dormant.  What that was I cannot say, but it was something that just fed me the energy to live life normally.

So packing everything up to go to the other side of the planet on a seeming whim made sense – jumping into all this newness and challenging myself in new ways drove new life into me.  I was then inspired to seek out a sort of regularity, starting with a gym membership, then an apartment, and finally a job (which I truly adore).  I was in a relationship for almost 3 of those 4 years, and started to become a homebody, though I was not sure if I was really “home” yet.

Anyhow, after the relationship ran its course, and after I came out of my post-relationship introversion, followed by this summer’s great loss, I’ve started to come out again in search of exploration and excitement in this city that never lacks of either.  It has been wonderful, especially as I become close to friends here in a way that I hadn’t in my first four years.

And now here we are, on the verge of Thanksgiving (which I still celebrate here in Asia), with holiday songs and holiday cocktail parties all around, time it just flying so fast!

So what’s the point of this post? Just a rambling, and perhaps a minor apology.  I’ve been out and about living Hong Kong life with yet another pair of eyes now – not as the wide-eyed newcomer, not as an acclimatized homebody, but more as a seasoned resident at 4.25 years, if I’m allowed to say so. So forgive these gaps – I’ll try to catch the blog up with my happenings soon.

 

Terrible News to Awaken to – Boston Bombings Feel Different

My experience through 9/11 was more than vivid, since I was living about 4 blocks from the World Trade Center at the time, just beginning my first year in law school.  I was lucky to have gone to campus early that day, missing the explosions, which would have meant a chaotic evacuation from my highrise apartment on West Street, likely to leave me stranded in Staten Island.

I don’t want to write about that “day of infamy,” which I remember in remarkable detail. What I want to write about are the bombings from yesterday’s Boston Marathon and how much more emotional I seem to be feeling here from Hong Kong.

I spent some amazing years in Boston.  It’s an incredible city and if you’re lucky enough to live there for some time, you would understand how it just sticks to you.  Its sports fans are famously avid, its landmarks are steeped in history, and its community just feels so old and connected to each other. 

Having gone to college there, I still know so many people who continued to live in the area, plus quite a few of my friends from law school and high school relocated to this amazing city. I knew people who had gone to spectate or even run that day – so I was quick to scour social networks to be assured that everyone I knew from the Boston area were ok.  They thankfully are.

But for purposes of contrast, I go back to my 9/11 experience.  That day, I just felt busy — my friends and I first gathered to find a hospital to donate blood, only to find out that none was needed, since there were no survivors. Next we set off to get information.  The city was in lockdown mode, cell service was almost 100% down, and we needed to know what was happening – or what to do, especially me, with my apartment at the heart of Ground Zero!

I remembered us huddling at a dive bar near the law school, all eyes on the television.

Fast forward to Patriots Day 2013,  and I’m just waking up to start my day. I turn on Pearl, which shows Bloomberg West at around 6 or so, and the usual broadcast is cutting to a short speech by President Obama – and this is when I first find out what has happened. I am in horror, and feel an attack on my people – especially having been a long-term guest of Boston myself. I feel horror as I learn what has happened – and am anxious to know when I can find out more.

Our day begins in Hong Kong, and we don’t get much info, and I suspect it will be a few more days til we understand anything. But every time the subject has come up in conversation, which it easily does, since most folks want to know my reaction as an American, I start to feel a kind of upset I did not even feel during 9/11 when I was actually rendered temporarily homeless!

I feel like crying – though not quite so extreme.  I think it weird, myself, since noone I knew was hurt, and it isn’t even my hometown.  I just keep getting very upset – every time I hear about the lost limbs, the very young age of one of the three victims, the way the bomb was constructed.  I feel this strange mixture of sadness, shock, and grief.

And not to downplay similar tragedies, terrors, and horrors in other parts of the world that happen and keep happening – this one just seems to affect me differently.

My only guess as to why it is extra emotional for me is that I feel too far from my loved ones — not just my friends in Boston, but my own family in New York.  When something like this hits so close to home, you just want to be there near  family and friends.

When Disaster Strikes at Home

This blog may be about my time in Hong Kong, but that doesn’t mean I can’t post about my hometown – New York.  Hong Kong’s news programs, both English and Chinese, show a good deal of international news, with news on the U.S. every single day — so the coming of Sandy was nothing new to me. But up until the storm, I, like friends in NY, had no idea what to expect.  After last year’s hurricane Irene came and went, and left most of NYC unscathed, one wouldn’t think that the worst storm in NYC’s history would be coming.

I didn’t think to worry until about a day or so before the storm, and e-mailed my family to take care and especially look after my granny.  When the storm was just breaking in the tri-state area, I was just waking up and heading for my regular Tuesday morning spin class.  I already saw numerous alarming Facebook posts that would make me feel nervous throughout the day.

I had about an hour’s time to escape into my sweat, but as soon as I got back to the locker room, I was checking my mobile device again for updates in the US.  The storm was about to hit landfall.

When I got to the office, I put on my favorite local radio station on my web browser to stream the live broadcast. I was completely glued to my headphones, and doing my best to focus on my work while I listened to live accounts of the storm.

In the coming days, I never missed the 7:30am broadcast of NBC Nightly News on Pearl.  It was my best means of learning what was going on. I listened to Mayor Mike’s accented Spanish, and heard the sorrow in Chris Christie’s voice as he surveyed the Jersey shore by helicopter. It would have been wonderful to enjoy what I heard was excellent coverage by NY1.

But I have to say it was social media that gave me the best “live” account of what was going on, what my friends and family were seeing and experiencing. I am grateful for this unofficial news outlet, and I’ve been more hooked on Facebook than ever, mainly looking for pictures and other notes on what is going on in NY.

Even though I am safe and dry in Hong Kong (ironically, it was very rainy in HK that morning Sandy hit the East Coast), complete with my modern comforts of electricity and internet, I am suffering as I worry about my family and friends back home, and wishing I could do something.

In the meantime, I’ve made my donation to the Red Cross and done my best to post useful links on my own facebook page.  I can’t imagine how I’d feel if a “man-made” disaster (e.g. 9/11) were unfolding back home while I was so far away.

But for now, I am again, incredibly grateful for all the media available to me to understand what is happening in NY, and glad to see that with each day, NY is recovering more and more.