7 things I am doing to get ready for life after and in China
This is the third post in the What Comes After China: Group Writing Project series. The final post in the series will have links to others who have responded to this call for thoughts about what comes after China – it’d be great to hear from anyone who has more thoughts about this to get them out there – that includes you if you are someone planning on leaving China at some point.
In my last post, I shared with you the problems I face with or preparing for life after China. In this post, I want to share with you my thoughts and actions on how it is I am dealing with these problems.
How I’m living life in China now
In fact, this post is about how I am trying to live my life right now. It’s another fairly personal post, so if that bothers you I don’t mind if you stop reading right now.
If you are living in China, I bet you have already thought through the “What comes after China” question quite a bit. I hope by sharing my thoughts on how I am preparing for life after China with you (and what I am doing to enjoy things while I am here), you can take away a new idea or two. If not, maybe you can share with me (and anyone else who reads this) some of your thoughts in the comments below.
7 Solutions to “What comes after China?”
- Studying furiously
- Trying to improve the way I do my job
- Being Cheap
- Trying to come up with other ways to make money that don’t interfere with my current job, and which bring some level of meaning to living in China
- Trying to improve my time management skills
- Trying to maintain balance
- Trying to “fall in love with” China
1. Studying furiously
We live in a challenging and rapidly evolving world. Young Chinese professionals that earn 1/10 the wage of their US counterparts (at least in terms of starting salaries) scare me greatly. They bring home the realization that if I don’t have something truly valuable or different to offer an employer, or think of a great business idea of my own, times are going to be quite rough in the coming years.
It also brings home the realization that I need to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can – because there are plenty of people all around the world doing the exact same thing willing to work for much less money than you or me.
And so a large majority of my free time is spent studying – whether this is done by reading magazines in Chinese, reading books on investing (a couple dozen and counting) or anything of practical use, keeping up with what’s happening in the business world or world overall, or reading useful content on the Internet, I spend the great majority of my free time studying and learning.
Sometimes my motivation to study wanes, but the desire to learn and improve is hidden somewhere. In today’s incredibly competitive world, not learning is the same as accepting a lower lot in life.
2. Trying to improve the way I do my job
While my work is the thing that interests me the least in my life at the moment (even though it pays the bills, doing my job sometimes makes me feel like life is slipping between my fingers), it is something that I want to do better. Whether this is done by being more professional, timely, or just on top of things – I try to do my job well and don’t let mistakes slip by without effort to improve and prevent similar mistakes from happening again.
Doing my job well is also one of the best ways that I can prepare for life after China – especially for the job interviews to come. After all, when people ask “what did you accomplish in China?” I’d like to have some substantial answers. Part of the reason I feel I cannot leave China right now is I still don’t have any good accomplishments to my name, except “I improved my Chinese and learned a lot”, which isn’t good enough for the vast majority of potential employers.
And if I can get some real accomplishments under my belt, I’d feel a little less uncomfortable asking for a raise – hence increasing my ability to save for life after China and enjoy it a bit more while here, which brings me to the next point:
3. Being Cheap
I can’t avoid it – I have to be cheap, given the circumstances my girlfriend and I find ourselves in. There is a lot to do in Shanghai and the surrounding areas if you have even a little bit of money – but there is far more to do if you have a lot of money. These other things are ones I have to stay away from – because we just can’t afford them.
Even the things that other people would construe as necessities – haircuts, new clothes every couple of years, shoes that are not falling apart, five dollar massages, several hundred dollar wonderful trips on the cheap – things that cost less in China than the rest of the world, are things I often deny myself. To those on decent salaries or who are single in China, I don’t recommend you do this. It’s one borne out of necessity more than anything.
The fact is, until I can up my income significantly, saving for the future on my earnings from a job in China means cutting back on things I would very much like to do. But I don’t want this always to be the case. If I can significantly improve the way I do my job, I won’t have to cut back so much. Being dependent on a job for all of my income is not very appealing, though, and not very fulfilling either. Which brings you to my next thought:
4. Trying to come up with other ways to make money that don’t interfere with my current job, and which bring some level of meaning to living in China
My work requires that I be available day and night for the entire week – but more often than not there are fair chunks of semi-interrupted time that I can use doing stuff that doesn’t require leaving the “office” (home). And use them I do, whether it is on studying (as mentioned above), or thinking up creative ways of making money that I can enjoy.
The truth is, however, that even though I have plenty of ideas – none of them have amounted to much of anything as of yet. But that doesn’t mean they are bad ideas. It means I haven’t carried them through effectively. But I’ve managed to learn a good bit from trying out these ideas, and will continue on this path because it is one that brings a lot of pleasure and personal development.
As you might have guessed this site fits into this category. Even though it brings in an extremely small amount of income – it is something I enjoy doing, and because of that, and because of the hope and desire of developing useful content and stories for myself and you, it is something I won’t give up on as long as I remain in China.
5. Trying to improve my time management skills
I’ll be honest and say that my time management skills are rather rudimentary – it’s hard for me to focus on one task at a time when I usually have many things going through my head at the same time. But I try. Lists of things to do help quite a bit, as does setting limits for myself (not writing until late into the midnight hours, for example).
What also helps is trying to get certain things done when I’m in the most efficient mindset to do so. This includes things such as disparate as reading Chinese if I have spare time in the morning, writing more emails and even posts like this during the evenings, and making more phone calls in the afternoon than the morning (when I am clearer headed).
Although it is often not possible to do things when I am most likely to do them efficiently and effectively, sometimes I have leeway to make these choices, and it makes a difference to make them.
6. Trying to maintain balance
Of the 7 things I am doing right now to enjoy being and China and prepare for life after it, maintaining balance is probably the one I am worst at.
Balance is important in life, but is especially so when living halfway around the world from family and old friends. Without it, you can literally drive yourself crazy.
For me, balance means focusing on several things, including the following:
- Spending enough quality time with my girlfriend
- Getting more exercise and trying to maintain a healthier diet
- Keeping touch with family back home and old friends
- Going out with & making new friends
- Maintaining an optimistic attitude about things
These are all things I strive to do, and hope to focus more on starting right now.
7. Trying to “fall in love with” China
There have been periods where I truly enjoyed being in China – and then there have been long stretches of time where it’s just okay. But this latter attitude is not the best way of getting the most out of, or putting much into, living in China.
As with anything in life, the more effort and interest you put into understanding something, the more interesting it becomes, and the more you get out of it. This is as true for being in China as it is for anything.
Whether it is something as simple as bringing your camera along and taking shots of things wherever you go, making more Chinese friends, or actively learning more about China’s language or culture, time used trying to understand China better is time well spent.
And the more effort I throw directly into understanding China, the more I enjoy being here. It’s kind of like trying to fall in love with someone all over again – the second time around you might already know all of their shortcomings and flaws, but maybe just because of this you can love them all the more. I hope this is the way I end up leaving China.