When I was little, besides the everyday thoughts that pass through a little kid’s mind such as the next candy fix and how many days left until Christmas, I thought a lot about growing up. I was always looking forward to the next step. I couldnt wait until I was old enough to ride my bike out of the neighborhood, be in fifth grade, be sixteen, learn to drive, and go to college.
but there was one constant worry that put a damper on all of my excitement to grow up.
What the heck am I going to do when I have to live and support myself? How can I possibly be prepared, and what will everyone expect of me?
over time, that small worry I had as a kid is a full on reality. Especially in China when I am on a budget, paying rent, and working. When I was little, I had an incomprehensible amount of free dinners and housing to really give that a second thought. But now I am twenty, and sometimes I feel just as unprepared as I did when I was small, especially when I make mistakes. Take today. I am going to Beijing this weekend, and I had to pay one of my roommates for buying our plane and train tickets yesterday. So I scootered over to the bank and withdrew money without a second thought. In fact, I didn’t even give the ATM a second thought when I left my foreign debit card in the slot. So imagine my horror when I opened my wallet to give my mom the card number only to find it missing from its usual place. Horror is hardly a strong enough term. I retraced my steps right back to the machine and proceeded to have an audible, American curse word filled, panic attack at my computer this morning at work.
And I wore my searsucker dress today because I was feeling classy. So much for projecting that image.
When my coworkers calmed down the psycho lao wai, and I was able to explain to them that my careful budgeting turned out to be pointless and I would be out on the streets of Shanghai in a matter of days because I left my ATM card inside the machine at the bank, they started laughing. Seriously? I crack jokes in the office that no one gets all the time, and the one time I am being entirely serious they laugh.
Oh silly lao wai they tell me, that happens all the time because of the way the machines work in China, the ATM eats cards that have been left behind after 30 seconds. Call the bank and show them your passport after work.
After I called the bank and confirmed that they had my ATM card, I was able to take a second and think about what I could have done better, which turned into me thinking about my maturity level. And this blog post.
I don’t think there is ever a way to be completely prepared to live life out on your own. You prepare yourself by making mistakes and learning from them, while also taking the time to recognize your successes. Maybe I made a royal mistake budgeting last semester. But I have been a budget master here in Shanghai. I definitely messed up both in losing my card and freaking out about it instead of staying cool and calmly sorting out my problem without my coworkers thinking I had hurt myself. While I will never leave a card in an ATM again, I learned that there is a more mature way to handle unanticipated challenges due to carelessness……
If I only could have told kid Gen that there was no point in worrying about being ready to be an adult. No one is ready to be an adult, adults are people who have learned enough from their mistakes to consider themselves an adult.
Last but not least, in order to legitimatize this post as having something to do with “travel/China”, I have a metro story. On the metro yesterday, a scruffy chinese man asked if he could sit down next to me because it was one of the first times he has seen a westerner in person. Besides the inevitable photo shoot that took place, I was able to have a real conversation with him in chinese. He spoke absolutely no english! Granted, he only wanted to talk about how much money the west had and all I wanted to talk to him about was what it was like to grow up in the Sichuan province….but we still got a long great.
I am getting an hour long head massage and blow out today for 10 RMB ($1.60) tonight before dinner with Elle and Ladies night!