Trading My Expectations for Appreciation

OCT Shenzhen

Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes instantly.

When I left my home to travel for an indefinite amount of time, I had grand expectations of what I would do. I pictured myself becoming a fearless person, hitchhiking to remote villages, making friends with strangers, cooking with them in their kitchens. I imagined myself picking up languages easily. I imagined that I would simply flitter here and there without a care in the world.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that my expectations were a fantasy.

Reality hit me like a ton of bricks, and I counted myself a failure. I had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel without time constraints, and I wasn’t even making the most of it.

Then, I realized that those expectations were someone else’s life, not mine. I’m not the kind of person to be comfortable hitchhiking to a remote village and making friends with strangers. I don’t flitter here and there. I trudge, methodically, one kilometer at a time. I care about where I spend the night. I care about what I eat. I’m not happy living someone else’s life.

It took me almost a year to discover who I was as a full-time traveler. It wasn’t who I expected, but it was the person who made me happy.

Shenzhen OCT cat

Now, I live in China.

I moved to China to live in a completely foreign country and teach English. I’m doing this. Yet, those sneaky expectations creep in again. They are crazy, stupid expectations that constantly whisper in my ear that I am a failure. 

I went for a run one morning. As the sweat poured down my face and I dodged the plethora of people in the park, I realized how thankful I was for this experience. I realized how amazing it was that I could go for a run, an impossible feat a few months ago due to an injury. 

I’m so thankful to be living here. 

My life here isn’t perfect. I don’t speak Chinese yet, and I’m finding it insanely difficult to learn since I get paid to speak English all day long. I haven’t learned anything about Chinese tea or Chinese medicine or Tai Chi. I haven’t taken any yoga classes. I’ve only spent time in Shenzhen, a young city notorious for being devoid of traditional Chinese culture. 

Yet, when I let go of those expectations and instead celebrate what I do have, a smile forms on my face. Apparently, Sheryl Crow was right: it isn’t having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got. I have a pleasant apartment and a kitchen where I can do some cooking. I live near a park and several swimming pools. The metro system is amazing here. I get to learn about Chinese life from Chinese people every day at work. 

Hot pot is a popular type of restaurant here. We even found a vegetarian one!

Hot pot is a popular type of restaurant here. We even found a vegetarian one!

We enjoyed a refreshing beverage at this cute coffee shop that had an amazing photography exhibit about foot binding.

We enjoyed a refreshing beverage at this cute coffee shop that had an amazing photography exhibit about foot binding.

Everyday I discover something new here. Martin found a local farm that delivers vegetables to your door. We just got our first box today! Excited is an understatement. We even got to choose the vegetables that were included in our box! 

CSA Veggies Shenzhen

(Clockwise) Fresh peanuts, sweet potatoes, basil, mint, spring onions, perilla, spicy peppers, Chinese onions, cucumbers, sweet corn, Chinese water spinach.

My life is never how I imagine it to be. But when I let go of my expectations and really see what I have in my life, I’m overwhelmed with appreciation. And that makes me smile. 

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2 Responses

  1. Barb says:

    So glad you’re finding happiness. It comes from within, regardless of your environment. Love you guys!!

  2. Molly B says:

    “when I let go of those expectations and instead celebrate what I do have” – YES! Here’s to happiness!