In our Parting Shot series, readers share their experiences of expat life in Hong Kong. Here, LANA FED shares the story of her journey to achieve strength and balance.
I like learning. Therefore, as soon as I moved here, having three years off of work ahead, I signed up to some classes. It was like entering a buffet in an all-inclusive hotel after a diet. There were so many things I wanted to do! Tai chi, dancing, singing, painting, meditating, yoga. Somehow instead I signed up for Mandarin, psychology and tennis…
It’s been just over a year since we moved to Asia. I still haven’t done any of those activities on my initial wish list. Because, while learning new things can be great, sometimes it’s necessary to unlearn. To unlearn the goal-setting, achievement-focused mindset. To unlearn measuring our time in value-added terms. To unlearn prioritising perceived usefulness over simple enjoyment.
Snapping out of old habits
I found it so hard to snap out of these habits that only now, for the first time, I finally have no classes booked. For so long I just wanted to relax and give myself time to really understand what I want to do, and focus on activities that bring me joy. But I couldn’t. I was almost addicted to getting grades, certificates and evaluating my time in terms of efficiency and external validation. I couldn’t allow myself to just slow down and do what I like, for fun, with no purpose.
It took all this time to unlearn. And it isn’t easy! It’s like telling yourself not to pick at a scab. I asked myself: what would I regret the most when I leave this place? And the simple answer is: not giving myself some peace and quiet. Maybe, sometimes, when you don’t know what you want, you can start with defining what you definitely don’t want.
What I realised is that I don’t want to be stressed. I want to feel strong and balanced. The pandemic took everything out of me. Mentally and physically. I just didn’t quite feel like myself. I felt displaced. I made finding a way back to myself my priority. The trouble is – it’s not always obvious how to do that, especially when you don’t have a structure. I tried to create that structure but went a bit overboard with planning and learning new things.
So what did I do in the past year? I satisfied my curiosity by taking a peek at a new language. I discovered a new sport I enjoy. I had the unplanned opportunity to travel to places that used to be my home, which showed me a new perspective. I challenged myself with new mediums and techniques in my art practice. I made a lot of new friends. I made a new home in a new country. I unlearned.
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This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.