Years ago, when I made the serendipitous – and seemingly accidental – decision to come to China, I actually had a fresh start in mind after I signed on to teach for a year at a university.
My college years ended with an explosive breakup so devastating that I spent weeks in counseling trying to sort out exactly what had happened and why I had ended up with this wreckage of a relationship. It helped some when the counselor told me she suspected my ex was bipolar, which then explained a lot of the erratic behavior I hadn’t understood.
But that summer before I left, it was also a great comfort to me that I had China to look forward to. Even though I hadn’t explicitly chosen the opportunity as a means to sidestep my heartbreak back home, it nevertheless offered a golden chance for me to put this nightmare of a relationship behind me and move forward in a new direction.
Ironically, I had even built up China in my mind as this kind of “post-relationship retreat”, where I would get a reprieve from all matters of the heart and finally recover, particularly in light of what someone had told me about China:
“You don’t have to worry about the students falling in love with you.”
Before I embarked on my first trip to China, where I would teach English at a college, I met up with one of the former teachers several times for dinner or drinks. And when the subject of student crushes came up – something he had been forced to navigate very delicately – he negated the possibility of anything similar happening to me.
Conversations such as this one led me to make the erroneous assumption that I would stay single in China.
In the end, I did get a fresh start that first year in China, but not like I expected. After all, I fell in love with a local Chinese man in Zhengzhou, my first real adult romance, which helped me understand what a relationship ought to feel like. My wounded heart found space to heal in his arms.
While he and I eventually parted ways, I’m forever grateful for the time we spent together, which ultimately opened me up to the possibility of loving again, in China.
Then two years later, I met Jun, my future husband, in Hangzhou. But that’s another story of a fresh start for another day.
Photo credits: Heartbreak by RecycledStarDust