Putting Heartbreak Behind Me in Moving to China

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

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Jocelyn Eikenburg

Writer & blogger at Speaking of China
Jocelyn is a writer, blogger and the creator of Speaking of China, a blog about love, family and relationships in China, including AMWF love. She has been featured on the BBC and CCTV. You can find her writing in The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, the anthologies "How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit?" and "Unsavory Elements", and other publications.
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