Back then, I hated China.
I hated how polluted the skies were.
I hated how people treated each other.
I hated the filthy roads that were jammed by honking cars and jaywalkers sprinting across traffic without regards, further contributing to the traffic.
It was a lifestyle I lived with for 2 years in Shenyang. A city that reminded me of the US back in the 1950s, where factories spanned from one part of the sky to another. Factory workers would line the streets smoking as the heavy machinery continued their incessant roars. It was a place where smog, noise and dust dominated all.
I didn’t even want to be in Shenyang in the first place. I had only stayed because I wanted to support my ex.
It was easily the worst two years of my life. And so I promised myself to never visit China again.
But I did anyways, 5 years later.
You know how when you look back at the decisions you make years and years ago and realize how naive and silly you were? Well, my decision to go back to China was one of those.
I realized my bad experiences were heavily influenced by the betrayal of my ex-boyfriend, which in turned skewed my perception of China as a whole.
I was wrong.
Shenyang is just one city out of hundreds in China. How could I possibly describe the whole country based on what I’ve experienced in one city?
I can’t, right? That’d only make me as naive as I used to be.
I knew I needed another perspective and the only way would be to give China another chance. I needed to explore at least one other city in China to start.
So, I chose Shenzhen.
It wasn’t as dirty or uncivilized as I once thought it was. It actually felt like a mix between Hong Kong and Singapore: majestic skyscrapers, trendy fashion, bustling streets, developed public transportation and luxurious malls and hotels. People were more civilized and respectful.
Some parts in the city felt even more technology advanced than many parts of the world and that sometimes confused me, because I’d start forget that this was actually China. The China I had tried so hard to forget about because of my past.
This was a huge wake up call for me. I really wished I had reflected and given China another chance earlier.
But that’s the thing about how our minds work:
We often assume we understand everything about a particular topic based on one or two experiences when in reality, we’ve only encountered a fraction of what it could be.
These assumptions based on our past discourages us from experiencing new things. We stop growing and miss opportunities in seeing a different side of the world that we otherwise wouldn’t have.
So my lesson to you is this: Don’t make assumptions based on your limited experiences. If you want to learn and understand something for what it is, you have to be open and be willing to try things more than once.
Only by making no assumptions will you get the chance to turn bad experiences into better ones and see things in a new light.
I’ll see you guys in China.