It’s a strange thing to be an expat in Beijing.
It’s almost like living in a fake world. A world where you can constantly reinvent yourself. A world where any relationships you may have will, unfortunately, rarely last.
All the friendships I have here have an expiration date. Everyone is here for their own reasons: they came for a job, they came to be with their significant other, they came for an internship or a job. Whatever the reason, they did not come here to live forever. They came here to experience and then move on. Maybe some want to stay, I’m sure many do, but China has strict visa restrictions, living here forever is pretty much impossible. And really, who wants to be inhaling cancerous air for the rest of their life?
Living here gives me so many chances that I would not have back home. I meet tons of new people constantly. I’m gaining self-confidence, I’m finding all kinds of work experience. Since I’ve come to Beijing I’ve been a photographer at a high-profile Canadian Embassy event. Got a job at an international hospital. Been the host of a TV show. Become a free-lance writer and have two articles printed in a magazine! That has literally been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. I am literally doing everything I have always wanted to do, and best of all I’m doing it all by myself.
But there’s a part of me that wonders if living this way will only make me empty in the end. I make friends and connections with people, put in all the effort, but at the end of the day, I know full well they won’t be around forever. The expiration date lingers in my mind. I know they will move soon, and I know I myself will be gone in a year. In Ottawa, my friends and my life was stagnant but I guess the predictability was a bit comforting. I can see all my friends back home growing closer, and myself growing further and further away and I can’t help but wonder if I’m making a mistake by leading this superficial come-and-go expat life.
I know a lot of my friends back home will probably never leave Ottawa.
….but then again, some might. And even if I don’t leave the country, my friendships just might fade anyway.
So perhaps this superficial life I’m leading here is really what life is, anywhere.
Maybe it’s all just practice.