Finding Inspiration

Matt | Finding Yourself | Friday, May 20th, 2011

Lately, I have been struggling for inspiration to write on this site.  I’ve been grasping at things to write about.  So I was grateful to see a few readers asking me questions about China.  This cracked a hole in my block.  Thank you for sending in your questions .  I will answer them as best I can over the next few posts.

Writer’s Block(ade)

Matt | Finding Yourself | Saturday, February 12th, 2011

It has been awhile since I’ve last posted.  There are many reasons for this, but the biggest reason is that I felt that I was no longer able to write since I am no longer in China.  But I have decided to write anyways.

The focus of my posts will still be around China and teaching, but will also focus on education and learning in general as well as a new multi-cultural family living in a foreign country.   A friend of mine once said some powerful words about living in China, “Go with the flow.  Don’t worry too much and you’ll usually end up in a better place.” This was true for me in China and I will try to follow it now in Canada and with this site.

Finding Yourself (in Toronto)

Matt | Finding Yourself | Saturday, March 20th, 2010

Sitting here in my apartment overlooking High Park and Toronto’s skyline, I’m listening to music, drinking red wine and thinking about being lost.

A long time ago I had this sensation pass through me as I was standing outside a McDonalds crossing a dangerous street in Haidian, Beijing.  At the time I felt lost as I had come to China to find myself only to discover that my problem had come with me.  My problem was me.  You can read that post here. My thoughts at the time were that it was possible to find yourself anywhere in the world and taking some time and reading some great books could help.   A reader commented brilliantly…

I have to disagree with you, though, on finding yourself. I think the reason you can find yourself in another place is precisely *because* you are still there, but your other influences (friends, family, culture, work) are not. You can more clearly see what is you and what is not when you see how you are in a different environment.

So I say to those who want to find themselves: Travel, and read some books while you’re there!

Now that I’m back in Toronto, and again lost, I have to agree with these comments.  I believe it is easier to look at yourself objectively when you are in a new environment; when you can act strange and different; when you can try new things; experiment with you life and no one really cares.  But now I surely cannot do this, can I?.  As I’m back in Toronto and there are some cultural norms and beliefs that I must follow; that I should do; that are required of me.  Aren’t they?

Again, I realized that the problem and the solution are both within me.

While it may be easier to do those exciting, crazy and wild things while you are living abroad in a foreign country, there is no reason why this can’t be done anywhere.  Can you and I be brave enough to do this crazy stuff like follow your dreams and desires; chase your passions instead of the pennies; fail in front of your friends and family and have the strength to stand up again, dust yourself off and keep going?

Yes, you can see clearer in a new environment.  You are seeing a lot of new things and you’re mind, heart and soul are more open than their guarded normal back home self, so it’s easier to see a new side to the same old you.  But again I believe and am hoping to prove that this can be done anywhere.  How?

Do something different.

By shaking up your routines, you feels alive.  By doing new things you may find yourself closer to your passions.  You’ll see new things and possibly new sides to yourself.  Maybe you’ll find love through your actions.

From the words of the great poet, philosopher and song writer Dave Matthews…

Here are we
On this starry night staring into space
And I must say
I feel as small as dust
Lying down here
What point could there be troubling
Head down wondering what will become of me
Why concern we cannot see
But no reason to abandon it
Time is short but that’s all right
Maybe I’ll go in the middle of the night
Take your hands from your eyes, my love
Everything must end some time
Don’t burn the day away
Come sister my brother
Shake up your bones shake up your feet
I’m saying open up
And let the rain come flooding in
Wash out this tired notion
That the best is yet to come
But while you’re dancing on the ground
Don’t think of when you’re gone
Love love what more is there
We need the light of love in here
Don’t beat your head
Dry your eyes
Let the love in there
There are bad times
But that’s ok
Just look for love in it
There are bad times
But that’s ok
Just look for love in it”

Finding Yourself (in China)

Matt | Finding Yourself,Working in China | Monday, April 14th, 2008

One of my main reasons to come to China was to find myself.

I clearly remember when I first came to China, a few weeks into teaching and I was standing outside the school gates thinking. I was thinking, “What the f#$k was I doing?” Why had I given up a 5 year career in the world of business to come to China to try teaching? I had remembered being in Toronto, lost as well, and hoping that this experience would help me to gain some traction, to figure out what I was doing and why I was here.

Then it hit me.

I realized that even though I changed almost everything – my career, my job, and even my country – it did not matter.

The problem was still with me. The problem was still me.

I remember standing in that intersection, in Beijing, China, staring at the cars, looking at the McDonalds behind me and realizing that even though I changed almost everything, I didn’t change myself. I was still the Ottawa kid, who used to live in Toronto and now was lost in Beijing. Actually, I may even have made matters worse, in the process of finding myself, by coming to China. Now, I don’t regret coming to China, but I have learned a few things about finding oneself during my stay here.

One problem with leaving to go to another country to find yourself is that you bring the biggest problem with you: and that’s you! The problem usually isn’t your job, your family, your friends, your country, but instead the problem is probably something within you. And actually, by separating yourself from your friends and family, your safety net, you may even exaggerate the problem. It is lonely, difficult and awkward when you move to a new country. Then all of a sudden you are lost, with the problem you, and you have nowhere and no one to turn to!

If you are in this situation, you’ll probably have to build up a network of friends and “family” here quickly for support. I recommend a club like Toastmasters, the public speaking club. It’s a great way to meet amazing people and to improve your leadership and communication skills. You could also join any other club or organization. Living overseas you depend on your friends to act as your family too.

To find oneself and ones meaning in life, I don’t think you have to travel halfway around the world, but itself you need to do something more frightful: turn off the TV and open a book. You can do this anywhere. Now, you may need to take a holiday from your regular schedule; to find a quiet place like a cabin in the woods or even your own home, and simply relax, rest and read. I find that when doing this, the right books you need will come to you; the right messages will come to you; by taking the time away from your busy schedule and truly getting away you’ll be able to listen to the inner voice inside yourself (usually just above your belly) that always tells you the right thing to do.

Now, I do realize that going away for a year offers a person a better opportunity to do this. Because being alone, overseas, I do have more time to think and to read. I do believe it can be done anywhere and I’m positive the first step is turning off the TV and picking up a book.

Books will find you when you are ready for them. Here are some that I found at the right time that often are telling me a similar message.

Now, I know some of these you’ve read and some of the others you aren’t interested it. If that’s the case, just pick up some books that you like and start reading. Lately, I’ve been focusing on some classics as there’s a reason why they are classics. Also, I’m working through a top 10 list from TheSimpleDollar. If I get a book recommendation from a friend and I like the first book, then I’ll want to read everything that person has recommended.  You may want to read some religious books, which are also high on my list, or some philosophy books, but I think the solution is the same: sit, read, and think.

I think just finding a quiet place, opening a book and thinking are the first steps to figuring out what you want and who  you are.

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