Friday, August 1, 2014

last year

It took days to sort through a year's worth of Shanghai photos. There was much to see, but the most prominent subject (besides the mandatory yes-I'm-Asian-ok-fine-I'm-Filipino food shots) was of the nieghborhood. One of my favorite things about Shanghai is that it is both coming and going, some pieces stuck in humble local life, and some bits zooming ahead and pioneering the future. My stroll down photo memory lane reminded me that this year was more about the lively, maddening city than about work life. I've never been able to say this as a working adult. This year has done wonders for my soul.

Why did it end? Mis-fit, is all I'll say here - not one I regret and definitely not with the city.

Shanghai is a million things, soothing and crazy at the same time. It wasn't at all where I thought I'd end up in my first post outside Manila. It was at first disconcerting how little of my comfort zone there was to be found there - food safety, air quality, English all missing, but especially friends, a serious deficit at the start. In time I came to relish the feeling of having my own corner of the world, with nobody from my past in it and the great new people I met almost a completely different set from everyone else I know back home. Even if I've left, probably for good, part of me will feel like I can disappear into the city again if I ever need a break.

Shanghai was my next work move, which by all means I got, but the surprise was being able to focus on the not work. As regional posts go, the pace was slower and I got to spend more time outside, seeing, tasting, trying, doing.

I've come to appreciate the slow-down, even if it was never the plan and though the free time was at first quite jarring. My highest-Liked Facebook post to date broached the possibility that I'd entered an alternate advertising universe one can have work-life because our whole team would start packing up at 5:45 everyday and actually leave by 6. My teammates would tell me their after-work or dinner plans and I couldn't believe anyone would really be able to keep their appointments. Who knew.

I'm holding on to this a little longer, milking it and maybe reinvesting in my sanity. Recovering after eight straight hard years, or maybe preparing for the next intense set. The thought freaked me out at first, even if my gut told me I absolute wanted to lie low instead of jumping right into a new role. This isn't me; I'm usually so gung-ho about work. A former teammate who recently found himself in the same ad work limbo said he was raring to go, that he was still hungry. I don't think my professional appetite has been satiated of advertising but I do need to stop for a bit and maybe taste new things. Maybe things moved too fast for too long. Maybe the politics tainted my love of the industry and the work. I'm giving myself three months to figure it out, no commitments, no matter how much that scares me.

I need to stay out of things for just a little longer, and find something old or new to inspire me. Who knows. But if there's anything I learned from Shanghai, it's the joy of discovery, that there's a new street full of low-key watering holes or cool little boutiques just waiting to be chanced-upon. That finding something meaningful doesn't mean you've been aggressively searching. That being open can be better than knowing what you want. Some of the good stuff is unscripted, meant to be chanced upon or discovered just when you thought you'd never been more lost.


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