Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

The wandering writer’s life – part 756

with one comment

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In the late summer of 2012, I was excited and nervous about my upcoming move to Beijing. I had a flight booked for September and I was looking forward to it with trepidation & eagerness. Moving overseas felt like a major threshold, and a threshold that – until it was crossed – remained beyond direct knowledge.

At night, in my parent’s house over that summer, I had vague dreams about how my time in Beijing would unfold. But I had no real insight into the minutiae of this unfolding until I had made the journey into that great beyond.

If these sentences sound vaguely death-like, then moving to Beijing did capture a death of some kind. The passing of an old life and journeying to a new one. New beginnings, and all that. But I never would’ve countenanced that the experience of living in Beijing would be like dying over and over again.

Living in a too-small apartment was like dying. Surviving on too little income was like dying. Feeling lonely and anxious was like dying. Dreaming of succeeding and clutching tight to my ambition was, definitely, like dying. Because once I made it to the other side — moving to a bigger apartment; making more money; gaining a friendship circle; achieving some of my goals — all propelled me to a feeling I had heretofore not known: an utter aliveness.

This journey is so much about migration. How we all migrate: whether it’s from a small village to a big city (from Boscastle to Bristol, let’s say); or from a small town to the capital of China. It is a rite of passage so fundamental that it is wondrous to me that not more people take the opportunity to make such a journey.

Because to remain still, whether metaphorically or literally, is to be in stasis. Moving is the key. And it doesn’t always have to be forwards. Life may seem linear, but there are cul-de-sacs, weird ass wiggly bits, and looping circles. It doesn’t matter.

It’s now been about 18 months since I left Beijing. Since that time I’ve spent eight months at home in England, and about 10 months on the road. Looking ahead, once I’ve finally figured out what the next stage is, I have the feeling that I will come to see this time as a transition period. That this wandering writer’s life I’ve got going on feels like a meandering path, and doesn’t seem in itself like a definite life-stage, is curious. And I won’t draw any conclusions for now.

What is interesting is that I’ve gotten quite good at it. I have now been in Japan since March and I have not only survived but prospered. I’ve done pretty well at landing commissions to do with my host country (and Japan seems like a veritable bounty in terms of story ideas) but I also see how I can improve my freelancing processes. And all this is underpinned by the fact I’ve had to stay put for several months.

Two roads clearly diverged. (Because pandemic.) I was only supposed to stay in Fukuoka for 10 days before flying out to Kuala Lumpur, where I would’ve stayed for a week or two, before flying to Bali. Covid-19 put paid to all that and Japan has been my home since.

And so the meandering path has deposited me here and all I can see are circles ahead and not straightforward roads. But this is how, perhaps, I wanted it to be – secretly, wishfully – all those moons ago.

Written by Lu-Hai Liang

August 5, 2020 at 7:52 am

One Response

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  1. You’re on a long journey – that’s life

    Alistair

    Alistair Harley

    August 5, 2020 at 8:25 am


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