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Things I’ve learned about me

Steve asked me something when I first told him I was headed to China. Dave, are you running away from something? Or running to something? He knew the answer when he asked me. He’s a smart guy that way. He just wanted me to honestly look in the mirror and know what the implications meant. I was certainly running away, but I feel strongly that I needed to. I was sunk in heartbreak twice in just over a few years. I spent a lot of years wanting validation from someone else, but knew deep down I needed to be fine with me. I'm responsible for my happiness. Nobody else can or should try to bear that burden.

I feel like I’ve spent the time since my divorce asking myself the right questions. Who am I? Who do I want to be? What’s most important to me? Given my single status I opted to go explore a part of the world that has always fascinated me. I was a junior in high school when I watched The Last Emperor. When someone would ask me where I would like to travel to China was always first on my list.

I started making a list of things that make me who I am. I'm a teacher, a father, a son, a brother, a friend, a partner. The most important things that makes me who I am is the other people in my life. It's the relationships I have with them that form my identity more than anything else. When I was younger I would have quickly identified myself as a basketball player, a poker addict, a golfer, etc. Perspectives change. We grow up. Our priorities shift. It was once more important for me to be good at things. I can easily say that's changed to wanting to have a positive impact on the people I encounter. That said, I'm no angel. I still make bad choices from time to time. I'm still selfish from time to time, but not nearly as much as I once was.

Has being in China had an impact on me as a person? I would like to think so. I've been entertained. I've learned a lot about China and the people here. I've formed new friendships and colleagues. I've searched for a partner and found Aiyun. But have I changed as a person? As a person I don't think so. My priorities are pretty much the same as when I left the states two years ago. However, I can safely confirm that people are the same in the most important ways regardless of which side of the planet you're on. People seek love and connection.

I'm headed to Wuxi next weekend and have some plans for my time with Aiyun. I'm going to surprise her by having a fun day for us planned in her home city. She knows we're doing something, but she isn't going to know until we go out and do it. Taking the time to plan a fun outing for her where she doesn't have to think about it or make any decisions is what she wants. I know she'll appreciate it and she'll know how I feel about her. There's a movie I want us to watch together from one of my favorite directors. It's Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. There's a phrase from the movie that says a lot to me. The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return. I think about this a lot. What is love? It's more than a catchy song from the 90s. Thanks Haddaway. The love I've found in China is different than what I thought it was when I was younger. It's taking the time to learn about and meet someone else's needs. It's unselfish. It's giving. It's all the sappy stuff in that bible verse we hear at nearly every wedding. My life might have been much different had I realized this when I was younger, but that's not realistic at all. We all have to learn these things on our own. I didn't need to come to China to learn this, but it's where I'm at in this moment.

I've got some other thoughts about teaching now that I've been working in a different system for a couple of years. But I think I'll save that for another day.

Who am I now? Just a man trying to learn and grow still. Perhaps a little more worldly, but still just a man looking to share some happiness.

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