Summer Crunch #personalstuff

Tram to Sheung Wan's Western Market

Since coming to Hong Kong, summer has always been fiendishly hectic for me. I do have to go to the office everyday to do admin duties or conduct admission interviews, but I don’t have to teach classes or mark so you’d think I’d be less busy, but it’s also prime time for planning annual-leave trips (and the trips themselves), working on collaborative projects, beefing up the writing inventory, Do the Things You Said You’d Do Before the End of the Year, and in a similar vein but more frightening, Think About the Future.

I know all this busyness has something to do with the awareness you get, once you’ve been working for a while, that you have to do the things you’ve always wanted to because there is so little time and you’re just going to get older, and summer is the time to do them because the workload at the dayjob is lighter (in my field anyway). Couple that with Hong Kong’s drive, cut-throat ambition, and general atmosphere of keeping up with the Joneses, and summer becomes your most existentialist time of the year.

2011 has been particularly significant. This has turned out to be the year in which I’ve started hacking at a number of decisions (and actions) I’ve been needing to make (and do) and had always been putting off for various reasons. The list is far from done but it’s been a big start. I’m not talking just about your usual middle-class issues (more on that later) but also things of a (dare I say it, cue the pretentiousness here) more personal, abstract nature.  Long-term priorities in life. What I want. What I don’t want. Who I really am. (I’m stopping before I can possibly go even more New Age-y, but you get the idea.)

I didn’t put off  those decisions for nothing; you make one and almost immediately you’re beset by changes. It’s not a bad thing but it’s tiring. Theoretically, of course, yes, it’s a fact of life that people change and their priorities scramble, but it still astounds me to fully realize the difference between what I want now and what I wanted six years ago when I graduated from university, and the follow-through actions that difference entails. If you would allow me a simile, it’s like the stars broke from the hold of the sky and rearranged themselves. (OK, now I’m terrified at the thought of my priorities taking another shake down when I hit 30. Also the kind of similes I’d be making.)

It’s a shift in perspective. I was talking about all this with a friend on a long-distance Skype call (interesting what sounds you get when the other party is on an iPhone and is making dinner at the same time). She said it sounded like a quarter-life crisis; I said maybe, but I think by accommodating this shift I actually may be bypassing that. Then there was a pause at her end and then, “Wow, OK. Not a lot of people your age can say that.” (I’d also like to mention that said friend is only a year older than me, thank you very much.) I’ve been getting a lot of that kind of reaction from friends. XD Another was during a discussion about regrets with someone else – because she was turning 26 as well this year and said, Let’s do something you regret not doing before turning 26, and I couldn’t think of any.

I’ve mentioned this before –  that shift has affected my writing too. In the most surprisingly pleasant, forward-driven way. I took a break on April and May because of the usual nightmare of end-of-term marking (My colleagues and I broke personal records. At one point, I was up at the crack of dawn decimating a mountain of paper – for a layabout like me, that is extreme. There’s a reason why I live relatively close to work, y’all)  and had other things to deal with too. I got back to the stride in June and since then, I’ve felt more sure-footed, honest, and confident in my narrative voice (yup, there’s nothing like technical jargon to ruin an emotional moment), which gives my stories a momentum I’ve been looking for for a very long time. It’s almost like rediscovering why I had wanted to write in the first place.

So summer, ah, summer, that’s when one acts upon big shifts in perspective. I’m looking at my calendar and it’s so full. On top of that, I just happen to be on the verge of just about everything. I’m mid-contract at work and the apartment rent, and anyone living in HK knows what those mean.

Luckily, Hong Kong summer, while hot and humid, brings some of the bluest skies you see all year. When it’s not raining or about to rain, it’s beautiful. And I, being a highly impressionable person, take all that in and it just puts me in a tremendously good mood.

Clearwater Bay


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