A quick preface: some of the information in this post may be considered to be sensitive or personal, however, the truth is candid. Justification for my decision to publish this comes from the fact that my host mother herself has published a book on having au pairs, which includes candid information. So, if she values honesty, I will, too.
Sometimes, bravery is not a wild, risky adventure. Sometimes it doesn’t involve cliff-diving or selfless heroism. Sometimes bravery is less a choice and more of a requirement, because the universe occasionally has a proclivity towards giving us unpleasant situations. There’s an uncomfortable familiarity surrounding family fights. I knew, as soon as I witnessed the first family fight, that it wouldn’t be an isolated incident, but I suppose I underestimated the severity of the subsequent fights I would later witness. The gritty details, I’ll leave out, but let’s just say that sometimes, bravery is picking up knives off the floor that have been thrown, and sometimes, bravery is comforting a crying child, even when you yourself just want to go into your room and cry. I hate to call myself brave, knowing that even a particularly raucous altercation never really put me in harm’s way, but perhaps it’s brave just to stay in an uncomfortable situation for a child’s sake. Perhaps.
Kindness, much like bravery, comes in many forms, and I’m loath to pat myself on the back for anything I’ve done in this gap year, because everything I do just seems like normal human decency. But when your charge gets seriously ill on your birthday, I guess you put your needs to the side (even if you feel just a tad bitter at fate). And when she’s still sick by Christmas, and her Christmas list tells Santa all she wants is a carved wooden cat, you run all over Beijing searching for a wooden cat, growing more and more frustrated as you discover that the only wooden cats you find are lucky cats. Every day, when you have time, you check a new store, a new market, looking for that cat, and the day before Christmas, you finally settle on a wooden rabbit. Santa, of course, writes an apology letter, explaining that he ran out of cats this year. You tuck it in a box, ride an hour on the metro to the other side of the city, and try to make Christmas feel like normal Christmas, not in the hospital Christmas.
Failure is not something I like (I don’t think anyone likes it). Thankfully, my gap year has been relatively free of it, except for when I fail to live up to my own expectations. As I write this, I’m in Beijing. I should be in Sanya, taking care of Pipi, but I unexpectedly got ill and had to go back home a week early. After a night of vomiting, shaking, and being dizzy, I had no choice but to ask my host mother to buy a last-minute plane ticket back to Beijing. I wasted money and was unable to fulfill my duty of taking care of my charge. Mostly, I feel guilty about the fact that I somewhat ruined a vacation that was going well. Of course, no one can control being ill, but my body certainly let me down.
Perhaps bouncing back is the least exciting and hardest to write about of the four topics I’ve been asked to write about. Sure, everyone loves a comeback story, but my difficulties aren’t too big or numerous. Studying Chinese, occasionally making an idiot out of myself, dealing with a child’s typical rudeness — none of these difficulties require a great comeback. But, hey, I’m bouncing back in little ways, and that’s what counts.
Reading over this post, I do realize it seems a bit negative. However, when talking about these events, I can’t really gloss over how, well… negative some of them are. I’ve really loved this gap year, don’t get me wrong — but not everything will always be good, and that’s okay. You have to take the good with the not-so-good!