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The Beat

If you’re keeping up with the beat of the expat scene in Shanghai, you’re probably introducing yourself to at least one new person a day.

The Introduction Conversation

Now that we've both established that we’re “English teachers” and have given the pretense of self-assuredness based on how long we’ve comparatively been “here,” we move on to the juicier stuff, our hobbies…

They ask, only half-interested, “So… What sort of stuff do you write?”

In as casual a tone as possible, “A bit of everything. I write poetry, ideas that I have for jokes, I’ve written some satire… Gathering material for a semi-autobiographical [trailing off]… Well, I used to have a personal travel blog.”

Initially, I’m met with skepticism, the same brand of healthy skepticism I have for anyone who decidedly calls themselves a writer.

One thing I don’t always list in my explanation is the written word that has always come the most natural to me.

Lists… Editing them, jumping up, down, between the order of chaotic, jumbled thoughts.

Lists, not only do they make sense –they create sense. So, without further ado, a list:



  • Age is a number and it isn’t. There’s a lot of wisdom waiting to be washed up and whisked away from the nights and days full of varied levels of intoxication. Never cry again on your 30th birthday because, accept it, you will never again have another 30th birthday. Pick up a friend to slap you silly, slap you HARD in the face if you EVER cry again over a self-absorbed someone who forgets your 30th birthday.

  • Date. Be exasperated. Be enthralled. 打开眼睛 (Open your eyes wide). See people for what they are, beyond what they say. Notice what they do. Take breaks from it. Be well. Give to yourself like you want to give to someone. Pay attention to what your body feels, what’s tense, what isn’t. And then, date again.

  • Take risks. You’re not going to get the lion’s share of what you put out there back, but there’s no truth either in living smaller than who you are or holding back the best of what’s in store, and trust yourself. You ARE going to get better with age.

  • Mentors are advised in life. Can’t find one? Read. (This is wise and known advice, but rarely followed –most of all, by me.)

  • When you have lost nearly all your faith, taking an evening to remember the time where you felt the closest to g-d and spirituality is almost as good as having lived it. Better yet, share the parameters that made that experience possible with someone in the immediate space around you who can listen.

  • Fast. It’s a good reset and will clear a lot more up than just your digestion.

  • Do go to Dragon Burn/Burning Man. Radical self-expression within a supportive and giving community is healing. People, the most self-actualized people, just want you to be happy and to support you in your experience, nothing else, nothing more.

  • "All or none human connections are killing our human relatedness." -Hai Dai

  • If you are a person who really listens, and you are, you are worth more than your weight in gold. Everyone wants your presence, but not everyone deserves it. Be mindful of how much energy and love you give to people.

  • A person with your same phenomenal taste in music with whom you can spend a rainy afternoon in deep conversation with is double his weight in gold. You know who you are.

  • You are more beautiful, smart, and special than you have ever known

  • Each pocket of time people take to spend time with you, appreciate it, more than you need to. Time well spent is one precious gift from which meaning flows and builds upon forever

  • Sleep well to win the next day. Sleep lots.

Night, all.


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