Everything gets a return.

It’s been several weeks since I last posted a blog entry. I’m fully aware not many people read this, but all two of my friends that periodically check my site have really let me hear about it. Matter of fact, I’m not even certain that they read it. They may just randomly check on my posts in order to see if there’s something else they can give me a hard time about.

The heartfelt concern and valuable insight that my friends provide me with (sometimes too often) actually played a huge part in why I temporarily refrained from posting.

As you may have been able to discern from my last post, I was on the verge of making a big decision. I was weighing the pros and cons of remaining in China to look for other employment opportunities versus embarking on this search for meaningful work while stateside.

Well. I am currently drafting this entry on a plane that is traveling from Pudong International Airport to Dallas Fort Worth, where I will then head to Charlotte, North Carolina. For those of you who aren’t too great at making inferences, I quit my job.

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Here, I’ll spell it out for ya…

After communicating the details of my departure to my boss about a month ahead of time, I began to transition off of projects and slowly began to clear out my desk (my mom always said it’s easier to do something a little bit at a time, rather than all at once). I began meeting with friends and coworkers for “one last time,” and as of June 11th, no longer worked or resided in Shanghai.

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I apologize for the “all over the place” nature of this post. As of this moment, I left China just a week ago. I’ve been slowly documenting my experience, compiling my thoughts on the quitting process, but have held off on publishing anything about my experiences because as some of my close friends put it, “I dunno, bro. Ya don’t wanna risk any bad press with potential employers by bashing your last job.”

To that, I say that just by talking about quitting, doesn’t mean you’re bashing your past employer. However, I obviously felt the sentiment had some validity and held off on posting about it for a few weeks. By waiting as long as I did, I certainly think that I can talk about my experiences with more of an objective outlook.

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Jon Snow..?

So, anyways. Here’s what happened.

Following my last post about my search for passion, I convened with the people I care about. That means Skype sessions and Snap-versations with my close friends and, of course, my parents. Since I just watched Game of Thrones, I’m currently imagining myself as a wartime general (think Jon Snow, or Stannis Baratheon… preferably Jon Snow) who is meeting with his closest advisors (think Sir Davos, or Tormund… both awesome characters). Essentially, it was a lot of me sitting in a chair, massaging my temple while I try to sit calmly while people tell me what the best course of action is.

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During this process, I shared my feelings with my friends, and as you would expect, they were all relatively supportive of my goals and ideas. However, looking back on the whole process, there was one moment that I feel cemented my outlook.

When a kid who grows up with a relatively serious and stern dad hears his dad focusing on happiness and the things we could consider ‘intangibles,’ rather than on the more conventional metrics used to judge success (like salary, or the value of a portfolio), the kid tends to pay attention.

I think it was unfair of me to assume my dad would view the situation in a frame solely focused on the monetary prosperity and networking opportunities. Hearing him talk about the importance of mental health, and maintaining a positive outlook on things caught me unnecessarily off guard.

While I grew up with a dad who consistently appeared to be on top of things, sure of himself and what needs to be done for his family, I never really compared my own pursuit of happiness with that of my father’s, or my mother’s for that matter. Yes, it’s true that I often let out an exasperated groan or moan when they advise me on things, but as I travel deeper into the great adventure that is being in your 20’s I certainly take their insights into account more and more.

It’s straight up impressive how right they are about so many things.

So after getting the encouragement from all of my friends and family, I decided that I’d quit. Upon making this decision, I immediately began to feel fear creeping into my mind.

I was going to have to have a one-on-one with my boss, who is great guy but has understandably never reacted well to someone essentially saying, “thanks for giving me money for a while, but I gotsta gooooo.”

To his credit, as well as to those I worked with, my departure was civil and smooth.

I had to deal with the people I’d gotten to know. I had to deal with the people I hadn’t gotten to know too.

This means that I had to have those awkward conversations with people where it becomes clear that you’re not really friends, but have to act pleasant and nice because it’s just what a person is supposed to do. Even though they don’t care at all, they are obligated to inquire about my future plans and aspirations. And even though I don’t really care, I have to act as though I will cherish the experiences I had until the end of my days. They forever changed my life.

As irritatingly fake as it all may seem, it’s just what ya do.

In addition to the people, I had to situate bank accounts, rent payments, gym memberships, and phone bills… all the fun stuff you try to avoid in everyday life.

As for me personally, I was now coming to grips with the idea that I was all the way on the other side of the planet, almost entirely on my own in a society that predominantly consists of people who I can’t communicate with (I speak Chinese well enough to yell at a taxi driver, or ask for a cold beer). I was about to move out of my apartment, become unemployed, and start all over. All after having been removed from the society I originally came from for just under a year. Obviously you can see how this situation could create a bit of tension or unease.

But as I sat quietly in my apartment, I began to feel something even more powerful than fright. Excitement. Was I really about to “start all over?” Yes, I’d done a lot over the last 11 months. I’d worked for a large company for close to a year. I’d networked, forging many promising professional relationships. I’d developed and completed some great projects.

Were these about to disappear? No. Would they still be useful in my future endeavors? Yes. Was I now going to spend my time focused on things I enjoy and care about? Yaaaaaaasss.

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For now, I am back in Charlotte, North Carolina indefinitely. I have been applying to production assistant jobs and other positions related to writing and production in Charlotte, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. Honestly, while I find the right place, I’m just trying to see all my friends and visit my family members while I can. I know that life can quickly overwhelm a person, and keep them so busy that it may be easier to shift into a manner of living comparable to an autopilot setting. Right now, I’m trying to plan for the future, but live for today.

 

 

SIDE NOTE: With Father’s day just passing us by, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how I’m now not just excited about my professional future. Thanks to my friends, family, and some good quiet car rides by myself, I feel rejuvenated and optimistic about my ‘life prospects.’

While our jobs are often referred to as “how we make our living,” I’m excited make an attempt at creating something like what my parents did together. Thanks, pops!

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Bobby, Dad, Me, and Mike (left to right).

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Trajectory.

Passion.

It’s a word I’ve only recently grown to understand and appreciate. A passion (which is often associated with deep love, religious events, or a fruit) is discovered when you’re engaged in something that makes you feel complete. A passion gives you purpose. It allows you to feel truly fulfilled.

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Finding something you’re passionate about is hard. Whether we’re talking about a relationship, a cause, or a career path.

Some people are lucky and know exactly what they’re passionate about at a very early age. These people have plenty of time to formulate a plan of attack regarding how they will engage this passion, and they can confidently devote themselves to endeavors related to it. Now, I’m not talking about the ridiculously unlikely pipe-dream responses you often hear from kids. Like when a kid says he wants to be a great basketball player. Or like when you ask a kid in 2nd grade what he wants to be when he grows up and he tells you “a rug cleaner” because his parents just had their home cleaned and it was fresh on his mind…

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“I want to be a baseball player, an astronaut, a secret agent, and a rug cleaner.”

The vast majority of us stumble through high school unsure of what we want, simply understanding we should do well in order to get into a good university. Being educated at a good university, in turn, is said to prepare us for “life,” and will grant us the resources needed to obtain a solid job.

If you’re not careful, you can get caught up in this process and end up letting precious time go by while you sit there uncertain of what to strive towards. Your time on this Earth is finite, and you shouldn’t be content just going with the flow. The way our societal/educational system currently works, it’s as if we are all standardized products being churned out by a factory, assembly-line style.

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Occasionally during this process, a counselor or advisor will ask you what your interests are, or what your long-term goals are, which is great. But asking a 17 year-old kid what his long-term goals are reminds me of a dog being driven to the park. Usually, we’re just in the car excited about going somewhere new, not fully understanding the process by which we get there or where we are even going. We simply understand it’s not here, and at that point in your life that seems like enough.

For me, communication has always been great fun. I like talking, I like learning, I like informing, and I like listening (usually). A career related to journalism seemed like the natural pursuit. And for the most part, I was right to think this way.

But journalism is a pretty broad term for a variety of communication methods related to media creation and dissemination. While they are all interrelated, developing marketing and public relations campaigns is drastically different from sports broadcasting or graphic design.

After pursuing a degree in public relations, I understood that I enjoyed shaping the way people perceived a concept or idea. Convincing someone to feel a certain way about something resonated with me. However, I only recently came to the realization that entertaining someone is even more enjoyable than solely persuading them. Whether it was designing a public relations campaign or a group presentation in class, I always found myself trying to implement humor, or at least an entertaining story.

Not only does making someone experience specific emotions indicate that I’ve presented my information effectively, but it can also allow you to show people things they would have otherwise remain closed-off to. When you laugh at a joke, you’re acknowledging a frame of the story or an expectation you have, and this can be used to shine light on topics that may seem off-limits or inappropriate to some.

Humans, after all, are emotional creatures.

While I referred to it as a recent epiphany, I’ve always understood how great entertaining an audience is. I’ve always enjoyed making a room of people laugh. Having a group of people laugh at a story is one of the best feelings a person can experience. But for some reason I thought that this was a foolish pursuit, and therefore I eliminated it from my search for employment. Making money, and establishing job security seemed like the way to go.

But it’s not.

After working diligently for a year at a job unrelated to any of the aforementioned interests and knowing I could succeed if I worked hard, I’ve realized it’s just not worth it. Doing something you don’t get any fulfillment from in order to get money and live comfortably is flat out wrong. It’s unhealthy. It’s depressing.

To get serious for a moment, last year my life-long best friend passed away out of nowhere. It hit me pretty hard (very hard). While it was a terrible experience overall, it did force me to acknowledge the limited time I have on this planet to get things done. If I spend 15 years devoted to an unfulfilling job in order to establish some investment opportunities or financial stability, a car could hit me while I’m crossing the road and poof, I’ve lived 15 miserable years and have some money that’s in an account somewhere that I’ll never be able to use.

Simply put, I now understand that I can part from this world at any moment so exclusively investing in the future is foolish.

Now I totally understand taking a job you have to in order to make ends meet, or to care for others in your life. That is a noble endeavor and I respect that, but in my opinion you’re actually still pursuing a passion. Your passion just happens to be your family.

BUT, if you’re a 20-something solely responsible for yourself, and your circumstances allow you to take a risk, you have no reason to remain idle while the flame of your passion burns inside you. Don’t allow external influences and the prospect of stability to distract you from what you want or what you care about. Don’t allow the road that others have paved for you to dictate where you wander next.  The safe way isn’t necessarily the right way.

“Waste your money and you’re only out of money, but waste your time and you’ve lost a part of your life.” -Michael Leboeuf

Trajectory

Coming to China not only separated me from uncensored high-speed Internet, television, and movies. It prevented me from fully engaging with my friends, my family, and the online audience I had grown to enjoy entertaining.

Interacting with these people allowed me to be mentally stimulated, and helped me explore the depths of my mind and heart.

As my friend’s passing shed light on how valuable a person’s time is, my isolation and overall experience in China shed light on what I truly enjoy doing. I believe I discovered my passion.

I want to write. I want to create. And I want it to entertain.

It’s scary, but I’ve decided that I’m going to find a job related to entertainment production so I can develop my communication skills and grow as a writer. I want to fine-tune my style and voice, and then I want to share them with others.

Admitting you’re passionate about something is scary. Once you admit you care about something, you surrender to it. If it’s a person, you become vulnerable, exposing yourself to potential rejection. Similarly, if it’s a cause or career path, you expose yourself to potential failure. You have essentially said, “this is what I want to do” and anything short of that is a loss.

It’s terrifying. We just have to believe that when an individual is truly passionate about something and driven, their best will suffice. If not? Well, you can always find a way to get more money.

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The Process

Hit the Road Jacks…

After a few weeks in, I can’t help but feel like the process of applying to jobs could be improved. How?  I wish I knew. I guess if somebody really knew of a better way, then it would be changed.

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First off, I feel as though a great number of deserving candidates don’t always look good on paper. Sometimes employees that serve as enablers of work or progress fly under the radar because they have an easily overlooked title or a person supervising them may be quick to accept credit. These spark plugs, or work-catalysts, don’t always demand your attention or seem like they are the ideal candidate, but they are essential to an effective work environment.

In my mind, it’s directly comparable to sports.

Growing up, I played baseball and football. I played third base and strong-safety, and I was a good player. I was captain for all four years, specializing in what I liked to refer to as “crisis management.” If a situation began to go south, I could often step in and fill the need (or at least enable someone else). A quarterback calls an audible, I scream out a new defensive coverage. A bunt coverage doesn’t go as planned, I improvise. Our team’s catcher breaks his collar-bone in a freak accident before a big game, I fill in for him (actually happened). I was an above average player, but when you have to be REALLY above average to make it to the next level, some players begin to shift your focuses towards academia… but I digress!

Being a jack of all trades makes you popular among other players, but you don’t seem to ever make the weekly headlines in the local paper.  There are often no statistics that reveal your influence on the outcome of the game. While you may not seem essential to an average on-looker, without you the team would suffer defeat.

…for those basketball and soccer fans, it is like the guy who assists the assist or plays it up from the defensive third.

In the same way, if you contribute to many different projects, design a new method that improves your team’s efficiency, or simply enable others to fulfill their duties, your real value may not standout on paper.

As my dad was always quick to remind me, “you can hit your way onto any baseball team.” He understood that the typical way to make it to the next level (a.k.a. get the new job) was to master a skill that allows you to shine in the spotlight.

As time passes, applications are now including online portfolios, video submissions, and other alternative methods of applying. Heck. That’s partly why I picked up this blog again!

While this is surely an improvement, it’s not perfect. It seems like the best way to convey the value of this type of player it to listen to those who have played/worked alongside them explain it.

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Sadly, many job applications nowadays no longer include sections for references and even if they do, these references are only investigated once a candidate is on the verge of being hired.

This kind of situation stresses the importance of utilizing your network.

Connecting with people who have a direct channel to those individuals with your fate in their hands is now essential. In my experience, you can wait months to hear back from a potential employer, or you can acquire a job within weeks by utilizing an “inside man.”

But what about those job-seekers trying to obtain an entry-level position in an industry that they are completely removed from. What if, like my situation, an individual is on the other side of the planet working in an entirely different field then the one they’d like to enter.

As a relatively well-educated Caucasian male who has encountered this kind of obstacle, it’s scary to consider how difficult this situation could be for other demographic groups who may be further removed from the networks/industries they would like to enter into.

Again, I don’t know how to fix it, but there’s gotta be a way.  I feel like I’ve been an overlooked John of all trades for a quite some time now.

A Quick thought on the “Local Candidates Only” Designation

You found your dream job. You meet all of the requirements. The position will start in a month. You have to live in California or you won’t even be considered. But, but…

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But what if I can quickly have the relocation arranged and paid for?!

Taxes. State pride. Logistical simplicity. I don’t know why some positions are only offered to local candidates but it is TOTES a thing. I understand a company wants to reduce the likelihood of a complicated or difficult transition, but aren’t you eliminating a huuuuge portion of potential candidates.

I am currently in China, and am facing quite the dilemma. First, I’ve always heard you should never quit your job until you have another opportunity offered to you. Secondly, people seem to prefer being on the same continent as their prospective employees.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. “But John, you could just make it seem like you’re in the States when you apply to these jobs.” And you’re right. I could do that. But to me that’s no better than lying about your credentials (like every other person on LinkedIn). It seems like I’ll either have to risk temporary unemployment, or wait for an employer to be fine with a candidate relocating approximately 7,200 miles (11,640 kilometers for those outside the U.S).

 

 

 

 

What’s the Difference?

As I mentioned in my last post, I am a pretty average white kid from North Carolina who had never left the continental United States. I grew up in a relatively secure and stable environment that I (eventually) grew to love and appreciate.

However, I believe comfort and stability are not necessarily catalysts for progress and growth. Sorta like that “if it ain’t broke” saying. External influences can help motivate action. Because of this belief, I trekked to China in an effort to force myself to adapt to an unfamiliar and challenging situation.

227244-16713-32.jpgThroughout my time here I have encountered some… interesting cultural differences. Since many of my friends and family back home have inquired about this, I have compiled a list of a hand full of differences I’ve noticed and how I was exposed to them.

DISCLAIMER: The statements below are, for the most part, purely opinion-based. Please, don’t get your feelings hurt and do take everything I say with a grain of salt. I could be fabricating everything you read… but I’m not. These are simply the experiences and perceptions of one guy who has lived in Shanghai for a relatively short period of time.

 

Pollution and Litter

I don’t think many people are unaware of China’s ridiculous pollution problem. We all see the weekly articles describing the terrible conditions in Beijing, but I was going to be in Shanghai. Shanghai is supposed to be the expat-friendly city in China (it generally is), and I was expecting the pollution to be an insignificant factor during my journey. I was proven very wrong.

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Took this on a cloudy summer day. Building tops were visible! Woo-hoo!

When I arrived in China, it was late summer and the weather was what you would expect. Sunny and hot. Exactly the same as in Charlotte, NC during that time of year. The pollution was hardly noticeable; every now and then thin layers of smog randomly obstructed your visibility when peering out at buildings off in the distance, or bird watching. Hardly life-changing.

However, as the weather cooled off and winter crept toward us, the visibility worsened and began to occur more and more often. Then, as the cold weather settled in, I began to notice my body was being affected.  I began to cough more frequently, and gradually felt more and more phlegmy (a word I didn’t know how to spell until just now).

I began to constantly cough and clear my throat. I developed the habit of coughing profusely and spitting, a behavior I had always reserved for the baseball field. I’ll talk more about spitting later…

In addition to the my coughing, I discovered that it was substantially more difficult to breathe when I went on runs. While I may not have been in the best shape at that point in time, it was quite apparent that the air was affecting my stamina and breathing. The runs worsened the already bad coughing and phlegm for up to a few hours after a run. I now run exclusively on treadmills at the gym.

I developed this theory that so many people in China smoke because they’re trying to torch clear a path to their lungs.

Trying to make light of a bad situation, my co-workers and I sometimes play a game where we all guess how bad the pollution is and then check the air quality index. The winner gets… informed about the pollution, as do the other competitors.

My wonderful mother is going to be sooooo concerned after reading this.

Workers (32).jpgAs far as littering is concerned, people do it all over, and all the time.  People will be standing next to a trashcan and still not think twice about tossing their empty wrappers into the wind. The usual litter-items I see daily are empty cigarette packs, receipts, and crushed fast-food cups. Not only are there are people who are hired to go around and sweep the streets (with brooms made of branches and leaves), but luckily there are the vehicles with sweepers and scrubs that drive though almost daily, gathering trash and cleaning up all of the spit…

The Expulsion of Bodily Fluids

In America, spitting in public is by no means unheard of. As a guy who grew up playing baseball in the south, the use of chewing tobacco was quite common. However, spitting was reserved for certain environments and there were certain rules I had always been told (like to never spit in the presence of a lady. Is that sexist?).

In Shanghai, everyone spits. All the time. As I described in the above section about pollution, sometimes the act of expelling saliva is forced  on an individual by the environment.

Be that as it may, I feel like this excuse sort of opened Pandora’s spit-bottle, because all year-long people are hocking loogies left and right. Old men, young men, women, children. I think I even saw a stray mutt spitting the other day.

In addition to spitting, using the bathroom wherever ya want is not unheard of. Now, I don’t mean to say it’s kosher to just pee on the sidewalk in front of people walking… unless you are an infant, then it’s cool (seriously). I DO mean to say that, unlike a friend of mine at UNC, it seems incredibly difficult to be accused of public indecency for using the bathroom in public. I still haven’t decided how I feel about this. I will grant that it certainly simplifies the late-night expedition from bars back to your home.

While I don’t really think everyone should be able to powder their noses in public (is that still a thing?), the culture here seems more understanding of the bodies natural processes. From spitting to sweating to urinating, the Chinese people don’t seem to ostracize people for allowing their bodies to reach equilibrium.

Visits to the Lavatory

Upon arriving in Shanghai, I was really thrust into my job. It seemed as though I was expected to really hit the ground running. Not wanting to disappoint anyone, I agreed to head directly to one of our main offices after landing. While riding in a cab from the airport, I realized I had to use the bathroom. I had been on a 14-hour flight after all.

After getting to the general area of town where our offices were, I expressed my need to my friend/guide. He pointed me in the direction of the McDonald’s (of course, there is always a McDonald’s). I passed the fast-food restaurant and entered into the room and had my first experience with a Chinese public bathroom.

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Users are often encouraged to throw TP in the trash, rather than flushing it.

I entered the stall. I locked the door. I turned around. I didn’t see a toilet.

While the standard toilets we have in the U.S. are the norm in Shanghai, they do have a fair number of what I would describe as holes. Unlike the large porcelain thrones we know and love in America, they have porcelain floor-inserts that have foot grips on either side of the hole. In actuality, this method of defecating is more natural for the human body, as my friends who are proponents of the “Squatty-Potty” constantly remind me.

The hole in the ground was not the only surprise though. Many bathrooms in China lack toilet paper and paper towels. I’ve consistently encountered this. Free access to napkins is also less common than in the States.

Personal Space

As you may know, there are a lot of people in China. Likely because of the population size and density, people are more comfortable being close. Personal space doesn’t seem to be much of a priority here. A ride on the Metro will often consist of being entirely surrounded by people making what I consider to be too much contact with one another. I often Snap a picture of myself on the Metro and send it out with the words “Packed Like Sardines!” typed out with it.

In addition to the lack of personal space, people stare a lot. From what I’ve gathered, if you are non-Asian you get a crazy amount of looks in your direction. I was on the Metro the other day, and a toddler was staring at me in awe. It was then that I realized I might have been the first white human being this kid has ever seen.

Laundry

First off, I am fully for the equal treatment of men, women, and everyone in between. But, when it comes to marriage, I have one deal-breaker that you may think reinforces 1960’s gender roles. My future wife… has to do the laundry.

I HATE doing laundry. I don’t know whether it’s because I distinctly remember feeling claustrophobic as a child after hiding in a dryer for a high stakes hide-and-seek game or what, but I can’t stand it.

shanghai36.jpgMuch to my chagrin, China has made the laundry experience slightly more irritating. Unlike in the States where we have these washing machines that are practically super-computers, China is a little more old school when it comes to whole process. Sadly, the dryer part of the washer-dryer combo is not a standard item to own. Yes, there are some dryers, but the majority of people seem to hang-dry their clothes outside. I live on the 26th floor of an average apartment building and when I look out the window I always see countless sheets and cloths waving in the wind, as if each individual person had created their own flag.

Not only does this often make your clothes smell…unique, but it also takes a substantially longer time to have your clothes ready. So, if you really wanna wear that favorite shirt of yours to impress that special someone at your friend’s wine delivery service launch party, be sure to plan a few days in advance.

Standard Work Day

The 9 to 5 that people in the States dread is more like the 10-6 in Shanghai. From what I’ve seen, people are out and about before work; they don’t typically wake up, shower, and commute to work like we tend to do. They wake up, grab a bite with a friend, stop by a Starbucks (there are many) and THEN head to work.

Methods of Transportation

So many scooters! Cars are a luxury item in China, and are subject to higher luxury taxes. Because of this, the non-cab vehicles tend to be owned by the wealthy and are often what we would consider to be fancy.

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Scooters & bikes are often waaayyyy overloaded. This is nothing.

Since this is the case, many people either exclusively use the Metro (their subway), or elect to get the more affordable scooter.

Pedestrians should always have an eye out for these scooters constantly whizzing by completely ignoring the traffic lights and signs, which seem to be more like suggestions here.

Bootlegs

Does the above term imply that authentic items are “Mittenarms? Anyways…

Let me just say, I love this about China. Yes, movies come out in China way later than they do in other countries, but as soon as they are released there are HD bootleg versions in circulation FOR CHEAP.  The same goes for bootleg shoes, jerseys, bags, and so on.

Copyright and plagiarism don’t exist here.

There are these places expats call “Fake Markets,” where you can go to an area clustered with different shops and stalls where the owner is ready to negotiate a sale for rip-off items.

Drinking Water

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It certainly doesn’t have fluoride like our water in America does. People exclusively consume bottled water that they’ve purchased at stores. Consumption of tap water is a no-go.

Negotiating

Lying is not as frowned upon here as back home. It seems like they view it as a negotiating technique. If they can trick you, than they fairly earned their prize. You fell for it. You should have been smarter.

At first I thought very little of this and the people who utilize this approach in their interactions. Though I still don’t condone deception and trickery, I’ve moved passed my initial condescension and have simply learned that people aren’t always looking out for my best interests.  I think this lesson is an important one. I now understand that being a little skeptical can sometimes really benefit a person, or at least protect them.

Alcohol

As some of my high school friends know from their experiences at spring break, in America drinking in public will often result in you getting a ticket for having an “open container.”

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In China, drinking in public is totally allowed. While it seems like expats use this perk much more frequently than the local Chinese, no one seems to care. I felt extremely uneasy and scared the first time I drank in public. However, after walking by policemen and soldiers with an open Tsingtao in my hand, I’ve grown accustomed to it.

This is one particular policy I think America should mimic.

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There are many more cultural differences that exist between America and urban-China, but these are the big ones that came to mind this week! Remember, these differences are not highlighting what one culture does right and one does wrong. Just like in sports, cooking, and writing, there are multiple ways of doing one thing correctly.

Sidenote: No matter where you are, pollution is no bueno.

 

It just made sense…

After graduating with degrees in journalism (News & Media) and political science from UNC last May, I decided to go to a place where there was a fair and transparent political system, and the government valued and protected the fifth estate… so obviously, I was going to China!

Now, being a guy who studied media effects and mass communication,  I was seriously infused with the Internet before arriving in Shanghai. Throughout college I lived in a house with 6 other guys (more like 10 if you count our unofficial tenants).  By utilizing the open web we were able to access the various accounts we had with streaming services, which allowed us to avoid missing out on our Game of Thrones and Walking Dead viewings.

Seriously, I don’t think anyone of us will ever buy any of the typical cable subscriptions anymore. Thanks to sites like YouTube, Hulu, and Crackle you can watch a lot of things for free. And with accounts on HBOGO and Netflix you can be entertained like a king.

Side Note: Netflix must love the fact that their brand name is mentioned in such a popular phrase used by the millennial  generation.

Even more, we managed to avoid missing live events like the Super Bowl or March Madness. With a good Internet connection and an HDMI chord, you can watch anything you want… if you’re in America. When I embarked on this journey, I went from being the guy who annoyed his friends with links to YouTube videos and articles, to someone entirely off the grid.

In all seriousness, I completely underestimated what the Great Firewall of China would be like. In the same way that seeing something in a cage is different from being in a cage, hearing about censorship is entirely different from being censored.

I’m not gonna lie to you, it was and is pretty cray (not a typo).

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Gasp! No WordPress allowed?   For more on the Not-so-Great Firewall go here!

Upon my arrival, I immediately logged my devices in to the WiFi at my temporary lodging place. As it had been my routine for around 6 years, I sat down at my computer and typed a single letter “f,” at which point my wonderful laptop auto-filled in the rest, and I hit enter without a second thought.

When I would normally have seen a “friend anniversary” notification reminding me of that time I met that one guy at that place (and that I was thinner at that point in time), I saw two words I would quickly come to despise. “Connection Interrupted.”

 

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I can tell you’re really worried about my Internet access, so you should know (as the mere existence of this blog post indicates) I found an alternative way of accessing the open web!

After a few weeks of no Google, no YouTube, no Facebook, I found out about Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. VPNs essentially make my cyber identity seem as though it is in another place… hypothetically, a country that does not have a giant firewall blocking all the good stuff. VPN services do this by using “tunneling protocols, or traffic encryption” (terms that for some reason remind me of Steve McQueen and The Great Escape)

As soon as I could, I purchased a subscription for AstrillVPN and downloaded the application. Astrill and another service called ExpressVPN are the two best services, and the longer you stay in Shanghai, the more and more you’ll hear expatriates debating this among themselves

While I am adamantly against this kind of censorship, there was one positive thing that happened as a result. During those disconnected weeks, I realized how often we use instant communication/entertainment as a crutch. Whenever we have a moment to ourselves, too many of us reach for our pockets in order to place our focus elsewhere. Rather than be alone, too many of us want to reach out to anyone who will respond promptly.

Without my social networking apps and sites, I no longer had a quick and easy way of avoiding any potentially saddening introspection. I actually had to feel my feelings.

I really did just sit there quietly thinking at times, which frankly tends to weird people out nowadays.

But this introspection is essential to our happiness and to our sanity. Sure, you can instantly tell me what your friend Jake did for his spring break, but how would you answer a question concerning your own thoughts and feelings? Your desires? Your motivations? Worse yet, your fears?

While gathering information is awesome, we still need to spend time developing our self-understanding and independent thinking.

UPDATE: I tried to publish this blog post 10 hours ago, but due to Internet issues I was only able to post the title… which makes total sense without any context…     

Also, apparently the Firewall is getting even stricter.

 

ENOUGH ABOUT MY INTERNET CONNECTIVITY PROBLEMS!

So, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “If this guy loves his Internet so much, why the hell would he go to China?”  And to that I would say, “Shut up.”

Just kidding. I would start by describing myself to you, or at least how I felt I looked on paper.

My first name is not only the default name used for any account you make (John Smith), but it is also how you would refer to an unidentified body (a John Doe). Or a toilet (THE John). My middle name is Joseph, as in average Joe. While only marginally more unique, my brothers’ names are Michael and Robert. Yup. It’s Mike, Bob, and John. My parents are CRAZY.

402888_10150666622746040_1271193011_nI come from a middle class white family in North Carolina, where I grew up playing baseball (America’s Past-time) and football (America’s Now-time). I lived in a diverse community, but had still not left the comfort of the continental United States. After spending four years with kids from all over the world, I understood how little I had seen. I realized that in order to do what I want to do and in order to be who I want to be, I had to become a member of the global community. I had to somehow spice up this plainness that I felt made me boring and ordinary. I wanted to have something to talk about at job interviews or parties, and frankly I wanted to seem more worldly and experienced in life. I wanted to go on an adventure.

When the opportunity to work in China presented itself, it just made sense.

While my personal motivations for coming may have been questionable when I left, I’ve learned a great deal during my time here and am glad I chose to come. It may sound cliché, but while I set out to improve how I look on paper, I really ended up improving how I look at myself. I’m not the man I want to be yet, but I’m heading in the right direction.

Still though, after spending just under a year in Shanghai I think I can confidently say that I’ve spiced up my life a bit… or at least added some soy sauce.

 

I’m baaaack… but where am I?

Communication is key. It’s always better to be honest. After all, like that random old saying says, it’s simply easier to remember the truth.

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Ron Swanson‘s great-great grandfather, “Sammy Clementine”

After a quick Google, I found that the actual saying was crafted by the amazing Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain. My main man Mark once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

 

So, in all honesty, I started this blog 2 years ago because it was required of me for a journalism course in college. It was really a great class, and while I may not have been the teacher’s favorite padawan, I learned a lot. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here for an entirely different purpose now.

Now, after graduating from college and moving to China (random, I know) to help a friend with his business venture, I find the blogosphere calling out to me, beckoning me to take up my metaphorical pen and commence writing once more.

I started this blog as an assignment that had to focus entirely on journalism, technology, and their convergence.  Now, the ideal we will strive towards together is the observation of a recent graduate’s quest to find a happiness (or at least a good job) while simultaneously entertaining you, the Internet, and all those alleged bots that require me to do CAPTCHAs.

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So, I suppose a well-placed hyphen could “improve” this situation.

While I can make no promises regarding any chuckles or LOL moments, I’ll make the same guarantee that I do in my cover letters, I will always to my best.

 

I suppose the beginning is the best place to start…

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I was clueless. Lost. Confused. Insert any other adjective associated with a question mark and you should be good. I didn’t know what I wanted. It’s not that I hadn’t been prepared. My teachers and friends were very helpful and provided me with a lot of great advice & insight. Upon graduating, I was privileged. I had known I could get a job, I could make some money, I could at least GET BY. Like Louis C.K. often reminds me, I am totally aware that I am an average (may be a stretch) looking Caucasian male from the United States of America.

I was also aware of how bad-ass the generations before mine were. I had seen the generations before swallow their pride,  work relentlessly, and remain loyal to the company/family/team/club/whatever.  It seemed like that generation, my parents included, knew how to work hard. It came second-nature to them. On the other side of the spectrum, I totally understand that I am a part of a generation of people that seem incapable of replicating the feats of generations past.  Us “millenials” are prone to hurt feelings, and cyber protests (because that “re-tweet” will definitely make Putin listen).

Personally, I love working hard and I like competing in an environment in which “tough love” is used. I come from a family of guys (two older brothers), and was raised in a team-sports environment. However, I couldn’t (can’t) help that I wanted one thing above all.

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“Human flourishing” is actually a more accurate translation of Eudaimonia. Also… who misses Face, from Nickelodeon!

Eudaimonia, also known as happiness to some non-Greek folks, is a pretty popular find. And in general, it’s totally up to you whether or not you find it.

For me, and seemingly a lot of people I know, it’s not that happiness is evasive. In order for something to be evasive I feel like a person should have some sort of an idea regarding how to find it, or even what “it” is. Happiness can be different for everyone, so how do you engage in a quest to find it?  I simply don’t know what will make me happy. I click on all the self-help blogs and posts, like “Improve your attitude with 5 Sleep Tips” and “The Power of Saying No.”

Surprisingly, implementing these practices into your daily routine doesn’t help. Whodathunkit?

BACK TO THE STORY!  After a few months of talking to potential employers, my friend Peacemaker (yes, that is actually his name) contacted me about helping him aid a friend’s education academy while they were being evaluated for an upcoming IPO. Being uncertain with where I wanted to be or what I wanted to be doing, I agreed to help my friend. In order to provide the aforementioned aid, I would need to relocate. So I abruptly decided to move just down the ocean to Shanghai, China…

“With Great Information, Comes Great Responsibility”

A few months ago, I started this blog as an assignment for an Issues in Mass Communication course.  Over this period of time, I’ve explored a variety of different topics, ranging from the psychological effects of technology to the future of education. But as the final of our required blogposts, we were instructed to identify the one thing that we found to be the most important thing we’ve discovered through studying mass communication. After looking back at the last few weeks, one idea kept shouting out at me: information is power.

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Information. Data. Knowledge. Statistics. Whatever you want to call it, information is what matters in this freshly forged technological society we live in. Information is the foundation upon which our entire race is building itself and progressing. Every single time we create anything, our creation is at least partly influenced by previously collected or shared piece of information. 

In our technological society, the creation of the Internet has allowed individuals to communicate in ways that would likely seem unbelievable to individuals just a few years ago. The unprecedented rates at which we are advancing and developing things is a result of our efficient means of communicating. Our communication with one another allows us to progress at extremely high rates. 

But what are we communicating? Words, numbers, thoughts, phrases, clicks, views, likes, posts. When collected and evaluated properly, these small bits of information give us the data we need in order to more efficiently do anything.  Designing networks, initiating movements, going viral, extending lifespans, predicting the future. They’re all doable because of the vast amount of information we have now digitally compiled.

The more information you have, the more effective your analysis becomes. This not only increases the confidence one has in his or her conclusions, but it also creates an environment in which progress is made at faster and faster rates. 

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