As you all know, I learned a lot of lessons while living on the other side of the world for a short period of time, but I think this is my favorite lesson I learned. I always heard people say this, and I always thought I knew exactly what they meant. But like most of the things I learned, I didn’t actually grasp the lesson and realize the truth behind it until I lived in China and got to witness other people’s opinions every single day.
Everyone’s outlook on everything is different and I mean extremely different.
In China, I was treated like a celebrity goddess just because I have curly blonde hair and blue eyes. The amount of heads turned, photos taken of me, and guys hitting their friends’ shoulder to point at me made me feel like I looked like Margot Robbie or Megan Fox.
I would leave campus to go to the store, or travel and constantly see locals pointing and hear “ohhh piàoliang.” (Which means beautiful.) We had a lady at the bargain market say to Derek “oh yes, I remember you two because your girlfriend is sooo beautiful, look at her, you are a lucky man” as she smiled at me. Mind you, she hadn’t seen us for a couple months. LIKE WHAT?! Apparently my appearance is above average on the attractive level in China. (Thank you kind Chinese people for a self confidence boost)
This was a hard thing to get used to when we first moved to China. I didn’t hate all of the attention, but I was so confused as to why I was getting so much. And then it hit me. I may be average looking in America. I may have blonde hair and blue eyes like 1 out of every 20 people here. But in China, my appearance was rare. And to them, I was so beautiful.
Just like beauty, success is perceived differently by everyone. We got really close with the other 30 volunteers that we were with 24/7 (since they were the only people we could have conversations with for four months.) I learned a lot about them individually. We all came from different backgrounds, but we all had one thing in common; a passion for travel.
A lot of them would talk about going home back to school, and work. Some of them would say things like “when I am successful” or “when I graduate from college and become successful” or “China was a great break, but I am excited to get home and work towards success and my goals.”
One day one of them asked Derek and I for help while signing up for her college classes. She said “you guys are very successful adults, will you help me?” I laughed and said “I am not the person to ask, I never went to college.” And she said “What really? Well you guys own a house and have a happy marriage, so you must be successful.” And then it hit me.
Most of the people we were with had a completely different definition of success than I had. In fact, the whole world has a different definition of success than anyone else has. Success to me is complete mental and physical happiness. That doesn’t mean I have to own a house, have a college degree, or even a steady income. Moving to China was the most successful thing I have ever done for myself.
It was always my dream to experience other cultures with the person I love, and I had finally reached that goal. To other volunteers or to anyone else, traveling might have been a break or a set back to them from their success, but to me it was my end goal, and I have never felt more successful.
Beauty and success are only two examples of different outlooks, but they are the two that I realized the most while living in China. Since being home, I have noticed more that people are constantly talking about what is beautiful and what is successful. And that is fine, we should share our opinions, but we need to remember that is all that they are, opinions. And we should never compare our beauty or success to anyone else’s.
So here is a nice little reminder to myself and whoever needs it. Even if you feel like the least beautiful or least successful person in the world, remind yourself that you are “sooo” piàoliang” in China, or a “very successful adult” to a younger person.
Here’s to being beautiful and successful, no matter what that means to you!
Onto the next adventure, Wren