Here’s a quick review of my recent thought processes.
Not so long ago, I decided that I would work one more year and then switch to spending most of my time on training in martial arts while working part-time. Key point: I decided to put my passion above job/financial security. Hmm. Well, these are uncertain times to be doing that but while I was in Wales, I talked to a number of people whom I’ve known for many, many years. I was surprised by how many people wished that they had followed my kind of life. They’d got the houses, and the pension schemes, and the money in the bank – but also the dread of paying the mortgage, hating their job, missed dreams, and infidelities… One conversation I had fell into the realm of tragedy, someone who had ‘done what was expected’ all their life and now felt that it was all for nothing. That person made me realise that following my dreams is the only way to go.
Another insight: while I was in Wales, I realised that (perhaps because I’m getting older), I treasure the sense of being ‘home’. Wales is home: it’s where I’m from. All the more so because of the effort I put into making it my home – I’m not a native speaker of Welsh, so the effort I put into learning it, and becoming a part of the Welsh-language community was real gong fu and ‘eating bitter’, believe me! Singapore is also home, as I realized over the past week. I love the smell of incense in the streets, the ethnic and cultural diversity, the greenery and birdsong. I felt at home from the moment my plane touched down. It was also a chance to re-connect with what I now see is a pretty diverse set of social networks – I know a lot of people in Singapore, particularly now that a large number of my oldest friends from Beijing have moved there! Beijing… I love Beijing, I really do, but it’s not home and never will be. There are great people here, but it’s like a university town on a vast scale; almost no-one is going to put down roots here. In addition, as I commented a short while back, I have this sense that China is starting to close down a little – political control is being stepped up, censorship is increasing, and for someone like me whose professional area is e-commerce and (especially) social media, that’s not good professional news.
One other thing about Beijing – there’s almost no spirituality here, and that lack is becoming more significant for me. In Singapore, I helped out as a volunteer in the kitchens of a Buddhist temple, and loved it. I was told last week that the Abbess and others still ask after me, and you know what – I’d really like to go back. In Singapore I was mixing with Buddhist monks and Daoist spirit mediums. Most people don’t realize just how much is going on behind the scenes in Singapore! In Beijing, there are no Dharma talks, whereas in Singapore I could go to Bright Hill for that.
The big mental breakthrough I had while I was on the flight from Beijing to Singapore was to accept that I’m not going to learn Mandarin. Like I said above, I’ve already gone from nothing to fluency in one language, so I know the time and effort involved in that – and I can’t do it again under current circumstances. I like my job, but it takes a huge amount of my energy; after the last semester ended, I was essentially a zombie for three weeks, and I know that the coming semester is going to be even tougher. Without Mandarin, there are very few alternative jobs, though. In Singapore, even though the economy’s suffering now, there are many more opportunities (including part-time).
As for the topic that most readers here will want to know about… martial arts… what then? Well, as I mentioned before, I would like to master at least one martial art to the level that I can teach. As I’ve frequently written, I’ve been willing to take my time in order to find out what’s right for me. I’ve studied some great styles, and I’m had the great fortune to learn from world-class teachers, including some legends. In the end… I keep coming back to taijiquan. I love bagua. Yiquan absolutely rocks. And yet… when I’ve had some kind of success in an encounter, it’s been because I’ve used a taiji technique. Language is also critical here – I don’t feel that I’ll ever truly master yiquan or bagua, because I can’t understand the fine points that my teachers make in class.
In Singapore, I could study taiji in English. I’ve trained in two schools there, in some depth: Master Rennie Chong teaches the Chen Man Ching style, while Sim Pern Yiau teaches the Wu Tu Nan line of Taijigong. Of the two, the Wu Tu Nan form is actually more what I’m looking for. Probably that’s for a future blog post.
That’s the basis for my decision to move back to Singapore next year. Like everyone else, of course, there are other factors in my life that affect my decisions, and some of these are not for this blog!