I believe that life continually throws us lessons. We may not be aware of them, we may not be interested in them and we may not be ready for them – but I believe they’re there, waiting to be learnt… but I’ll get to that. In my very first blog post of 2016 I want to talk about movies (and artistic works) that change your life.
Have you ever been exposed to a piece of creative work – a movie, a book, a performance or a piece of art that spoke to you so strongly you couldn’t get it out of your mind?
I’ve had plenty of these moments. The movies – Into the Wild, The Motorcycle Diaries, Life is Beautiful & The Way. The documentaries – Long Way Round, Long Way Down & Our Guy in India. The speeches – J.K Rowling on failure, Brene Brown on Vulnerability, Steve Jobs on the world and Elizabeth Gilbert on creativity. The interviews, the bloggers and vloggers, the performances, the music, the art works, the architecture and the books… the many many books.
I had that feeling on Saturday night – but more so than ever before. I was on an Emirates flight from Auckland to Melbourne and I had chosen to watch the movie/documentary – My Life in China. I’ve always held a fascination for China. I’m interested it Chinese culture and traditions and this year I’m even learning Chinese – but this film could have been set anywhere in the world because the story is so compelling.
After a tearful 87 minutes it finished, but I continued to think about the story throughout the flight, as I went through passport checks, got my bags, passed quarantine, hailed a taxi, battled heavy bags, found apartments keys for my St Kilda Airbnb, hauled 36 kgs of luggage up three floors of tiny steps, struggled with my fold-down-bed (and almost dropped it on myself), lay on my fold-down-bed only to feel it collapse beneath me, fixed my fold-down-bed, took a shower, lay down again, switched off the light, got up, switched back on the light, got out my laptop and started writing this blog post.
What is My life in China about?
In 1996 Yau King Eng illegally escaped communist China. He did so by walking for six days and six nights then making a dangerous four-hour swim to Macau. From there Yau King Eng moved to America in search of the good life, but the only work he could find was in Chinese restaurants. Just over 40 years later, Boston based, Yau King believes he has failed at the American dream. Together with his son Kenny, the movie’s director, he journeys back to his small Chinese village to decide whether to return to a now-flourishing country. The journey unearths intense emotions in a seemingly reserved man, he is consumed by sadness for his sick wife, love for his deceased mother and hope for his two sons.
His story is about struggle, courage, desperation, responsibility and hope. They are things I’ve never really had to face and yet, the story really hit a nerve.
I realised a lesson I was supposed to learn, but didn’t. I realised why my failures in Canada are so important. I now believe there was a much deeper, more important lesson than failure.
I had the opportunity to feel a little like so many other immigrants feel – as if they don’t belong. I struggled to find employment I have no doubt, because I wasn’t a Canadian. It was a sliver of a true struggling people experience, but it was valuable nonetheless, because although I failed to notice – I was being taught about compassion and gratitude.
Yau King had gone through so many trials in his life (the harrowing journey, getting arrested, befriending a police officer who helped him escape, working in Hong Kong and sending 1/3 of his wages home, working hard to provide for his family & looking after his sick wife) yet he still had such compassion for the world and those around him.
It’s easy easy to get wrapped up in life and forget to stop, breathe, celebrate and be happy. 2015, for me, was a year of ups and downs. Nothing particularly bad happened, but I lost my way. So many great things were supposed to happen, but didn’t and, to me, moving to Melbourne was a last resort. It was something I had to do in order to get my career and finances on track, rather than something I was excited to do.
I woke yesterday morning back in Melbourne in a new year, with a view of St Kilda beach from my apartment and with new eyes for a new adventure. It dawned on me that my halfheartedness toward a place that others would die to live in is sad. Melbourne is a great city. It may not completely fulfil my thirst for adventure, but it fulfils everything else I desire in a place. I’m lucky to be here and determined to remind myself of that fact every time my mind concerns itself with what could have been.
As part of reminding myself of my extreme good fortune, my goal is to begin a gratitude list, one thing for which I am grateful for each day of 2016. (That may seem a small thing to do – but I now have twenty-one New Years Resolutions (and three mission statements) and adding anything larger would be setting me up for ‘extreme good failure’).
My first piece of gratitude was to the filmmaker…
Gratitude, to me, is the first step to creating a more fulfilling life. Casey Neistat summed it up best in his latest vlog; “Appreciating what you have is the first principle of happiness.”
What do I appreciate about my current state of affairs? This moment…
All of those photos were taken last night just a few minutes walk from my Airbnb – now that’s something to be grateful for.
Here’s hoping for a prosperous and happy 2016, one in which the latest wave of immigrants are welcomed with open arms.
Until next time,
Safe travels xx