2021, the beginning of the Year of the Ox, due to the worsening of the epidemic, for the first time in more than 30 years, I did not go home to celebrate the New Year with my family, the first time I prepared the Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner by myself, the first time wishing my family back at home a happy new year remotely, the first time that I haven’t meet and hug my family and friends for so long. I found out that so many responsibilities which felt heavy to me in the past was actually the sense of security, so deeply rooted in my survival system; those naggings that I was so accustomed to actually contain people’s best intentions. The absence of all these gave me the opportunity to feel my loss deeply.
The Chinese New Year used to be particularly troublesome and heavy for me. Growing up in a fairly old-fashioned family, there are always a lot of rituals that must be completed, whether it’s a clean-up, New Year’s Eve ancestor worship, New Year’s Eve cooking party, and the cleaning afterwards, the worship ritual on Chinese New Year’s Day, the going back to the natal home on the next day, then the meeting of classmates from hometown, then the visiting to friends, and the return to the work in the city; this almost unchanged process has been repeated for decades. The burden that was once annoying has become a homesickness for me at this moment, and I was surprised to notice that someone who is as rebellious as me has fallen into the stereotype of nostalgia, that part that I wanted to discard became tears of missing; for the first time in my life, I recognized the rituals that no longer serves me and cleaned them up in my inner system. I confront what I have now: my own family and a new country, this is my home.
At the same time, I experienced the heavy snow for the first time for a whole week, the first experience of skating on a naturally frozen lake, and the I spent first time the Chinese New Year’s Eve and Valentine's Day at my home in the snow (no restaurants were available due to the pandemic.) So many "first-times" happened this year after more than 30 years, which is perhaps also a kind of blessing. Now that as we grow older, we are still experiencing many “first-times.” I think I am one of the lucky ones, with the opportunity to have new attempts and new possibilities in life. When we face these new experiences, how we perceive them has become different choices of life; are we upset, irritated, worried and afraid? Are we excited and eager to try? Just like when we were young learning to stand and learn to walk for the first time, how did we finally manage?
Many times, as adults, we afraid of failure and setback, and we hesitate to move forward. We dare not let go, but exactly because of this we confined ourselves in the old framework and cannot see new possibilities and breakthroughs; but this was not how we learned to walk, otherwise we would never be able to stand or walk now. We fell and crawled and continued to try until we were confident enough, we began to run, ran to another different experience.
I still remember my mother telling me about my first experience of learning to stand. A little baby stood up shaking holding the railing of the crib, and then squatting tremblingly. She thought I would remain on the floor and crawl for a while, but I continued to stand and squat shakingly while holding the railing. After some practice, I was able to stand and squat freely within a day; my mother witnessed this magical and interesting moment, and was amazed how fast I can learn and how tough a little child can be. I guess this is the willingness to try and break through when we face the first-time experience in life, to experience and challenge like a child, face the unknown with expectation, and complete the tasks in life willingly. No matter what the result is, it will accumulate into the nourishment and strength of our lives, allowing us to create in the next unknown.
When we face a challenge next time in life, how would you choose?
I wish we can all find the bravery like a newborn baby who is afraid of nothing,
I wish that there are many first times in life that I can cherish, experience and learn from like the first time.
May the first snow brings a prosperous year and a happy year of the Ox; may you plant the seeds of longing and harvest the sweet results.