I awoke from a dream…a combination of things I have in my head. My stress level in recent months has been extreme, and it’s catching up to me. I haven’t slept well since 2011. This morning I woke up in tears in my eyes, after having them in a highly-emotional nightmare, after addressing a great crowd of children on their futures’ potential. All this after tearing around a city on a manhunt, being an undercover cop dealing with a blown cover, and learning a great deal of dark family secrets…only to be dropped on a trampoline next to Felicity.
It was the most intense dream I’ve had in a long time. The moment I woke up, I grabbed my laptop. There’s something I have to say. There’s something I said in that dream, to a crowd of children, while Keri Russell tried to have me arrested. Keri was running some Nickelodeon kids’ game show on a trampoline when I appeared out of nowhere and we began a sparring match on socioeconomic theory. Did I mention I’m really stressed out?
A week ago I returned to Taiwan, following a dream. It’s different from most dreams of foreigners coming to Taiwan – dreams of partying, working a bit, paying off student loans – these are the commonly-heard dreams. Once that grows tiresome, many want to open bars or restaurants or specialty shops, or at least seek employment outside the scope of teaching English. Some leave Taiwan, as I did. Others stay for decades doing the same basic thing, never growing tiresome, in the traditional sense.
My dream is to own by own business. I currently own my own business, but I’m realizing that isn’t a very good dream. It’s actually really easy to start a business. But…a successful business…now there is a lofty goal! My dream gets complicated when one understands that my business is an American business – I am American – but I do all my business on the soil of other nations, most especially the Ilha Formosa – the Island “Not-Nation” of Taiwan. For those who don’t know Taiwan, it’s the team in the Olympics made to compete as “Chinese Taipei.” Think of it like if Northern Ireland had its own Olympic team but had to compete as “British Belfast.” The complexity of this issue is for another blog. I digress.
The city I live in I long-ago nicknamed Red Road City. We Americans, and many others throughout the world, like to do this to our cities. New Orleans might be “The Crescent City” or “The Big Easy” to some, but to me, it will always be “Chopper City.” Charlotte is “Queen City” and I’ll say that, but more often I will call it “The CLT,” like Atlanta does, after the airport code. Taichung’s nickname is great: “Cultural City” (文化城), though most Taiwanese refer to it as “Gangster City.” I call Taichung Red Road City, though the roads are far less red than they once were, not from a lack of blood, but from a lack of betel nut (槟榔), a seed of a certain palm tree chewed similar to tobacco, releasing red pigment that taints saliva blood red, gaining that slight orange tint as it dries.
When I was coming back, a friend of mine told me, “The foreign community in Taichung is toxic.” I’d never heard anyone put it that way, but it’s true. An -ism I like to call Haterism is very prevalent in Taiwan, among locals and expatriates alike. Again, the reasons for this is a topic for another blog, dealing with Taiwanese social/personal values and education as well as the enormous percentage (*not* 100% – just a vast majority) of lazy, whiny, alcoholic, chronically-depressed loser foreigners that stay in Taichung because it’s cheap and easy to live here.
Admittedly, those last two reasons are not out of my scope of appeal. But almost every time I mention my business to foreigners here, they are total naysayers, saying everything from “Wouldn’t that be better in Taipei?” to “I don’t think that will work.” Some even go as far to say, “Well, if I did that, I would ______.” As if they could ever have the balls to do half of what I’m doing here. My last job in Taichung was heading up an ESL program where I worked 60 hours a week to develop a team of teachers and curriculum for a buxiban, getting paid $1,200US/month to do it. Most foreigners who teach kids English make $20US/hour, meaning I had teachers teaching 15-hour weeks that made as much as I did sitting behind a desk for 50 hours and teaching 10.
But I come from good stock. My father is the greatest businessman I know – his father was a Command Sergeant Major in the US Army and a former Marine – his father before him came to America from Italy with his own dream, just before World War I, doing everything from bootlegging to working for the City of St. Paul. My mother’s side of my family, the lineage is pretty intense and wide-spread, but I’ll cut to the chase – my mother is a badass – her brother is one of the largest organic farmers in the United States – their father revolutionized farming, along with his brothers, and even helped create an entire economic union of farmers to better market their products – just before the American Civil War, my far-removed super-great-grandfather come to America from Germany, seeking his own land to work and call his own, and make a place for himself in a world that was ever-expanding.
My world is ever-shrinking. What once took months or even years now can take mere hours. I no longer see the world as nations and states – my mind is globalizing based in my ability to globe-trot. There are connections I see that no one else sees and opportunities I find at my feet and…while so many people find themselves complaining they never have any opportunity, as that opportunity lies at their feet…I have never been one of them. I am an opportunist. I take what I can get and do my best to build my own road into a future that will honor my lineage.
Keri Russell looked really hot in that dream. But, man: she was being a real bitch. I felt it all coming apart – the walls closing in – as she drilled me with questions, attacking all my insecurities. You never know how strong you are until you hit a BMW at 50mph on your bike, no armor, flying through the air and tumbling upon the tarmac. You open your eyes: alive. You wiggle your fingers and toes: alive. You slowly sit up to realize you are bleeding, but not broken: alive. And that realization…that calm that comes from acknowledging your mortality while at the same time acknowledging that your mortal flame has not been extinguished…there’s no way to describe it. It’s the closest thing to pure peace I’ve ever felt.
My final thoughts are these: take opportunity. Grab your life by its nutsack and drag it around until you make it your bitch. It may never happen. You will fail more than you succeed. But never stop trying. Never stop riding. Not if you’ve got the balls to grab. Not if you know, as I do, that life is too short to fear failure – life is too short to fear the unknown – life is too short to not share what we can with the world. Dr. Brown once said that our future isn’t written – no one’s is – so we have to make it what we can, in every moment, in every choice. And never forget the words of Malcolm, a personal hero of mine:
“…brothers and sisters…and friends…and I see some enemies. In fact, I think we’d be fooling ourselves if we had an audience this large and didn’t realize that there were some enemies present.”
Keep your head up. Don’t let the hate stop you from loving life and creating your own world from the one you were lucky enough to be given. A final movie reference before I go – one of the best lines ever delivered by the late great Heath Ledger:
“Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want.”
- Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)