Ways of Being, for a Woman

I am just a little bit after turning 36, too early to start looking back.

If I do look back temporarily, my goal is to take stock of life and then better prepare myself to go forward.

Thirty-six years have taught me quite a lot on how to be a woman, I think.

And my conclusion till this moment is whether a woman can take care of her own life. I have been through quite a lot, more than enough to some, for me to reach this point.

After I have gone through what I have gone through, there is absolutely no need for me to pretend this or that. Absolutely unnecessary.

I think I am fairly observant. I look carefully, listen carefully, and think carefully. But I do not say a lot. I am very quiet by nature. Only occasionally do I speak. Then the majority of the time I do not speak at all. Quite frequently I talk mainly to myself.

From a very early age, I knew I had to take my life into my own hands, for the simply reason that nobody else, when I looked around, was able to help. They did not have the abilities, and is very few did have some abilities, they might lack the good will to help. Let’s be brutally honest: No one would like to take on burdens. Those with abilities might extend help if extending help does not harm themselves, or if this is mutually beneficial. Few, if any, would extend help simply because they can and they are willing. The two qualities very rarely go together. If you are lucky and worthy, you might meet such people. But you cannot count on such an expectation. For if this does not realize, you cannot pick up yourself from the dust. NO, let me revise it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for you to pick yourself up from the ground. My life lesson: you cannot count your life on others. You only have the right to depend your life on yourself.

This realization, conscious or not, has sustained me well through the years before I turned 30. After I turned 30, this understanding has helped picked my up from the biggest up and down in my life. I told myself, when I was riding through it, that if I went through this, there would be absolutely nothing that I could fear in life. If I could survive this, I could survive everything and everybody.

But one must be grateful to one’s friend who has helped one when one was at the lowest point in one’s life. One must repay with everything in one’s capability for such friends. Those friends that stay around when one is at one’s highest point in life are perhaps too many and too easy. They scatter fast when one is no longer perceived as “useful.” That is the reason I give to my friend the item that I would not give anybody else, for the simple reason that she did not relinquish or betray me while I was down. There is another friend whom I do not know how to thank her for. But I keep her in my mind and will remember the debt.

When I was doing my Master’s study in China Foreign Affairs University, I had a female professor. She was an associate professor then, if I remembered correctly. It was reputed that she came from a politically elite family. She taught us Chinese-English translation. Foreign Affairs University, formerly Foreign Affairs College, is where Chinese elites congregate. A bachelor’s degree from that small college would make many swagger down Chinese streets. But a Master’s degree is much more democratic in nature. That is where one finds China’s best and brightest, and the best well-connected. One has to meet one of the categories. If you are not the best well-connected before you enter, you’d better be one of the best and brightest.

I had four professors interviewing me before I was allowed into the program, all of them are world-renowned experts in their fields. One is an expert on the United Nations; one is an expert on Simultaneously Interpretation prized by the UN; One is an expert on American Studies; and the last one is either the Director of the Graduate Studies, or the vice chancellor of the college. I was quite nervous. So if my memory slipped, it was forgivable.

But today I am not going to talk about my renowned professors. I am not so sure they remember me as much as I remember them.

I am going to talk about ways of being a woman regarding that female professor alone.

She believes for a woman, the most important thing is to marry well. To put it simply, marrying well is way much better than doing well yourself, if you are a woman.

I was a little bit surprised when I learned this from my roommate, who was directed by her when we were writing our thesis. She did not direct me. My supervisor is a different professor. I would think the two female professors might have hold different opinions on that issue, although they are both from very prestigious backgrounds.

It was reputed that this female professor once turned down an American university’s invitation to study for a phd. Instead she chose marriage and family. I did not know the actual details. I only heard about briefly mentioned. But I did not have the habit of seeking and investigating other’s private life diligently, like a heat-seeking bomb. Other people’s life is other people’s life.

Her husband was working in CCTV, China Central TV Station. If CNN is the leading one among the three big networks in the States, then CCTV’s position in China is sort of like CNN’s in America. No international sphere is included in my metaphor. CNN is my frame of reference for a non-Chinese to have some idea about things in China. It is my way to make things intelligible.

They have a girl of about nine or ten years old.

However, one year after my graduation with my Master’s degree. I went back to see the professors. Just one year, probably in 1998.

Whereupon I heard students say that her marriage was on shaky ground.

I do not know of the final result. I wish her very well.

The point I am driving at is for a woman you cannot bet your life on another person, be it your father, your brother, your lover, your husband, your mother, your aunt, or your mentor, not even your soulmate is some man or some woman claims that title.

Faith has nothing to do with it.

The only question you are going to ask yourself is whether you yourself can stand there when you are in your glory, and whether you can pick yourself up when you are down on the floor, sometimes when others push you down into a bottomless pit.

If your answer is yes, then you’ve got yourself covered.

If your answer is I am afraid I can’t, then you might have some difficulties lying ahead. But by and by, you will learn to deal with it.

It is not that I am cynical, or that I do not trust men or women. Not at all. Quite the opposite, I tend to look at life with rose-colored glasses. But it works most of the times while I was back in China. It does not always work while I am in the States. The United States is a place that can make everyone show their real colors, no matter how many colors each person may have. The culture is unique. My understanding is the culture has a very high pressure point, therefore every person is treated like a stone that has to be put through an elaborate process of sorting, grinding, cleaning, purifying, another round of sorting, and hammering, and manufacturing. You know what I am talking about if you have seen the process of mining gold.

When I compare each person to some dirt or some stone, I am mainly talking about foreigners. I do not know that much about Americans themselves, how they are treated by their culture and policies. I can only talk about things I know, which is a perspective of a foreigner.

Every marriage starts with the wish that it will last a lifetime, unless otherwise specified or construed.

Every romantic relationship starts with high hopes. I would like to think so.

Not every dream comes true.

The most important thing is you have to know how to dream your own dreams, and you know how to realize them.


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