Thinking about change

Alex McNab

What am I most afraid of? Change.

I would not consider myself a conservative person. I like things to be different and evolving, but, at the same time, I am frightened by change.

I am currently living in Beijing, China as part of the high school foreign exchange program School Year Abroad. Of course moving to another country was a large, scary change, but the transition that I had to go through during this big move seems so distant and unreal now. Now, thinking about changes yet to come, I have forgotten that most of them are nothing in comparison to the colossal adjustments I had to make just six months ago.

When pondering the small changes that are happening to my life in China, I am reminded that, really, none of these changes matter because they are all temporary. I have only three months left in this country, so why does it matter that my girlfriend’s host family is moving houses? Why does it matter that the Peking duck restaurant near school closed down? Why does it matter that only one nearby convenience store now sells my favorite flavor of ice cream? In three months, that will all mean nothing because, in three months, I’ll be back in America where I won’t have a girlfriend, and there won’t be a Peking duck restaurant near my school, and my favorite flavor of ice cream will not be the new Belgian chocolate Magnum. It’ll be something tastier, probably from Pinkberry or Menchie’s or from any number of other stores that aren’t an option in Beijing because they just aren’t here.

It may not be clear why these changes are so scary. After all, the ice cream will be better, and I can get a quality Peking duck in Chinatown, but what about my girlfriend? What about my friends? What about my host family? I don’t want my relationships with them to change, but I know that they’ll have to. I am the only S.Y.A. China student from Los Angeles this year, so everyone I know here will be available to me only through a computer.

Sure. I have other people, those in Los Angeles, that I care about and spend time with, but I cannot substitute people in the same way I would substitute an ice cream flavor or a duck because my relationship with everyone here is unique, irreplaceable, never to be replicated, and I value that.

Returning to America – that is the change I fear the most. I know I am supposed to be excited to go back, and I am, a little bit, but more than anything, I worry that the day I leave this country I will leave everything, food, family, friends, relationships, behind, left in Beijing with the traffic and the pollution, while I trudge on without them, an ocean away.