Different From the Crowd


“Maybe, in a year or two, you can get married.  You can buy a house in Los Angeles when he makes more money.  Perhaps three, or four years down the road you can plan for your first child.  It’s a perfect plan, Mary.”

Advice from my aunt.  A realist.

Although the demographic is starting to change, thirty tends to be the age when we start to think about having a family; or at the very least, if and when we want one.  When I was 22, I always figured that when I hit my late 20s I would start to feel the tug of motherhood and cave in and have a child (or, at least, be married by 30).

Yet here I am, 29 and on the verge of 30, and I have no children.  I’m not even married.  More than that, I have no desire to start a family.  I have no desire to settle down.

As I drive to and from work, I often think that instead of make my life more complicated, I should just settle down in this little plot of Southern California I despise so much.  I have a half-decent job I could work for the rest of my life, with good benefits and co-workers that resemble family.  The work is dull, but it’s low-stress and easy.  My boyfriend could become a doctor at the hospital he’s currently doing his residency at, and we would continue to live in the house that he bought.  Get married.  Have kids.  Maybe send our kids to UCLA or Stanford.  The California dream.

Yet I want none of that.  Not one bit of it.


When I was growing up, I dreamed of doing something epic.  I wanted to work with the big dogs.  I wanted to feel really goddamn good about my work.  I wanted to be proud of myself.  I wanted to feel alive.

When I was hired at the advertising agency in Shanghai, I was on cloud nine.  I remember the first day I walked into the office, riding the elevator up to the 35th floor and walking into a glass high-rise with the city of Shanghai below my feet.  I spoke fluent Chinese and Japanese.  I looked out the glass window in my office to find a view facing Huai Hai Road, the epicenter of Shanghai.  I was working with CEOs from around the world.  I was learning something new everyday.  My boss was a badass.  I was on top of the world.


Then I moved back to America.  For family, for love, for my future.

And everything went downhill.

I couldn’t find a job.  When I did find a job, it paid less than China–yet I took it anyway.  I was working in a cramped office in a dump in Little Tokyo (despite having a prestigious title).  I was given no responsibility.  I later changed jobs to one with a 20 minute commute instead of 2 hours, but I felt my mind growing dull.  The work is tedious, although the office environment is pleasant. It’s boring work and it pays terribly, but it offers healthcare, dental, and other benefits.  In America, finding a job with benefits is becoming harder and harder to do.  So I keep the job.


Compared to most Americans, I have it good.

But compared to what I had in China, I felt like I had risen to the top–and hit rock bottom.

As I drive to and from work everyday, the same old routine, I begin to feel my soul wither away, little by little.  It’s the same schedule, day in and day out.  Nothing changes.  As I file paperwork and organize application after application, I start to wonder what I’m doing here.  What it is that I want to do.  How I had lost sight of my childhood dreams and ambitions; no, even the goals from a few years ago, and ended up here.

I start to think I’m falling into the trap of the mid-life America wasteland, where people work day in and day out with no vacation, and life starts to dull.  Where the dreams of childhood were merely just dreams, and we cope.  We mature.  We strive to merely survive.  To pay the bills.

Then, I went to Europe.  Since leaving China and going on my road trip with Richard, I had never felt more alive.  My soul returned.


Yet, going to Europe used up almost all of my vacation time, and it might be another year until I’ll accumulate enough holiday to go on vacation for a week again.  The thought is soul crushing.  I don’t know how Americans can work so long without a break.  I think I’ll die unless I travel again… and soon.

I’m 30, but I don’t want to have a family right now.  Or anytime soon.  I don’t want want this big house in southern California.  I don’t want my stable, but boring job.  I don’t want to stay in Los Angeles and have my sanity robbed from me on its stressful highways.  I don’t want to settle.

Because of this, by society’s standards, I’m an outcast.  I’m a weirdo.  I don’t fit in the equation.


In China, and during my first years here in the States, I thought that I had to “get my life back on track.”  I had to get that stable job, get married, have children, settle down and start pummeling away at my retirement fund.  Going to Japan and China led me off “the path” and I wanted to return to a place that would receive approval from my family and friends in the United States .

But now, I realize that I don’t fit on that path.  Maybe I’ll never have children.  While my job right now is stable and safe, it’s not where I want to be, or where I should be–and I’m not afraid to change.  Although I should have shaken the travel bug long ago, I haven’t.  There’s so many places I want to see and experience.  No matter how old I get.. 30, 40, even 50… I want to keep discovering the world, and the human spirit in the process.

I have plans in the works for changing my life.  I’m not going to buy a one way ticket to Shanghai like I did when I was 25, but I’m going to move once more.

I realized I’m different.  I’m a weirdo.  I don’t fit in.


And I’m finally OK with it.

I apologize for the heavy post.

I hope to update more (and with more pleasant posts), but right now I’m working hard on my next life step.  Will reveal soon!

15 thoughts on “Different From the Crowd

  1. bunnybuntales says:

    I know someone who in her late 50s just started traveling around the world. She taught English in Vietnam and now is in Turkey. If you need to save, you may have to sacrifice a couple of more years. If not, why not venture now.

    This is also something to talk over with the boyfriend. Do you have common goals and values? Does he also want to see the world–really see it though, not just one or two weeks out of the year?

    My uncle is retired now and he told me, if you want to do something, do it when you are younger because when you get older, you may not have the energy for it.

    Also as far as kids. For me, finding love is more important than an unborn child whereas for others the unborn child may be more important so finding a decent man whom you may not love but give a stable home life may be more important. Adoption is a possibility if the clock has passed. Not having children is not the end of the world.

    I’m in a rut too but I have a goal to leave. I’m saving money and it’s happening slowly but I know I’ll get there in a couple of years or maybe just one year!

    • rubymary says:

      Thank you so much for your tips! It’s always inspirational to hear about older travelers (50+), it exhibits bravery and character.

      I did talk to my boyfriend about it and we do have common values. I think if I didn’t want children, he would be OK with it. And vice versa. I think he’s a bit on the fence with children as well. He also wants to travel and have more freedom, so in that sense I know I found the right guy.

      I saw a post the other day about regrets of the dying… the top three were 1. I wish I didn’t work so hard 2. I wish I kept up relations with friends and family better 3. I wish I did more what I want to do, instead of listen to others. I want to take this advice before I end up dying.

      So in that aspect, your uncle is completely right. I just have to act on it.

      I hope you get out of your rut!! Let’s do our best to get where we need to be! Good luck!!! And thank you so much for the sweet comment.

  2. autumnashbough says:

    Go, Mary! You are way ahead of so many people. You know what you want to do, and you know what you don’t want. You’re freaking CONSCIOUS, and that’s huge.

    I love that you are off to pick your own life, whatever that might be. Take chances, take risks, and never settle for someone else’s definition of life.

    And thank God you are smart enough NOT to have kids you don’t want. The world needs more people like you.

    Can’t wait to see what’s next.

    I know it is going to be epic.

    • rubymary says:

      Autumnnn!!! You always leave the best comments, it feels like a digital hug.

      Thank you so much for the support! Taking chances is scary but that’s exactly what I’m going to do now!

      And yes, your blog and family history is great material for family planning haha. I always thought that “I want a baby!” would just happen as I got older, but I’m older and I still don’t feel it. Maybe it will never come, but that’s ok. We’ll see 😉

      Thank youuuuu!!! You’re the best!

  3. Someone says:

    I’m reminded of a quote that says that we should strive to be our own light and not rely on the light of others. Your aunt has her own path shaped by her own experiences. But as I write in my book, times have changed and we have to carve our our own path in life. This means finding our own road, our own life, and learning to be comfortable with our choices.

    “Take your time,
    don’t live too fast.
    Troubles come,
    and they will pass.”

  4. Marta says:

    Good luck with your plans, Mary! I agree with Autumn, the important thing is that you know what you want to do. You are amazing and talented and you don’t need to follow what is “normal”!!

  5. Eileen黃愛玲 says:

    Dawen and I don’t have kids and we’re planning not to have kids, either. We may be cat parents….but that’s it. I know a Taiwanese couple in their 50’s who chose to not have kids together. They travel together all over Europe every year with their Chinese New Year money.

    Right now I’m living in Atlanta…it’s at least better than Florida. There’s actually food culture here and some of the vintage scenes here are kind of interesting…it’s like going back through time. I miss Shanghai, but my husband couldn’t stand China. Then again, if you have people policing you, being a total asshole to you…you may think differently about a country so foreign to you (even if people assume it’s not, it is)…you just want to scream. Enough is enough.

    Taiwan is my home…not “home,”….HOME. I can’t stand it when people say “home” as if it’s surprising….or maybe they’re being passive-aggresive douchebag….either way…no ” “, thanks! Taiwan is my home. Done. I haven’t been to Maine in YEARS and I have totally lost in touch what is going on over there and yet they don’t use ” ” between Maine. Hmpph. Please. That is my rant of the day.

    I can relate to this post. I think many other people can, as well. Maybe we’re not so different from the crowd, after all. 🙂

    • rubymary says:

      Hey Eileen!

      Im glad that you are enjoying life in Atlanta. I see your posts on FB and you look quite happy there (definitely very fit!). I love China too, but I also know the same reason I can’t go back is the same reason I left: the policing, the total governmental control over you, the environment… all of the things you listed. I can see how your husband would get frustrated.

      Getting thees comments and knowing I have a crowd of my own makes me very happy and gives me a lot of peace. Thank you so much for the comment.

  6. yueni says:

    I’m 32, and I very much feel the same way you do. Actually, as I was reading this post, I had to constantly double check to make sure I wasn’t the one who wrote it, because it echoes how I feel and who I am so closely!

    I, too, have been working on something (for over a year now), and if it comes to fruition… well. It might be interesting and exciting, but for now I’m holding down 2-3 jobs, putting my head down to the grindstone and working my butt off.

    You’re not different from “the crowd”, you just need to find the right crowd!

    • rubymary says:

      I’m so glad you could relate! I always feel a little bit at peace knowing there’s someone out there that shares the same worries and facing the same hardships.

      Oooo… I’m very excited to hear about this new ‘something.’ You don’t have a blog, though, so I’ll never know…!!! Does it involve interpreting? Or travel? Or moving? Anyway, I hope all that hard work is paying off. Putting your head to the grindstone is really tough. It feels like it will never end (like you, I’m in the same boat…just working my butt off until I can move on).

      Haha, I think I found my own little crowd on here. Thank you so much!

  7. hanna says:

    Oh, I know what you mean… It makes me anxious to think about buying a house and settling down at one place. Ideally I would like to have a job that allows me to live and work in different countries, but well, still working at that XD

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