Fitting Back into the USA

Fitting Back into the USA


Letting Go

I know.  It’s been ages since I’ve updated.

I’ve opened up wordpress and stared into a blank page for minutes at a time, trying to compose my thoughts into something that flows and make sense.  I tried multiple times to post something that is profound, moving, touching, and somehow manages to convey all of my distraught feelings for leaving behind a life full of love and comfort in Shanghai.  I tried to sum up the overpowering emotions of saying farewell to China and the wonderful life I lived there for three years–but every time I tried to type something, it just didn’t feel right.  It felt forced, sappy, or empty.

I don’t think this entry will do any of my feelings justice, but I think at the moment… all I really need is verbal diarrhea.  My mind has been a whirlpool of thoughts since leaving Shanghai and arriving in the USA, and some of that mess needs to spill out.

Leaving Shanghai was like distancing myself from a lover I wanted so dearly to cling onto.

Isn’t there another way?

Do we really have to part ways?

Can’t we make this work?

But I knew it was time.  Time to go.  And man, it wasn’t easy.



I know the friends I made in Shanghai will stay with me for life.  To me, the few fateful encounters that turned into deep and lasting friendships were worth every single day I spent in China.  I know that finding a true friend is something that some people never really find in life–and for me to meet so many in Shanghai, I feel that I was truly blessed.



I lived in a beautiful metropolis where every day was different.  In Shanghai, the night can lead you anywhere.  A quick drink at a bar can turn into a fashion show followed by a museum opening.  The Shanghai life is fast and dynamic, similar to what I imagine a New York “Sex and the City” lifestyle to be.  In Shanghai, there’s a chance encounter around every corner, a new coffee shop or restaurant just waiting to be explored, and old neighborhoods tucked away in hidden alleys that become new treasures.





The blend of traditional China with the international vibe of incoming business, a rising economy, and an influx of ex-patriots make Shanghai one of, if not the most interesting city to be in Asia.  I have been in many Asian mega cities, and nowhere else has managed to capture my heart like this little place we call Shanghai.  In just one night, Shanghai can introduce you to a room of people from at least ten different countries.  Dinner can be conducted in 2, 3, sometimes even 4 languages.  It’s the one place where Chinese culture is bursting from every street vendor and bike peddler, but still manages to retain an international and modern vibe through its sleek bars and sea of skyscrapers.

Really.  There is no place like Shanghai.

Being Alien at Home


And here I am.  Back in the USA.

I think about those ex-pats that live in Asia for over ten years, suddenly decide to move back home, and somehow manage to buy a house with the white picket fence, marry, and go on with their lives.  After experiencing and living in such a different world, is it really so easy to go back to what you once called “home”?  Can it even be called that anymore?  How do you re-adjust… and is it even possible?

There’s too many cars.  The supermarkets are too large.  Everything is packaged.  The fruit isn’t fresh.  People are too fake.  Americans ask so many useless yet polite questions.  Everything is too big.  Too many items are sold in bulk, and unnecessarily.  Commercialism is rampant.  Need a car to go anywhere.  Public transportation is horrible.  Everyone is really, really tall.

Just a few culture shocks from being here only a couple weeks.  Walking into a gigantic supermarket in America still leaves me breathless, as I’m completely unused to its warehouse-like size and the giant sized products it houses.  Interacting with waitresses and customer service representatives is somewhat tiring, as we always have to reiterate useless banter about how we’re doing (in China and Japan, we get straight to business).  Also the excess Americans have in life–why get 2 bottles of mayonnaise when its buy 2 get 4 free?  Seriously?  Why do you need 6 jars of mayonnaise?

Anyway, after being abroad for so long I find myself lost and apprehensive in the very place I was born and raised.

Why does life feel so much harder here than it did in Shanghai?

Challenges and Upcoming Hurdles

I’m looking for work and it’s been absolutely awful.  The American economy still has not made a full swing recovery (as I have learned from recent interviews), and asking for starting salary usually has me moping out of the interview room, asking myself why I didn’t become a lawyer or doctor.  After my years of fun in Asia, coming back to the United States and having reality punch me in the face has, well, sucked to put bluntly.

Still, I’m being positive.  I’d hate being a lawyer or doctor, and I know that all of us were put on this Earth to do different things.  I wasn’t here to take people’s money in court or diagnose the sick–no, I was here for something else.  I have a set of skills that I’m supposed to use, and I want to use that not only for monetary gain, but to make this world a better place (still, financial stability is a very high priority on the list!).

You’d think moving back to the USA would be easy for me since I’m American, but it’s quite the opposite.  Starting up again in the USA has been much harder than Shanghai, which makes me remember the words my aunt (a Vietnam refugee) once told me:

“America is not a nice place, Mary.  It is not an easy place to grow up, and it is not a friendly place to learn about the world.  People will not help you, and no one will hold your hand and tell you where you should go or what you should do.  You’re on your own.”

Mary is Mobile

Despite sounding negative, I’m staying hopeful for my new life in the USA.  Being American gives me financial stability that I don’t have in China (aka, benefits and a possible retirement fund).  Finally being close to family is also another main factor for my return, and seeing the joy I give my immediate family and relatives with my long awaited return to the United States has been worthwhile.  Also, I found someone very special in the United States and I’m excited to start a new life with him.

Despite being “back,” however, I still can’t see myself settling in the USA for the long run.  As J put so efficiently:

“Mary, you are mobile.  Mary is not a stationary woman.”

Maybe the USA will remain my home, or “base” as I like to call it, but I have a feeling that the world is going to call my name and I’ll be on a plane to some other far off country within a few years.

It’s like the question I asked before–when you live abroad so long, just how can you return back to the life you once had?

Many people say the wanderlust for travel fades with age, but I think for some it never goes away.  I’ll always have my gaze in the sky, thinking of the next place I need to discover and learn about in the world.  And hopefully, in the future, I can do more than just travel–I can make some kind of difference in whatever country I go to.

Really, once you get bitten by the travel bug, once you live abroad, once your heart is in love with the world and its undiscovered beauty–you can never go back to the person you once were.




But no matter where you go, there will always be those you never want to part with.  There will be people that change your life.

Although we said our farewells, I know that we’ll meet again someday.  Somewhere.


13 thoughts on “Fitting Back into the USA

  1. I’m so glad I found your blog! I am moving to Shanghai in 2 days to begin a teaching position at an international school. I will also write a blog to document my adventures and I hope that it will be as interesting and helpful as yours is!

    1. Hi Danielle! Thanks for stopping by!

      Best of luck to you!! Have you been to Shanghai before? It’s the most amazing city in the world (in my humble opinion)… I think you’ll really enjoy it! Let me know if you need anything and I definitely look forward to reading your blog 🙂

    1. Yeah at this point I don’t really recommend it. Readjusting is really difficult and the job market here is still quite abysmal.

      Still, though, I think there may be a little more opportunity here for me than in Shanghai, but we’ll have to see!

      1. I hear you. One common thing many Americans said when they lived overseas (especially Taiwan, for instance) is that while they may not get as much money but at least they won’t be dirt poor due to sudden health problems. I think that’s a scary thing about living in America. One night you’re eating lobster and the next you’re eating instant noodle (and not by choice). Also going to a place without MRT is primitive to me….xD

        I wish you well with your job opportunities!

        1. Yeah oh my goodness that is my largest complaint here (no metro wtf!?), I think it’s ridiculous that a city as advanced and wealthy as Los Angeles can’t put in proper (and affordable) public transportation. I think the amount of cars in the United States is not only financially detrimental, but it’s an unnecessary luxury that high schoolers are usually entitled to (I’m still in shock that I drove a car at 16) and sucks away at our natural resources and damages the environment. I’m a hypocrite because I drive a car when I am THE spokeswoman for public transit–but really, in the USA, without a car a simple trip to the grocery store could take 2 hours. It was live in horrific inconvenience and dependence on others, or bite the bullet and shell out tons of money for a car.

          And yes, healthcare is awful here. People worry about insurance and whatnot when traveling, and I tell them that you could have a full body checkup in China for 30 bucks so don’t worry (of course, quality is not as high, but still..). Obamacare has made things easier here in the USA when it comes to healthcare, but there are still so many people that want to repeal it (why!?). The American mindset really bothers me.

          Thanks for your well wishes! I have a job now thanks to it 🙂

          1. I am happy to read you got a job. 🙂

            Obama actually gave money to Florida so they can build a high speed rail. Sadly, Rick Scott gave back the money and refused to do it. Car dealers and such do have a lot of power in the States, especially the IRA. It’s scary.

            Taiwan’s healthcare is amazing. Heck, they put even put Canada to shame. The health insurance is that great. The quality is also amazing. I think a part of me is hesitate to go back to America is due to healthcare. I went from the States to Taiwan, Taiwan to China and back to Taiwan. I’m at my happiest and healthiest in Taiwan, honestly.

    1. Hey thank you for the comment! Always very happy to hear from readers and gives me inspiration to write 🙂

      The red shoes are hush puppies from Ross or something I think, haha. They are SUPER comfy!

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