If you read my last post, you know that I haven’t been writing much of the Qrious Life lately. Here’s why…
When I was seventeen years old struggling to put together the right words for my college application essay, moping and stressing around the office of my dear high-school counselor VH, I had a dream to write a book. I wanted to write about growing up “north of the river” (Harbin code words for being a country bumpkin) in the great cold Chinese northeast; about the Shandongnese etiquette riddles my grandfather would mutter at me as I broke all his rules of what girls should and shouldn’t do (climbing trees all summer long with boy cousins was a “shouldn’t do”); about getting up before sunrise every morning to gather firewood to heat up the kitchen and kang with my grandmother (which gave me the lifelong habit of waking up obscenely early); about moving to the big city in Beijing and finding that a home in a “gleaming” (by early reform-and-opening-up standards anyway) apartment building was not nearly as fun as running around the countryside; about going abroad and not speaking a lick of English – nor understanding anything about the normal (read: non-Communist socialist) world overseas – but fumbling my way through for twenty years anyway.
These are my stories.
Then there are the stories of my family: of my mother as a little girl, banging on village doors late at night to find an extra ration of rice so that her newborn brother could have a chance to live during the decade of deprivation; of my father arriving as a student in Harbin from Qiqihaer by train, carrying his life in a hemp sack and his only “valuable” – a fountain pen – in his shirt pocket (which was promptly stolen by a “kind” man who offered to engrave it for him); of my grandmother who was sold in marriage to my grandfather, twenty years her senior, and then spending a lifetime bickering (an arranged marriage that decidedly did not work out in the end).
In the years since those dreamy days of seventeen, I carried these stories in my head, in my heart, occasionally scribbling them down on a scrap of paper to later glue into my writing journal at home. Life, work, and the world got in the way of my actually writing a book.
Recently, VH found me again (thank you, Facebook), and reminded me – well, chided me really – that I still haven’t written that darned book. “Qi!!!!! How’ve you been???? I’m still waiting for the next ‘Wild Swans’ from you…and no one can do it better than you!!!”
The universe works to some logic that I can never seem to comprehend at the time that things happen. But with time and patience, almost everything I find mysterious and incomprehensible has revealed its reason to me. This business of writing may work out the same way because recently I’ve been finding the time, energy, inspiration, and – most importantly – “platform” for writing some of the things I’ve been mulling over writing for two decades now.
I fell in love – with a fellow word-nerd – and his enthusiasm for reading, writing, and exchanging ideas through the written word (and in five languages we cobble together between us) has rekindled in me the dream of writing more. Anyone who likes to write knows the immense weight the words “writer,” “book,” or, even worse, “publishing,” and “agent” can bring when uttered. I don’t dare to make these proclamations privately or publicly, but I can say that I hope to compile, together with my love, a series of writings on the most important things in life (according to me).
So, I promised my dear old counselor, VH: “I’m getting there, to the writing part. I think it will be more a ‘book’ about happiness, love, and transcendence. Maybe no one will read it, but my love will, and we can gift it to our future children, so that they get to know us when we were young and dreaming.” In fact, we’ve already begun. Here I share with you a teaser – the best birthday gift I’ve received, a book my love made of the writings we sent to each other in our first fifty days together. It’s 600 pages long! Looks like I’ll have to work on editing down as much as I’ll need to work on writing more.