I wanted to reflect on my experiences these past five weeks in China, and what I have learned about myself in the process. This will serve as a mental checklist and as the goal setting session I wanted to have before I came back to the United States.
From a vocational perspective, I had a chance to dip my fingers into the Chinese culture. I have lived with these people, among these people, yet not quite as one of these people. Yet, as an observer, I have learned how they live, how they speak, and how they think. China is an interesting country which has both its benefits and its issues with regard to its national culture and its economy. There are both strengths that can not be imagined, and challenges which they must overcome to reach the potential they have.
As a home for an American lawyer, I was surprised that there is opportunity here that I never could have imagined. For someone who wants to delve into various business or banking projects, China is the perfect place to become rich and famous within the law field. Anyone who works here today in these fields is a pioneer. However, being a future patent attorney, I am years ahead of the wave and there is not yet an opportunity here to be a patent attorney, and when the opportunity arises, the nature of the opportunity will be exclusive to Chinese lawyers; an American would not want to compete here on this turf, if only for the severe language barriers when it comes to reading and writing legal works and patents in Japanese and Chinese. Yes, for patent law a Chinese patent attorney will need to be able to be fluent in both Chinese and in Japanese, because many of the patents are and will always be in Japanese. This is just the way things are. I would have fun taking on the challenge, but this would be a lifelong pursuit and I feel that my energies would be better spent pursuing other paths.
I, however, am not swayed from my interest in the Chinese and my interest in their culture and their language. There seems to be an elementary fundamentalism to the way they act and the way they speak that appeals to me. Their legal system talks about the concept of the ideal man, and it hold each individual to that standard. This has its benefits and its flaws over the United States' "reasonable person" standard for many of its laws. In addition to the "ideal man", there are concepts and duties within the law such as loyalty to one's self and to one's fellow that are not found in the American system.
Nevertheless, I have decided that if I will practice patent law which is my plan, I will practice it with a small-to-medium firm in the United States. I would hesitate to join a large firm because I am under the impression that large patent firms and strong families with strong values are concepts which do not relate well. Of course, perhaps I can travel frequently to China to develop relationships and contacts with various companies who will have a need for patent work in the United States as soon as China moves from a manufacturing country making other people's products to an innovation country where they are designing their own. So far, we've grown up with "made in China" stickered on many of the products we buy. Hopefully soon, "made" will no longer mean "manufactured", but rather, "invented". Imagine 2 billion Chinese inventing and bouncing ideas off of each other. When that happens, Silicon Valley, watch out! The world will be a fun place to live in.
As for personally, I am ready to head home to finish various projects I have been working on for a few years now, namely law school. I would also like to start a family which has become more important to me now than ever. I have always somehow felt okay with being single because in my religious progress, I have always allowed the possibility of slippage, where my observance level could increase or decrease based on my circumstances and my environment.
However, to someone's credit, I have stayed "below the radar" (as some friends refer to it) from the influences that would have easily taken me away from the level of Judaism I worked to achieve. There were times maybe even for months or years that I wished someone would distract me from my religious pursuits, but because I believed that it was the right way to live, something inside of me wouldn't let me deviate from my morals as much as I wanted to disintegrate into the hedonistic underworld. I tried to let these non-religious experiences come into my world, but I was unsuccessful because I would not put myself into a scenario which would facilitate their entry into my life. I have stayed away from bars, from karaoke clubs, from dance clubs, and from any other experiences that would lead me to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Anyway, I have grown tired of fantasizing about being something I will never be. I'm too good of a good boy to allow myself to do something that would be wrong. Perhaps I can be considered weak for this, or perhaps I can be considered strong for keeping to my morals. The point is that I am tired of emotionally "sitting on the fence", and if I choose one world over the other, I choose the religious world. I will always have that part of me which will seek to find ways to integrate both worlds, and I hope that I am able to come to terms with those parts of me which are in conflict with the person I have decided to become.
Nevertheless, all I will do by staying single will be to tempt myself with thoughts about living different lives and the freedom to make the decision to change will continue to be very tempting. I feel that being without a home and a family leaves me vulnerable and without a foundation, and so I flounder wondering whether the life I have chosen is real and whether it will yield a quality life. This playing field of being "neither here nor there" frustrates me because I have the burdens from both worlds and few benefits from either world. However, decisions cut off other possibilities and so I am announcing that I have made the decision that religion is here to stay. It's probably an obvious decision for anyone who knows me, but it's important for me to say because I am saying it for myself to hear and for my eyes to read these words because of the impression my words have on me when I go back days, weeks, and months later to re-read what I have written. It's funny how I've actually inspired myself through reading something I wrote a long time ago and then remembering something about myself or some goal I would like to reach that somehow life distracted me from. It is picking up these loose ends in life that gives me a lot of pleasure.
Physically, I've always known how I would like to be, namely, at what weight and at what level of fitness. I was getting close to carrying 230 lbs with me wherever I went when I left to China. Now on various scales, I am 96 kg, which google.com tells me is 211.643772 pounds. This is an amazing accomplishment that I never thought I would be able to do living on rice and simply keeping kosher in China. The weird part is that I don't feel much different when it comes to my weight. I don't feel such a difference, and I still have various areas I would like to improve on or to make go away. I am actually scared about going back to the US because having so much kosher food will tempt me to increase my food intakes which can only lead me back up to 230 lbs, which is where I do not want to be. Anyway, the goal I have had for over a year is to reach 212 lbs, and apparently, I have met that goal. I will confirm this when I actually see it using a US scale that measures my weight in pounds and not kilograms. I sincerely hope that I have reached this goal because being out of shape has been a personal irk for me for many years now.
Socially, I feel like I need to develop closer friendships with those I am friends with. Because I have immersed myself in the law school world, I have not spent time developing and growing my friendships with those I am close to. Frankly, because of my absence, many friends have fallen by the wayside and so I have learned who is a friend and who was not. This is still a touchy subject for me; even years after these friendships have broken due to my becoming religious.
Intellectually, I have discovered a renewed interest in searching for answers to questions I was pursuing before I became religious. I seem to have gotten swept away in a lifestyle and on many levels; I forgot my purpose in life. This has been recently somewhat recaptured, yet I have a suspicion that my former interests might be limited and that with my new-formed knowledge and belief systems, I have new questions which bring my old questions to a new level. Namely, how does an individual interact with his environment? Besides for building and manipulating tools which can influence other objects outside one's self, I wonder what one's capacity of personal influence is on the objects that surround him. Further, this spiritual "stuff" that science calls various forms of energy -- what is this stuff? What is its mechanism, and can it be captured and studied and understood?
As for confidence, somehow I have gained so much confidence over the past few years, yet I notice that on so many levels I have lost my confidence. I have trouble distinguishing in certain scenarios whether I am limiting my actions or whether I am afraid to act. This is something I will need to break through. I have the history of being what I fondly referred to as a "dynamo", and lately I have lost that disciplined part of myself for a more relaxed "somehow it always gets done" mentality. This requires work to resolve.
Personality-wise, I have a lot of anger built up in me. I am not sure whether it is unresolved childhood anger or whether it is new-found frustration as to life's twists and turns, but this needs to be resolved and eliminated immediately because it is a poison to my system and to my well being.
I also need to evaluate whether I am really a nice person. People that know me believe that I am a good person, yet other people who also know me think that I am a selfish, antisocial SOB that doesn't like people. They might both be right, but they shouldn't both be. With great hesitation, I will find some way to do nice things for people that will help them on a selfless level. Hopefully, this should bring out any bad sides of me and help me face them so that I can flush these parts of me out of my system. I have a suspicion that a person doesn't change when it comes to his innate level of kindness (there's even a presupposition of this belief in the way I've phrased the statement), and that a person can not become a better, more kind person by one's experiences. However, I am open to proving myself wrong and so I will welcome the opportunity to engage in this sort of activity, again, with great hesitation because I don't want to do this because I feel like my life is too busy as it is.
Next, I would like to achieve some sort of psychophysical balance, and I believe this can be achieved through the practice of yoga, tai chi, or the like. I have already taken the steps of ordering various yoga tapes and I have played around with it, but I have never tried to actually do it on a regular basis. If the physical benefits of having a more relaxed mindset with inner harmony and peaceful thoughts result from this sort of activity, then it will be something I will participate in.
Conversely, I will also start using my gym membership more as a hard workout place where I push myself to go beyond my limits rather than a nice place to catch a swim and a light exercise. I will get some mp3 music that I can put on my player, and I will push myself past my comfort zones. The rewards should be self-evident.
On another note, I will start forming systems that I will follow as to regular times for doing laundry, for sleeping, for preparing foods for eating, and studying, davening (praying), and learning. This will require discipline, but I believe it is well worth it and that my life needs this sort of stability and I will benefit immensely from implementing this regimen.
Financially, I am satisfied with my investing skills, and I am happy with the progress I have been making since my string of bad investments when I was trying to apply my philosophy to the market, rather than listening to what the market was trying to tell me. I will continue this system of using stops and carefully watching those stocks I am invested in so that I continue pouring money into the positions that are profitable, and so that I get out of positions that are unprofitable as fast as I can realize I have made a wrong decision.
Fiscally, I need a job. I am getting nervous living on school loans which will need to be paid back when I graduate. However, I would much prefer to network my way into a position rather than do the "standard interview for a job" process. However, this will be my first course of action, and I will get on it as soon as I get back to the US. I will start attending bar functions and various functions where I believe that people who could be future employers will be visiting. I need to do research to think this out. The reason this is so important is because the career is where I will be spending most of my days for what could be the rest of my life. I should choose this one carefully, just as one chooses one's wife carefully. The reason this is so important is because if I want to raise a family (which I do), I will need to have an income to support this family. I am too old to be living on school loans and I cannot maintain this standard of living forever.
On the topic of money, I am suspicious that prices of gas might cause the price of travel to and from school to be a burden. I will look into whether it would be more economical to start riding the train. The countervailing factors against taking the train are that 1) I use my car to get to minyans, and 2) I use my car to get to the gym in the mornings. It would seem silly to drive around and then to park to wait for a train to walk fifteen minutes when I could drive and be there in twenty with a car, especially because my schedule is seldom fixed and my departure times and needs change daily based on the circumstances and adjustments in my schedule.
As for music, I will reconnect with my roots, whether that means improving my piano playing (I should put buying a piano on my wish list next to the desire to play the harmonica, although I will likely not buy either of them any time soon), singing (in the shower, on the road, publicly, or other.) I would also like to look into composing music, as I have learned that deeper expressions of one's soul can be expressed through music on a level which can not be experienced through words. I would like to explore this, especially since sound is a key element in my research into the areas of life I would like to understand. Cryptic, yes, but for my ears. Those who know me know what I am talking about.
These are the goals which I would like to achieve. This is what I would like to take from my experiences in China.