Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why Taiwan?

I have been asked this question so many times now, that the answer is practically automated. It's an important one to be answered, and it must be done. But we need to go back, way back, to my first real job out of college.

It had always been my dream to live in Manhattan and have a wonderful career there, so I studied Fashion Merchandising at Philadelphia University, and started my first job in New York City 2 weeks before I was scheduled to graduate. I didn't waste any time in getting myself there, but it also didn't take long before I began questioning my "dream" career. I never thought I would find office life as suffocating as I did, nor did I think I would come to view my job as pointless. By six months into my job, the thought of being there for an indeterminate amount of time scared me. I didn't like the way we treated our Chinese counterparts either, or all of the pressure we put on them over things like back pocket details and thread color. In New York, we went home at six o'clock, but in China they worked day and night over what I considered to be trifles.

Perhaps I could find a job, within my industry, doing something a little bit more meaningful? Maybe if I learned Chinese, I could become involved in improving the position of the workers in China? Or at least have more leverage to find a job I felt passionate about?

I decided to stick it out there for at least a year. Then, in March, much to my surprise and relief the company announced it would be closing it's New York office. I spent the last month at my office making plans for my future. My husband, Jonathan (who was only my boyfriend at the time) had mentioned that his uncle Paul lived in Taiwan, "maybe you could get in touch with him, and go there to learn Chinese?" Hello, Yes! When I told my (mostly) Taiwanese colleagues about this idea, they were delighted, and immediately began helping me research my plans, and even gave me Chinese lessons in our office. Before long, Jonathan was on board too, and we began saving for our big move.

Making a move like that is not something that is done lightly. We spent a lot of planning and A LOT of time convincing our families and friends why this was a good idea. There were times when I thought it wasn't going to happen. Times when I thought that the feat of moving to the other side of the world was just too big. Many people questioned the viability of it. But in the end, our determination to make this change gave us the courage to do it.

The night we left America was sad. Our families went out for a nice dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in New York, Marseille, and then battled heavy traffic in the city on our way to JFK. I don't think I talked much during the car ride from the restaurant to the airport. I was nervous and sad. Am I making the right decision? When will I see my family again? Will Taiwan be anything like what I am expecting? After many tears shed at the terminal, many hugs, and many goodbyes, our families drove away, and we were alone.

And although we were together, there was still a feeling of aloneness. We hadn't even checked our bags, yet I already felt we were on our way. This is it. No turning back.

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