I can’t figure out when exactly, in time, that I decided getting to work in Asia stopped being an incredible opportunity and slipped into becoming my status quo. It wasn’t a conscious decision, of course. But somehow, slowly, steadily, I forgot how unbelievably lucky I am to have this period of my life where I get to live across the world, complete with a boyfriend willing to rough out the two-year LDR to boot.
Instead, I started complaining: “It’s so hard to feel settled when I know I’m leaving soon.” “I hate the freaking commute and there’s no food in the Cowhead Corner.” “I want to buy paintings and furniture to decorate but I can’t, because this is temporary.” “Everything’s so expensive.” “Being away sucks, I’m out of the loop back home.” Boohoo.
It’s not that the challenges of moving and living abroad shouldn’t be recognized, because they should be. But I’ve realized over the past few months in Hong Kong that I’ve allowed myself to entertain far too many issues that are, in fact, non-issues (or as we call them today, “first-world problems”). I’m falling into the miserable millenial habit I swore I wouldn’t succumb to: wanting more, always more.
On the plane ride home to the States a few weeks ago, I was emotional at the thought of my impending farewell in the spring – not to Hong Kong, but specifically to my coworkers. In the months I’ve been working here, I have been utterly humbled to see how hard my peers here work, no matter how mundane the task or how frustrating the system. It’s not the long hours that impress me, but the attitude with which they work them. One day, I had a conversation with my coworker: “But you’re so smart. Don’t you ever get bored of some of the stuff we’re doing?” He replied, to my amazement: “You know, I’m really thankful for the opportunity to get to be on this team. Even if the work isn’t always great, I feel lucky to be here.”
This is in stark contrast to what I had seen back home, where many of my peers left within a year or two of their jobs because they were bored, weren’t challenged, wanted more prestige, or more good ol’ money. And I don’t blame them: of course I felt that way at times, and often forgot that doing “international business” (and isn’t Citi a global bank?) had at one point been my 17-year-old self’s dream job. It’s a fine balance to find – by all means, as young professionals, we certainly should strategically direct our career paths. But I severely underestimated how easy it is, when we have everything we need, to become consumed with how much more we want (see my musings on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). We think we ‘deserve’ better.
I think humility is a virtue that my generation severely lacks.
As I round out the last few months of my time in Asia, I hope I stop more often to remember just how lucky I am to be here. I am thankful to be in a city that is the epitome of convenient. I am thankful to the old lady who walked uphill to help me hail a taxi. I am thankful to have learned the random sport of underwater hockey. Most of all, I am thankful to my coworkers – not only for how willing they are to go above and beyond to help me despite their own mountains of work, but also for the kind reminder they’ve given me to be thankful, always thankful.