Feel free to skip this post – I might get a wee bit vulnerable…

You were forewarned: This week has been especially lonely and self-reflective. Maybe it’s the start of the holiday season. Or maybe it’s the lack of foreigner interaction? If I can speak candidly, life overseas is not all fun stories and awkward adventures. It’s hard. It’s really hard. And it’s not just because I didn’t have turkey on Thanksgiving. That was the easy part! I had delicious Chinese food instead. Pumpkin pie might’ve been nice, though.

The hardest part about being overseas is being away from the people you care about. Their lives seem to go on “normally” without “you” but you’re in this entirely new place with new things happening every day. You still know it’s where you’re supposed to be, etc., but it’s like there’s this parallel universe occurring without you on the other side of the world. It’s almost too much to think about. So, I’ll stop. Let’s think about the times I had and the feelings I confronted with those people before I left, instead… remember, you don’t have to read this.

In the months leading up to my departure, I experienced a huge range of different emotions. During May and the early part of June, my feelings were pure excitement. Quitting my job, selling my junk, roadtripping with the best of friends, and my amazing “Going Away Party” all contributed to my enthusiastic anticipation. I thought I was completely ready to be a bigger-boy long-term overseas-liver! I thought I was two years too late, even.

But summertime followed fast. In Texas and Italy this summer, my feelings turned to complete inadequacy. I began to second-guess everything. And most of all, I was afraid. I was “alone” in a crowd of wonderful young people all summer long and felt helpless to change it. I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid of the unknown and afraid of that expected loneliness once I got over here. How long could I handle being the only one among millions? … Was I thinking straight? … I can’t just move to China, right? … I can’t just leave everything, right? … I can’t just say the words, “See you later!” and leave everyone I love, right? Pardon my French, but what the [crap] was I about to do!? (Cue Survivor – Eye of the Tiger, please.) (No one did.)

But the summer ended fast. Back in Minneapolis during August and September, my feelings really went downhill. I don’t think I was actually depressed, but I was pretty darn close. I was sleeping ungodly hours and dreading my fast-approaching exodus. I was staying at my parents’ and living off of what little I had left. I seemed to save everything for the last minute, but maybe that’s normal. I think I annoyed my friends. Don’t get me wrong, those two months were great and included plenty of high points! In fact, let’s recount those high points now: the Fleet Foxes concert, the unexpected MN State Fair visit, the bird-in-my-truck incident, the last trip to The Library, the watching of The Breakfast Club for the first time (and 16 Candles too), the indoor bonfire, the spur-of-the-moment Beantown & NYC trip, the Como Zoo/PNG/Japanese Tea House expedition, the cupcake nights, the outdoor Solid Gold concert at The Walker, the epic bachelor’s weekend up north, the Charlie The Dog incidents, the going away party for a different friend, the Phoenix concert, the walk around Powderhorn, the Vikings starting 4-0, the armoire incident, the A Night In The Box and White Ghost Shivers show at Lee’s, the many moves, the Lake Vermillion canoe adventure, the last-minute trip to Cedar Point and subsequent visit to 8 Mile, the numerous cups of coffee and conversations, the failed cookies incident, the retreat at Lake Beauty, the Mary Poppins show at The Orpheum, the Uptown cougar incident, the shisha on the back porch, the ridiculously awesome Mute Math concert, the unplanned visa run to Chicago with my mom, the times I visited my grandparents in Lake City with my dad, and the two beautiful weddings of four good friends…

Wow. Umm, that’s a longer list than I initially thought it would be… in hindsight, I guess I had a pretty outstanding couple of months at home. Maybe some of the best months ever. Why did I feel so depressed? Ah, I know why. Every one of those memories includes people. I honestly don’t know what all of them were thinking in those moments, but there was always a lingering thought in the back of my mind. A thought of “last”… would this be the last time I would ever see them? (Cue Billie Holiday – Strange Fruit, please.)(Someone did.) Dramatic, I know. But valid, methinks, for someone in my situation. I tried my best to change those thoughts to “last in a long while” but it was difficult. R-e-a-l-i-t-y had come – I was sad to go, but “going” was exactly what I was going to do.

All these depressive feelings came to a head the night of the second wedding I was in. It might’ve been the fact that I had to say goodbye to 50+ people in a short amount of time, or twas the one-week countdown, or maybe I had just been holding it all in. Needless to say, the tears started flowing. I hope my newly married friends didn’t mind.

Describing those tears is beyond my writing capability, but suffice it to say they were needed. With those tears, came realization. A dream-following life is full of loss, and following your heart is going to be hard, but that does not mean you don’t follow your heart.

That final week, I was just lost. There’s no better way to describe it. I was just going through the motions, barely got any sleep, and slowly packed my bags. The world was knocking on my door; I was about to open on up.

From pure excitement to absolute fear to borderline depression to just plain lost, all in the span of a few months. There were only two Things that really got me through. The First is obvious and I probably shouldn’t mention it here. The second is music.

Everyone enjoys the art of mix tapes. We love piecing together the perfect songs to speak for us when we can’t find the words. Well, that’s what I did. I made a mix of songs to express my crazy emotions. With lyrics like “If you’re going abroad, I can’t help you; if you’re crossing the street, I might be there” or “I liked reality better when it was a dream” spoke volumes to me. “I have had so many people I deeply care for; I’m so blessed to have spent the time, with my family, and the friends I loved in my short life.”

I thought I should share my mix with you. It’s titled, “Memory of Decay” from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs called Every Grain of Sand. (Cue it, please.) (I did.) It’s also a lame pun for “DK” – I normally wouldn’t have explained such an obvious pun, but some people had difficulty with it.

Memory Of Decay Album Cover01 – Flight of the Conchords – Friends
02 – Music Go Music – Just Me
03 – A Night In The Box – The Garden
04 – Lykke Li – Breaking It Up
05 – P.O.S. – Goodbye
06 – The Big Pink – Dominos
07 – Mates of State – The Re-Arranger
08 – Bayside – Moceanu
09 – Fever Ray – When I Grow Up
10 – Anis Mojgani – Shake The Dust
11 – Miley Cyrus – The Climb
12 – Peter Björn & John – Stay This Way
13 – Tegan & Sara – Call It Off
14 – The Tallest Man On Earth – I Won’t Be Found
15 – Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps – Tying My Shoes
16 – The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
17 – Daniel Johnston – True Love Will Find You In The End
18 – Patrick Watson – Beijing
19 – Antony & The Johnsons – Another World
20 – Haley Bonar – Drinking Again
21 – Yeasayer – Red Cave

Download (137MB .zip) *Click link *Enter captcha *Wait 15 seconds *Select “Regular Download” *Hopefully it works!

Don’t feel obligated to listen to it or anything, it gets kind of depressing toward the end. You might just get a glimpse into my pre-voyage emotions, though.

Today, my feelings are quite different. Although the expected loneliness is very evident at times, I’m so thankful to be here in China! It’s completely worth it. I love almost every aspect of being here and am doing quite well. I understand it’s a slow process in connecting with people. And if I made a music mix today, the songs would be much more happy and upbeat. That is all.

Bring it on, Advent.