Where I Live(d)

Writing went fine today. Again, I didn’t do a whole bunch. I just split some chapters into smaller chunks. Overall, I think it’s going to make the beginning of my book faster and punchier. It’s going to be rapid scene after scene after scene. And that’s how I originally wrote it. So, I’m glad about that.

But the truth is that I didn’t really want to speak about my writing today. I sort of wanted to get a bit into my life. I wanted to get into what it feels like to quit my job, come back to Canada, move in with my mom, and try to make it as a writer, all at the age of 41. Spoiler alert: it isn’t fun.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad that I get some time to spend with my mother. She’s been so supportive in everything I’ve done over the years. Now that she has been suffering from extreme chronic pain, I’m happy that I get a chance to help her. But, that being said, it isn’t the ideal living condition.

She has moved into a relatively small two-bedroom condo where she no longer needs to take care of the garden, mow the lawn, or shovel the snow. It’s perfect for her. It’s not for me.

Every time I walk down the hallway, I feel as though I’m in a hotel. The carpets are always clean. There are pretty lights out front of every door. Each lock is the same style for each unit.

To most, I guess they’d say that was a good thing. It looks nice. It looks professional. But, to me, it looks stagnant. There’s no character. There’s nothing interesting at all about it.

When I lived in Shanghai, I lived in an old apartment building. There were only six floors and, as such, there was no elevator. I lived on the fourth floor and had to walk up the creepiest looking stairs every night (they weren’t so creepy in the day).

As I went up each floor, I passed doors that were opened, doors that were closed, doors that had bars on them, doors that didn’t. The entrance to my own apartment was shared by an elderly couple that must have lived there most of their adult lives. They always made sure that both the door and gate were locked. And that gate, when unlocked, only opened a little more than half way. So I always had to turn to the side to get by it. It was a pain when I had a bunch of groceries.

Going into my apartment, it was pretty nice. There was somewhat of a trend to redo these old places and rent them out to foreigners like myself, for prices that were considerably higher than an unfinished apartment would be. But, even then, it wasn’t anything too extravagant.

I lived, for the most part, in one room. I had a queen-sized bed, a sofa, a desk, and a TV. My kitchen was in a hallway that led to the front door. My bathroom was in that hallway too. It was a pretty small hallway that made cooking challenging at times.

Then there was the traffic. My room faced out onto a somewhat busy street. Actually, it wasn’t the amount of cars that was the problem though. It was the honking. There was a crosswalk right out front of my street and every time someone stood there to cross a car would honk to warn them. And in the middle of downtown Shanghai, that was a lot! I had to resort to throwing my headphones on everyday to help block out some of the noise.

Then there were the cockroaches. And I think I’m using that term “cockroach” lightly. These were huge black things that were the size of the palm of my hand. And if that’s not enough of an image for you: one night while I was sleeping, I felt one crawl on my neck. I freaked out. Grabbed it. Threw it across the room. And I heard it land on the floor! Yes, it was that big that I actually heard its hard body clack against the hardwood. Ugh.

Okay, wait, where was I headed with all of this? From what I’ve described, it sounds like it was a thousand times worse than my mother’s. And, to be honest, maybe it was. But it was different. It was exciting. It was challenging. And I guess that’s a lot of what I miss when coming back to a pristine building that has a pool and gym at the bottom of it.

I’ve actually felt that way about coming back to Canada as well. Everything here is so neat and set out. Everyone is so polite. And, as crazy as it might sound, it hasn’t been that easy for me to adjust to.

But I sort of feel that I’ve already written enough about all of this for today. I’ll get into some of the culture shock later. Spoiler alert: it isn’t fun.

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