What's in a number? I guess that all depends on how hard you're willing to look. We put a lot of stock in certain numbers, whether they represent someone's age, historical events or fortuitous circumstances.
Sometimes numbers are meaningful, while at other times they're just abstractions. For many people the years they turn 18, 21 or 40 have special significance, while other people think more about 65, their age of retirement. A lot of Americans are fixated on 9/11, whereas people in my neck of the woods probably feel more connection to 8/8, or 9/21. Some people obsess over the number 13, while others fixate on the number 3. Certainly some of these numbers represent actual patterns in the workings of the world, while others only represent wishful thinking.
Whichever is the case for me, two numbers occupy my thoughts this semester: 10 and 20. 10 because I've been at my elementary school for ten years, and 20 because that's how many years I've been in Taiwan. Believe it or not, I started work at my school in September 2009, and I first arrived in Taiwan - starry-eyed and innocent - way back in August 1999.
And do these ten and twenty-year periods seem like a long time to me? It really depends on what I'm remembering. If I'm thinking about jobs I've held, no, it doesn't seem that long. Not counting various side jobs, four schools have employed me in a twenty-year time span. I spent four years at one school, one year at another, two years at yet another, and ten years at my current location. Three of these schools were fairly uneventful places, so when I look back at the time spent in them it seems pretty short.
When I think about my kids however, it seems very long. In 1999 both of my kids were 0 because they didn't exist yet. During my last year in Taichung they were 5 years and a few months old. As I moved to Taitung they were 9 and 4. At the time of writing they're 18 and 14, with one gone off to college in Kaohsiung. That seems like a long time. That seems like a very, very long time to me.
This said, my memories of these years are for the most part good. I still look back with fondness on my first year in Taiwan. I like thinking about all the times we went to Kenting, or Taipei, or Yunlin. I remember good times during Chinese New Year, and also a lot of friends in different places. Fires on the beach at night, and walks in the mountains when it's cool. Swimming in rivers in the summer, and sitting in coffee shops with the rain coming down. I've tried to live my life as well as I can, and I think that for the most part I've done a decent job so far.
Not that it's all been sunshine and rainbows. If I try, I can remember a lot of arguments and unpleasant experiences. There were some scary hospital encounters, and disagreements with family. There were times when I wasn't an especially good friend, father or husband. But hopefully I've learned from those times, and hopefully I can be better tomorrow. We'll see.
So yeah, 10 and 20 years. A fourth of my life, or half of my life, depending on how I choose to look at it. And what about the next 10 and 20 years? Will I still be working in the same place? Living in the same city? Eating at the same places? Hanging out with the same people?
I have no idea. I don't even know if I'll still be writing this blog then, but if I am you can learn the answer here. Just don't hold your breath, because I might just forget to write it. I'll be in my mid-50s then, and perhaps busy with other things.
Again, we'll see.
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What's NOT Going On In My City (Anymore) 我的城市不再有的事物