This feeling is punctual

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about friendship lately, and as my week draws to an end, the concurrence of several conversations regarding this topic, friendship, bring it swimmingly to my attention. I have perhaps been thinking about this topic a bit less as of late, seeking to concentrate on other types of relationships, mostly the ones I’ve been forced into out of necessity (business, working, or related environments).

Just today, I was doing some self-diagnosing. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed as of late, and I wasn’t sure where that emotion stemmed from. And so far, I’ve come up with the explanation that I’ve been going out in large groups too frequently, and not giving or getting any true one-on-one friend attention. My public persona was getting tired and fed up of not getting any rest and my private persona was scratching at the divide. I have two, at least two, personae that is, one which displays its head when I’m in crowds, trying my best to impress and grab attention and incite humorous reactions. The other is the one I share with my real friends, or the ones I think could be/are real friends, people I would be happy to be around by themselves, by ourselves. I think most people show this distinction, a public and private self. The age old comment, he’s so different when he’s around me, there’s some truth in that. Something about the crowd, the mentality, the alpha-omega complexities dictated by society, these things bring out the pack animal in all of us. We all naturally place ourselves inside the group, shrinking in or filling out to accommodate the space of the whole. During this manipulation, we cannot fully hold onto our true character. We bend or spread ourselves; it is natural, but at the same time, uncomfortable in many ways.

Location: Beijing, China

The nature of relationships

Guanxi, a word which is commonly tossed around here, literally meaning relationship, but when spoken in context, actually indicates corruption. Corruption is so under the radar here that it’s comical; it’s so ingrained in Chinese society that a negative association barely exists. When I was still living with my host mom, she would often tell me about the complicated processes involved with opening a new restaurant. You had to pay off a whole list of people. Yes, pay off, like it was the most natural thing in the world. My incredulity was met with: of course you pay them off, the fire marshal, health inspection, and so on so forth.

When a friend of mine expressed interest in coming back to China and working, our Chinese friend immediately whipped out his phone and said, I’ll make some calls for you. It’s like, everyone’s livelihood is dependent on the friends they know, and in a world so fraught with strings and relationships, those who break the law don’t get punished, those who deserve reward are bypassed, and those who are somewhere far down the ladder of society, those people, they bear the brunt of all this other administrative negligence.

Perhaps I am just being too righteous, but at some point, cultural differences just aren’t strong enough of a reason to warrant the blurring of what’s right and what’s wrong. Does this mean I’m getting older and more set in my ways? Less receptive to environmental changes? I’d like to hope not. I’d like to hope that having been presented two alternatives, I have drawn the line to decide what is right and what is not.

Location: Beijing, China