The year was 2010. Beijing’s grilling hot summer had just come to an end, and the city was strolling into a beautiful autumn that every Beijinger is proud of. I just submitted my resignation to the Chinese state-owned enterprise where I had worked for one year. I looked back at the path that I had just ran through. My life had felt so overwhelming, like running through pouring rain. The only thing I could do was keep running forward and hope that the rain wouldn’t extinguish my dreams. Yet if I kept going, I was afraid that my very self would be extinguished. At the time, I believed this was the typical dilemma for youth in China.
Since we were eight or nine years old, my generation had bathed in the glorious Age of the Internet. When we became teenagers, we started to work harder while envying “overseas returnees.” In our twenties, we learned about romance from American or Japanese TV shows. Our own romances started late; as young adults, many of us were still slow-witted about relationships. Memories of our teenage years grew thin as we had to compete with nine million other people for success, squeezing through a difficult path toward a so-called “bright future.” We also had limited choices. Many of us had never heard of the SATs. Most of us aren’t related to a government official. We barely knew anything about our city’s mayor whom our parents helped to choose. We became adults without even noticing, left our homes, and started a brand new journey alone.
At the age of eighteen, I boarded a train going somewhere far from home. While waiting for the doors to close, I was staring at a ray of sunshine on the floor. At that time, I saw it as an omen: it was light from a whole new world, just waiting to be discovered. But the light was fleeting and hard to grasp.
I went to college in Beijing, at the Beijing Language and Culture University. It was located in a neighborhood called Wudaokou, which was called “the center of universe” by BLCU alumni. I thought it was nothing special, untill I left four years later. I realized the atmosphere there was slightly different from other places. We sang mostly English songs at Karaoke. We could say that something was wrong while everyone else took it for granted. We knew something obvious that other people didn’t, and we could feel that we were different from other people. And these differences make the world even more beautiful.
Those four special years at BLCU spoiled me. I quit my first job, a well-paid position in HR, because I hated being a person who had to lie to her colleagues. I then worked at a new branch of a state-owned company. I thought I would enjoy the start-up atmosphere, but I was disspointed in the culture of inefficiency and lack of learning experiences. Yet again, I threw my bread away. A friend commented: “You just love human beings too much.” But to this day, I still believe in humanity. Despite how people often fight each other for survival, they still want to understand and relate to others, and are willing to help each other. My experiences made me realize that the world around me was not the kind of world I wanted to see in the future. When a friend came to me and said, “Why don’t you try working for non-profits?” I felt something in my heart come to life again.
I remember meeting Holly for the first time. I can still feel traces of that experience in my body. At the time, I was afraid that in order to work at Golden Bridges, I would have to become someone else. I was also afraid that I wouldn’t learn anything, and I would be wasting time. I was afraid of being a burden by growing too slowly. I was even afraid about having a dream that would affect my decisions. But Holly just said, “You should be peaceful as an individual.” It was like a wake-up call. That was the time I finally realized, I was so close to becoming like so many of the passengers I see on the subway, with painful faces, who were so affected by the influence of others that they forgot their own hearts’ desires.
第一次见到Holly，我心里多少带些以前经历的痕迹。我害怕我必须要变成别人，变成一个自己不喜欢的人。我也害怕学不到东西，时间平白流逝。我更害怕自己成长得不够迅速，成为别人和自己的负担。我甚至害怕，我有梦想这件事，会影响我做出正确的判断。然而Holly只是轻轻说，you should be peaceful as a individual. 像是当头棒喝。我才明白，我差一点就变得和那些每天挤在地铁上，表情痛苦的上班族一样：被太多外界的故事影响，忘记了自己的初心。
And my own heart’s desire? To simply use my small hands, to make something happen, in order to build a better future.
I started working at Golden Bridges with limited knowledge of the non-profit sector. I was excited by this new environment because working with “the unknown” always made me hungry for more knowledge. I plunged into an intense project management experience, and polished my communications skills. I learned more from my short time working with Holly and Golden Bridges than in my 3 years of previous working experience. I am never tired of learning. I come to work with a smile on my face every day, because everything I’ve been doing has been amazing.
Then suddenly, Project Pengyou dropped from the sky.
As a Chinese, I know I may not be the best at understanding Americans that have lived in China. And I may not be the best at understanding Americans in general. But I know we have at least one thing in common: Americans who left their homes and came to China have grasped that same ray of sunshine I saw on the train heading for Beijing. The thing that we are all trying to change is our own futures. No one else can do this for us, because only we ourselves know what we want for our future. However, the mission cannot be accomplished through just one person’s effort, because it is our shared future.
There is a old saying in China: It is better to return home and make a net, than to long for fish by the waterside. If your net is connected with those of others, the net become greater, and I believe you can catch a greater fish.
Faye Pu 蒲若菲
Assistant to CEO & Program Manager, Project Pengyou
Hometown: Chengdu, China
Current City: Beijing, China