Three years ago I set out on a lofty ambition of realising my life purpose as being a bridge between Chinese (especially Taiwanese) and Western cultures. Kind of like a character out of Victorian-style Willow Pattern china, I wanted to be someone who would help provide a conduit for navigating the two cultures. (And yes, I actually do own a set of Willow Pattern china. And a teapot.)
It seemed quite ambitious at the time to think of myself in this way: who was I to dare to declare myself an expert at cross-cultural understanding? At first I felt shy and embarrassed to talk about this goal. Surely there are other people who have lived in Taiwan longer, who write better, who have advanced degrees in anthropology and culture and history, who are qualified chefs, or who just know much more than me? But the more I said my goal about being a cultural bridge out loud to myself, as a whisper at first and then gradually louder and with conviction, the more I began to grow into the role. And the more it began to take on shape. It started with blogging, then writing for community publications such as Centered on Taipei magazine, and extended to community projects such as the Rotary Club of Taipei’s English Speech Contest.
Nor has it stopped: I am still working on my book about my zuo yuezi experiences, and regularly blogging and writing about unique aspects of Taiwanese cuisine (you would never believe how many people are interested in finding out how to make seemingly simple foods like shallot pancakes, red bean soup and sesame noodles). And I’m about to launch another writing platform (stay tuned for an announcement in the next week or so.) I am also working with other Rotarians on a project to help migrant women — other Taiwan Xifu — in a rural community. Plus opportunities to talk about my Taiwanxifu experiences, or to share cultural insights about Australia, just seem to appear as if by magic.
And now I am finally beginning to feel like my lofty goal of being a cultural bridge was not so crazy and unattainable afterall. Last month I was at an event where I was seated next to a senior diplomat. ‘She’s a bridge between Taiwanese and Western cultures,’ he explained when introducing me to other senior people. He might not have realised this, but I was beaming on the inside, mouthing a silent ‘yes’ at his unwittingly meaningful compliment. I now really feel that I am on my pathway to realising my dream.
I am a great believer in the power of positive thinking, of focusing on something and believing in it enough until it happens for you. Sometimes it can at first seem formidable and unachievable. People will tell you it’s too hard: it’s hard for foreigners to ever learn to speak Chinese fluently, it’s hard being a working mother, it’s hard to find time to write after you have children, it’s hard to think of original things to write about, it’s hard to make money doing what you love, and it’s hard to promote your writing. And there always seems to be people out there who are doing things better — better bloggers, better writers, better educated, better looking, whatever.
I just try not to listen to negative people. I try to silence the negative self-talk, and trust my heart, and allow my mind to indulge in its own dreams.
Napoleon Hill in his book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ said it best: Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” Using Hill’s advice, I have found that you want to do something, it helps to repeat your mantra over and over until it eventually becomes reality. It might not ring true at first, it might sound kind of corny, but eventually something in your mind kind of ‘clicks’ and you get it. You basically trick your mind into believing you are what you say you are.
I often never know how I will achieve my end goal, but I am learning to trust that with faith and perseverance it will happen. It’s like an invisible force that somehow comes and helps you want to get there. Chairman Mao gave a speech using the analogy of a Chinese fable about a foolish old man who moved a mountain. In the story, an old man decides to start manually shovelling dirt to move a mountain. People thought he was crazy, but he was determined and declared that his descendents would resolutely keep the shovelling dirt to move the mountain if he didn’t achieve the goal in his lifetime. The gods were moved by his commitment and carried the mountains away on their backs. My Chinese teachers in Beijing loved making us recite this story, especially the punchline ‘so long as you are diligent, you will definitely achieve your goal’.
Have you ever met someone who has a burning ambition? You can sense their sincerity, their determination and their focus on getting what they want. They are clear about what they want to achieve, willing to make sacrifices to get there and, perhaps because they are so clearly identified with their goal, they tend to attract the people and things they need to get there. People might laugh at them and call them a try hard behind their back when they start, but they won’t laugh so much when their achievements start taking shape.
I am sharing this now because I enjoyed a motivating chat with someone today about personal development, well being and personal fulfillment. It made me realise how incredibly blessed I am with all I have attracted into my life this far. And I wanted to thank you, the readers who have made it all the way to the end of this article, for your support in helping me along my writing journey. Thank you to everyone for liking and sharing my Facebook and blog posts, for clicking on links, for leaving comments and encouraging me along my journey. With your support, I will continue to bravely recite new mantras with new and challenging life goals. And I wish you all the best for believing and achieving your own dreams.