Wendy wrote an article named We Filled Our Lives, But Lost Our Souls (Chinese) and posted it on her blog. It is very real comment from a normal person in Shanghai. The original version was very well written. Let me try to translate part of them.
These are among our frequent topics: I went to English, and you visited Europe, and he went to America; your house is at Lian Hua Metro Station, and mine is at Pudong, and he has several villa; The Peace Masion on Fen Yang Road is not bad, and Ying Qi on Ju Lu Road has great taste, and the Rose Garden is Pudong is OK; We care about taste, and we care about sentiment; we care about thoughts; We will have afternoon teas, and we will enjoy German black beer…
We filled our lives, but we lost our souls.
We do not insist any more, and we are not paranoia any longer. We start to say “Yes” to everything. The uncertainty of future and pressure of life forced people to put benifit and stability the first place before any decision….
I know Wendy is a good thinker and this piece is very well written. No matter people think it or not, it is a very common situation for people’s life in Shanghai. Shanghai is becoming more and more internationalized, but the life is much more harder. It is not easy to survive in Shanghai, since “we have to fill our lives”.
More interestingly, one of the email Wendy got is another great piece on the meaning of lives:
I saw your latest blog entry “we filled our lives, but lost our souls.” You
sounded a bit down and I just wanted to share a few of my thoughts. We’ve
only met once, but for some reason, I felt a special connection to you. I
also really admire the brutal honesty in your blog. I hope I’m not being
too blunt or personal in my writing:
First off, lemme just say it’s damn hard to keep one’s soul in contemporary
China. Everytime I went back to Shanghai, it felt very different to me. In
recent years, increasingly, I felt an overwhelming sense of materialism.
Adding to that is tremendous peer pressure and the need to ‘keep up with the
Jonese.’ What others have I have to have it, too. What others do I have
to do it better. That’s painful. By going with the flow we essentially
give up our own choices, ideals, and individuality. Or, in other words, our
But how can you not go with the flow? If the entire society is crazed about
making money and buying houses, how do you dare to be different? What about
parental expectations? They’ve had a hard life raising us. What about our
children? We can’t have them lose out from the start. Life is a race and
you simply cannot afford to stop.
Stop to think, what do I really want from this life? Do I really have to be
in that race? I think a lot of times we don’t give ourselves enough credit.
We don’t give ourselves enough space and freedom to explore, to make
mistakes, and to find out who we really are. All of our lives we’ve been
told who we should be and what we should do by our parents, teachers,
friends, society, or by a self that has internalized the values of all
those. We are defined by our roles as daughters, wives, mothers, employees
and citizens. But we are more than that. Each and everyone of us is
unique. We each have our own talents, passions and beliefs — We may have
yet to discover them, but they are there. Life is a privilege. Don’t rush
through it without knowing what you’re doing.
I try to tell myself, I came to this world for a purpose, and that purpose
is more than to have a job, get married, buy a house, make babies and
retire. I’m going to find out what that purpose is. I know this probably
sounds extremely naive, and I often have doubts about it. Sometimes I feel
like I’m not a good enough daughter. Sometimes I feel like my peers think
I’m crazy and a failure. Sometimes I’m gripped with this fear that I’m
going to end up old and homeless, not having had a job ever long enough to
build a career. :) But I think I’d rather live with the fear and guilt than
the nagging, perennial question: why am I here?
Partly that’s why I hide in San Francisco. In Shanghai reality is presented
in a much harsher, right-in-your-face kind of way than in SF. Here people
could care less about what you do with your life. Sometimes I try to
picture what I would be doing today if I stayed in China. And all I could
think of is a stifling cube in an office building somewhere in Beijing or
Shanghai. I don’t think I would’ve had the courage to do anything
different. I have a lot of respect for the independent spirits in China
today, simply because it’s just so much harder there to stay true to
I can’t believe I wrote so much. It feels like I was writing as much for
you as it is for myself. And one final note for all of us
soul-searchers–have a sense of humor. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Having a sense of humor makes one more open to new experiences and makes it
easier to stand up again after you fail. Allow yourself to explore, allow
yourself to fail, allow yourself to be confused, because it is from failures
we learn and confusion forces us to think. Most importantly, soul-searchers
or not, we’ll still eat, crap, and sleep everyday. :) We’ll still laugh and
cry. We’ll still have all the bills to pay and bosses to please. In some
ways I think soul-searching is more of an attitude toward life than concrete
actions. What’s the difference between the soul-searchers and
non-soul-searchers then? Well, not much, except we set ourselves free, from
I don’t know if any of this makes you feel better. It’s just a topic I
struggle with a lot myself, so thought I’d share some of my own thoughts.
If any of it is offensive, I apologize! I hope that, other than your
sometimes elluding soul, all is well on the other side of the Pacific. :)
Credit goes to the original author
This piece is so nice.