With less than two weeks until departure, I start to see the value in letting things happen.

If there’s one person I’d follow blindly to my own undoing, it’d damn well be Professor Chang. This genuinely caring woman took her time in advising me about the thrill of life in the world’s largest city, but quickly followed up her comments by insisting that I watch myself around drink and Shanghainese women. I’ve been warned — it’ll just be schoolbooks and a recently developed proclivity to gambling for me then.

I better explain.

What never seems to shake me until too late is the type of permanence that comes consequent of every action.  There’s a paper-thin Chinese visa in my passport with surprising weight: proof that making decisions (and acting on them, especially) can result in a fundamental alteration of life’s walkways.

Trite, but true.

One choice informs the next which informs the next until you’re so far down the road less traveled that even Robert Frost couldn’t tell you if it had made all the difference.

Perhaps it’s because of my own attachment to the idea of impermanence that I can’t quite see that permanence is often just hidden below the surface. Something stays. And, although common sense dictates that actions clearly run the gamut from insignificant to inimitable, what’s surprising is that actions have facets of both those characteristics. Sometimes what’s important really isn’t, and what is isn’t; other times it’s just as it seems. Oftentimes it’s both. It’s this nonsensical mixture of importance inside of irrelevance that makes making choices so thrillingly unknown.

So I’ll try my luck. I’ll take a gamble, make a few bad choices and some good ones. Given the fickle nature of fate, it wouldn’t surprise me if my terrible decisions ended up being worth the most.


Author: Erik Fruth

Erik lived in Shanghai from September 2014 to July 2015 while studying Mandarin at Fudan University and teaching English. Since then, he's continued writing and working in Ventura County, California.