On Earth: Leaving Here


What a year it’s been.

Around this time last summer I gave up a teaching assistantship in Austria to come to Shanghai and learn Mandarin. Never would’ve guessed that I would get to see more of this country than my own, meet some incredible people, flip my brain upside on a daily basis learning this language, and understand myself a whole lot better than when I boarded the plane at LAX.

In two weeks I’ll be leaving a place I called my home. Unexpectedly, this place surpassed my expectations. Inexplicably, Here appeared while I was here on Earth too.

In two weeks I’ll be arriving at a different place I called my home. Culture shock and the very real need to find a job will hit me. Living in reverse, I’ll move back into the house I grew up in, and, for a year, waste a bit more time figuring out what leaving and living Here really means.

I doubt I’ll figure much out.

But I’ll be swimming the Pacific or hiking backyard trails too often to really care. And let’s be honest, Here is just the word ‘here,’ capitalized. China, America, Camarillo, Shanghai — all are just capitalized words on a veritable planet of names and locations in different languages.

So I’ll be contemplative when I see the grasslands of China’s Inner Mongolia, and awe in the historicity of Luoyang’s carved caves. I’ll be reflective when I look out the plane window and see the smoggy City of Angels where my Opa lives. But ultimately, I’ll use place names with less weight because that’s just what they’re called, thoughtlessly smile more often, cut out judgment and complaint as much as possible, and just try hard.

I’ll just try really, really hard.

The next time I’m on Earth and leave Here…

Author: Erik Fruth

Erik lived in Shanghai while studying Mandarin and teaching English. He moved home to continue writing and working and then relocated to Berlin to daydream about last summer.