Lately I’ve been doing more reading, but also more watching of YouTube videos on account of me breaking my arm. Not being able to use ones arm really does limit ones capabilities. It certainly leads to more couch potatoey behavior, so I’ve made a concerted effort to learn something during this time.
About a month ago I started watching ADVChina videos on and off. It’s a quite interesting YouTube channel put on by two expats who have been in China for a long time. Both have assimilated to as great of a degree as most would expect, speaking as far as I can tell workable if not fluent Chinese. Their comments on China are not always PC, they are guilty of some gratuitously clickbait titles, and their videos are certainly not always accurate (although I am not in a position to really say what is and what isn’t) but at the very least it’s interesting. It’s a world into a different life which I really have no capacity to experience. Heck, few have the capacity to move to another country with such disparate country, assimilate to that degree, and then share their thoughts in a cogent way on the internet. (in a country where YouTube is banned, may I add).
With this many provinces and over a Billion people, it’s impossible to experience all of China, let alone the world.
Furthermore, neither was born with a congenital condition that would prevent them from making the trip. Also neither had ties back home or careers which in some sense tied them down. I’m not sure my career ties me, per se, but it is certainly adequately solid to not want to abandon it for the dead-end job of teaching in China (and that’s not even taking into account my medical situation.)
But while watching these videos it repeatedly came to mind that that experience was really really interesting. If I was able to live the live they are living at present without any sacrifice I certainly would. Life really is all about opportunity cost, but if we think about how many people live there is a lot of time more or less given away. In a world where so many opportunities, whether by our own decisions or by factors beyond our control, are removed, it pays to experience what one can. That isn’t to say one should aim to do everything. Exploring certain areas deeply while neglecting others is all a matter of personal preference. I have no wish to delve into the world of hobbyist electronics, while I do not expect others to read court rulings or econ papers out of interest. But watching these videos certainly raised questions in my mind as to what the future holds and how I should prioritize the time I have while I can spend it.
There are certain decisions we can all make in our lives that enable future decisions and better our lives in the future, and not all are directly career oriented. At the end of the day money is simply a medium for exchange. Living in America in the field I’m in, I feel immensely lucky to have the breadth of opportunity at my disposal.
Yet in career one can’t do it all. Especially given my broad variety of interests, in retrospect I could see myself in alaw or grad school. The path I’m on right now, though I would like to consider myself good at and competent is among the last things I would have expected in the past. It has unlocked all sorts of travel, options, and career progression I never previously considered.
And I suppose on some level, that is what the folks at ADVChina have done, and what we all try to do. Given a world in which there infinite possible points of divergence in our lives, we make the best of the situation we are in. The combination of people, events, places, and ideas we surround ourselves with really make who we are. Within this construct we still must make meaningful choices to bump where we are in this net of choices. While we may not have full choice over what we do for one reason or the other, it really ought be our goal to expand the set of possibilities we would be interested in doing. Even when thrust into situations we would rather not be in, nothing changes. The ability to adapt while not letting the path we are on and everything around us be foregone conclusions really matters. While I do not precisely have a professional goal of fame and fortune, nor a life aspiration of where I want to be, along my life thus far I’ve learned a truly interesting assortment of facts and had a fair set of experiences, which I hope to grow to the best of my ability.
And yes, for those interested, this was somewhat influenced by thinking on Sen’s capability approach