Happy birthday to me… I think?

I turned 40 today.

A lot of people would say, “WOW, I’m really old,” and make the usual banal comments about being halfway to death or whatever is expected.

I’m not feeling that today.

Instead, I’m feeling kind of lonely.

For me, today is different.

Today is the ninth birthday I have had in China… without celebrating one in Australia or with my family back in Australia.

When I moved to China in 2013, I didn’t really think about this possibility. In fairness, I don’t think anyone considered the case of a global pandemic that would effectively create 207 isolated nations that would shut down air travel for potentially two years.

However, I have spent Christmas with my family in the last few years – in 2018, my wife and I went back to Perth to spend a week over Christmas with them. I’ve celebrated my mother’s birthday with her in Hong Kong – as I said the other day, I’ve tended to be closer to her.

But today… today will primarily be an ordinary day. I mean, okay, it’s a Tuesday, so I can’t really celebrate anyway, but still…

I think it’s more that I haven’t been able to feel any members of my family in my arms for over two years, and it could be a year before I can do so again.

It’s the chance that I am missing more milestones in the lives of my nephews and nieces.

It’s the prospect of being in China forever and not seeing things change in Australia for better or worse.

It’s the ever-present fear that perhaps I made the wrong decision back in 2013, or 2003… or in any number of years.

Should I have done things differently? Have I made the right decision?

In many cases, the die has been cast and the results are determined, and I can only deal with the consequences of my actions.

I’m okay with that. At the same time, there’s that tiny flicker of fear and concern inside.

If I’m still in China next year, I might celebrate 10 birthdays in China. I don’t know if I can handle that. I might have to go home for it.

You see, I still don’t really think of China as home – I still call Australia home.

I don’t think that will ever change. I know that China will never accept me as Chinese – that’s just the way the country is.

So I am sitting here today, at my desk… forty years old. I’ll have to remember that for any future surveys or forms I have to fill out now – that’s always a bit scary, remembering that one.


I’ll be okay – I’m just a bit maudlin.

Take care of yourselves.


4 thoughts on “Happy birthday to me… I think?

  1. “I know that China will never accept me as Chinese – that’s just the way the country is.”

    This is the most insane example of spoiled entitlement I have ever seen, hats off, sir.

    Why should China accept YOU as a Chinese?

    Please keep going, if you complain enough, I’m sure the universe, including China, will eventually bend around your needs and expectations.


    1. I understand why you might think I am being entitled, but my point is more about the country’s citizenship rules.
      In many countries, there are pathways towards citizenship. However China does not have such a pathway – at best, I could get a green card, which is essentially a 5 or 10 year rolling permanent residency.
      From what I understand, Japan also has an extremely narrow citizenship path for foreigners, but I’m not sure about South Korea.
      I’m not asking China to accept me – it is a reflection of their cultural hegemony that has been well-established for centuries. Am I sad about it? Not really. What I am sad about is not being with my family.


      1. You acknowledge that China has restrictive laws for citizenship that you most likely will not obtain and you acknowledge that other countries have a similar system in place. You acknowledge that China, due to cultural hegemony on their own territory is entitled to this.
        You’re not asking for this to change and you don’t really feel about this in a particular way.

        I’d recommend you take a walk outside.


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