14 Oct

As I was returning from Shanghai after a successful day in which I managed to: FINALLY get my ECNU student card (there had been a complicated problem with my registration) and passport with residence permit, as well as conduct one research interview, I was reflecting about “timing”. When I first moved back to Nanjing, I was eager to get my research going as quickly as possible (to capture my participating children’s transitions to life in China). Yet settling down took so much longer and required so much more effort than I thought it would – it basically took up my entire first three weeks. Then I spent the next few weeks following up with participants who have moved from Canada as well as looking for new sites and participants. It was all very exhausting work, with few results. I faced a lot of closed doors (or more accurately, closed school gates). But I didn’t mind that so much as I figured that the “right” research site(s) would eventually turn up and each closed gate was one step closer to that.

Yet I had my share of anxiety, such as when an email to an administrator at a promising research site received no response for two weeks. Two weeks seemed like an eternity. Now I am starting to see the wisdom in waiting patiently for things (not my strong suit). A wise friend once told me that when we ask for something, there can be three responses: “yes”, “no” and “not yet”. I don’t have a problem with the first two but the third is hard for me. I always try to change the “not yet” to “yes” but sometimes I end up changing it to “no” in the process! That’s because sometimes the timing of something is not right and not respecting that can lead to problems.

So now, I am very wary of “not yet” answers. I hear them, and I accept them. And I try to await patiently for the time when they either become “yes” or “no”. I am also reflecting a lot on the form of “not yet” answers, which are typically quite subtle. I am not very good at interpreting subtle things. But instead of just accepting that this is “how I am” I have decided to become a better reader of subtle clues, to listen carefully both to what is said and what is implied, something that will come in very handy in China, where things are often answered in very subtle ways.

So next time, you are told “not yet”, just say, “Ok. I understand.” and wait patiently for when the timing is actually right. You will be surprised by how smoothly things develop when the timing is actually right.


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