The first time I visited Beijing was seven years ago. I remember the impression the city had on me. I was absolutely smitten. Beijing was the goal, the adventure, where I wanted to live the rest of my life. After I graduated university, I did move to China to a place very close to Beijing. It seemed perfect. However, over time, my feelings for Beijing have changed; as have the city itself.
So many good memories have taken place in Beijing. My first trip abroad where I found out how much I loved China and its culture and people, a university trip where Beijing was where I got to know my best friend of five years now, weekend trips full of Great Wall hikes, photography, and amazing food and fun, visits from friends and family who have come from America to this vibrant, history-rich city and getting to enjoy it with them. So many wonderful things have happened in this city. But so have many difficult things.
Flying in and out of Beijing is convenient but unfortunately, you can’t pack your feelings in your suitcase. So many times have I flown into Beijing from home or from traveling abroad and not wanted to come back. It can be lonely out here, and Beijing is often where I most realize that. Beijing as a go-between makes me realize how much I miss my loved ones and wish to be with them. Beijing is also where I had to come to try and resolve an issue of stalking. After an attempted rape in Shijiazhuang, every time I flew back into China from America or other travels via Beijing, it reminded me how acutely I did not want to be there. How many times did I look out of a plane window landing in Beijing and think “I just want to go back home and not be here”.
All these memories mingle together and now I cannot even say if my feelings about Beijing, and sometimes China as a whole, are more positive or negative. Nearly all of my adult life has cumulated in this country, and I believe that is the only way to describe it. Beijing is like life to me: incredibly hard with some beautiful moments. This city knows me better than some people do with all that has happened here. And perhaps that is why it makes me feel strange. Because I know this city like the back of my hand, but I didn’t think it would ever know me the same way. Beijing has become more complex for me than I thought a city could. I go to places like London, New York, Tokyo, Bangkok, and Marrakesh and I think “Oh this city is amazing!’ or “This one has so much history”, but when I think of Beijing, my mind nearly goes blank. Actually, it doesn’t go blank but there’s simply too much to compute into one or two adjectives like “cool” or “beautiful”. Beijing is where I feel things the strongest, for better or worse. Beijing is where I realize what I love and miss and ache for. Beijing is my heart string city.