Why This 51-Year-Old Mother Of Two Is Living A New Life In China

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This is one story from Huff/Post50’s new series “This Will Be Our Year: 15 Women Over 50 Shaking Things Up In 2015.” We’ll be following 15 remarkable ladies throughout the year as they make a radical change in their lives, whether it’s embarking on a 500-mile hike, starting a new career or attempting to find love on the Internet. Start from the beginning here.

Cheryl McDonald, 51, has moved to Shenzhen, China.

August marks the official six-month anniversary of my arrival in Shenzhen. In that brief time I’ve started a new job, celebrated another birthday, made friends, learned some Chinese, had a very short-lived romance, lost a few pounds and, in general, tried to adjust to a new country, a new company and a new way of life.

My biggest challenge has been being away from my sons. I remember one tell-tale Skype that involved lots of crying and one of them saying “Mommy we don’t go to your house with you anymore – I miss that” and me, of course, feeling as if my heart was being stomped on by a Sumo wrestler. The guilt followed me everywhere making me question my decisions and my level of selfishness. Then I reminded myself that being here provides an opportunity for my sons as well – for me to give them something I wouldn’t have been able to provide in other circumstances: the chance to live in and experience a completely different country and culture and to grow from that experience.

To that point, Maxwell has spent the summer with me exploring this part of China and he is now a more confident young man than my little boy who arrived two months ago. Garrett will join me later and I can’t wait to appreciate this experience through his eyes and see where it takes him.

A couple other challenges I’ve faced, and still do, are around language and weather. Every day drives more empathy from me for those who head to the U.S. and don’t speak English. I have learned a bit of Chinese to get around, but trying to catch a cab when you can’t tell the driver where you need to go has made for some interesting moments. I have found, though, that the Chinese people are quite patient with me and very helpful and for that I am grateful.

The other item on this month’s “challenges” list is the weather. In the US I live in Kansas City and I grew up on the Gulf of Mexico so I have seen my share of weather. But this part of China is very rainy and very humid throughout the summer and gets the occasional typhoon as well.

Coming to China wasn’t just about work. When I turned 50 last year I realized I felt lost, unfulfilled and, well, restless. It triggered a sort of epiphany that I wasn’t happy with the state of my life.

After arriving here and having to get up each day, shower, dress, apply some makeup in order to go to the office, I realized that I had stopped taking care of myself in so many ways and my outside had turned into a reflection of how I felt on the inside – icky. I had become “her” – that woman I swore I would never become: I lived in sweats, I gained weight, I didn’t bother with my hair or trying to spruce up a bit and it was a vicious cycle – I felt icky inside, my outside began to look icky which in turn made me feel even worse inside. So, if you look in the mirror today and see glimpses of your version of “her” then perhaps ask yourself what is off-kilter inside you and maybe in your life. You don’t have to run off to China but perhaps just start by doing something nice for yourself and thinking about what it is you would like to change – what would help you begin to have the life you want.  

Read the first and second parts of Cheryl’s story!


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