New Opportunities, New Adventures

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I’m writing this on board a Northeast Regional train speeding (as much as American trains can speed) from Washington, D.C. to New York on Tuesday morning. Whenever the Amtrak wifi slows or I need a moment to collect my thoughts, I glance out the window next to my seat and watch the scenery for a minute. Over the past 19 months, I’ve spent a lot of time looking out of windows: of trains, buses, airplanes, taxis. I don’t know exactly how many miles I’ve traveled while working for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, but with a bit of thought I can list all the places I’ve visited, from multiple “local” trips to D.C. and New Haven to destinations farther afield like Chicago, Kansas, Seattle, San Francisco, and various places in China. This trip, however, is different: it’s my last one.

June 30 (tomorrow, to you readers, since I’m writing this in advance) will be my final day at the National Committee. At the end of July I’m moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and as of August 1, I’ll join the staff of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), working on new social media and digital media initiatives for the organization.

I am really excited to move into this new role at AAS. (Obviously. I mean, would I take a job in another state if I weren’t really excited about it?) I’ve been going to the AAS annual meeting since my second year of grad school, and it’s always one of the highlights of my spring. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to develop more communications channels and work to strengthen the association’s relationship with its members; this is a fantastic opportunity to join an established organization and cultivate something new.

But I certainly felt more than a twinge of … loss, regret, sadness? There’s not one specific word to describe it … last month when I decided to accept the job offer from AAS and leave the National Committee. This was my first “real” job—health insurance! a retirement account! paid vacation days!—and it’s taken me places I never dreamed of, from countless government offices in the United States and China to the balcony above the New York Stock Exchange’s trading floor during the opening bell.

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I have worked with an impressive and generous group of colleagues, all of whom share my passion for education and increasing mutual understanding between the United States and China. I’ve gotten to know the 80 wonderful members of the Committee’s Public Intellectuals Program, the project I spent the most time on, and I sat next to my boss as we sifted through 49 years of documents and prepared to send our historical files to the Rockefeller Archive Center last spring. (PSA: the National Committee’s collection should be open to researchers later this year or in early 2017.) I got to be part of the Committee’s 50th anniversary celebration in D.C. on Monday night, where I realized—not for the first time, but with renewed appreciation—how strongly past staff members and program participants remain connected with the organization.

So it’s a little bit hard to leave. But it’s right. I have the opportunity to move in a new direction with my work—and just as importantly, with my writing. My position at AAS is 80% time, giving more structure to my workweek and providing me with more time to focus on my own writing projects. (Of course, it’s on me to use those hours productively and not spend them enjoying all of Netflix’s offerings.) I get to broaden my focus from just China to all of Asia and meet scholars who research places and topics I’ve never heard of before but would like to learn about. And although New York is a big, vibrant city, I’m looking forward scaling down a bit as I explore Ann Arbor and its surroundings.

It’s a change, but an exciting one. Onward to the Wolverine State.

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