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What Looks Like an Anchor May Be Wings

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With almost 100 columns and thousands of blog posts documenting my three and half years in China, I thought turning it all into a book would be straightforward. I was wrong.

I never seriously doubted I would get here, but once I plunged into turning my story into a narrative, I realized that I had set high goals for myself. It was important that it have the propulsion and momentum of my favorite crime novels by the likes of George Pelecanos, Walter Moseley and Elmore Leonard. And it was crucial that it be about more than me.

I don't read too many memoirs. I don't have a lot of patience for people who think everything they do is interesting because they did it. I went into this process very aware that I had to synthesize my experiences and relate them in a way that pushed beyond the day to day -- that pushed beyond me and reflected larger, more universal truths.

That's what I tried to do with Big in China.

I wanted to explain why my unlikely success with the band Woodie Alan was a metaphor for everything that happened to me in China but I also wanted the book to be bigger than my experiences in China. I wanted to use it to explore what it takes to have a healthy, happy marriage, how both people can be partners supporting one another's individuality and own ambitions, while also growing closer. To think about how having a family and small children can be an enhancer of adventure rather than the inhibitor so many view it to be. We dragged our kids on some crazy trips through some crazy parts of rural China... and not only were they better for it, but we were, too; we had the opportunity to see all this through our children's eyes, to understand the wonder of a mountain village child with a three inch bug on a leash.

All of this related to one of the central themes of my book: what looks like sacrifice can be the opposite. What appears to be an anchor can be a pair of wings. When you think you are dragging your kids behind you, you may be granting them precious opportunities. What others think may pull a couple apart can instead bring them together.

No one should let anyone else define who or what he or she is. There are a million different realities that any one person can live at any one time and they may all be equally valid.

As my wife and I neared 40 and our 20th anniversary as a couple, we did not pull apart out of boredom or seek adventure on our own. We didn't run away from each other in search of excitement. Instead, we joined hands with each other and with our children and walked together into the unknown, emerging on the other side better in almost every way. All of this is why I felt I had a story to tell, a book to write. This is my story.

Big In China: My Unlikely adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Becoming a Star in Beijing was released by HarperCollins in all formats on Tuesday, March 1.