It’s hard to believe how fast money spends in the United States. What was that? Money can’t spend itself? Huh? Someone has to push in the pin number of my debit card? Wait, it was ME?! You’re kidding!
So, I may gone a little overboard with the shopping excursions while I was back stateside. I am a natural pack-rat, and am finding myself pack-ratting a lot, when really I don’t NEED to bring seven pairs of leggings and five kinds of tea back to Korea. I didn’t even drink tea while I was in Korea. I have so many sundresses it’s truly insane (and, by the way, it will not be sunny and warm in Korea for many months). I’m not sure I REALLY need classification folders in five colors (but I really WANT THEM) or a brand new day planner in which to put almost no meetings, since I barely speak Korean so I have no one to meet.
But, a lot of my pack-rat shopping is about trying to make Korea feel more normal this time around. Even though I live in a tiny dorm room that never feels like home, I need to try to normalize my experience so that it is more livable.
Also, there is a shitload of things I said I would do, like: NOT procrastinate, work on legal research, finish my CLE credits, write fiction every week, and stop talking to my ex-boyfriends. Oh, and be on time to class, not write lessons the night before, and learn how to read Hangul more fluently. I didn’t do any of those things (and yes, BB taught me a really big lesson blah blah blah, we won’t talk to him anymore), and the big issue is that there wasn’t a huge detriment to me doing these bad things. Especially in Korea, where there is basically zero accountability because no one knows what I’m doing, and almost everyone in the world thinks your Facebook account is like your real life. (NOTE: It is not. Facebook is the advertisement everyone posts for what they want people to believe their life is like.) My life in Korea may look idyllically entertaining, simple, fun, and full of food, but the truth is: it’s just regular life (with a lot of delicious food). I’m pretty solitary in Korea and most days, it’s just me talking to me about stuff we’re SUPPOSED to be doing, like lesson planning, grading papers, writing fiction, and not talking to our ex-boyfriends.
So, as I wind down my Stateside Vacation with a trip to Southern California and a tiny 3 day layover in Hawaii, I remind myself that I don’t need to pack-rat my life as much as I need to fully unfurl it in Korea. But until then… I still need a few pairs of leggings and a couple dresses. And the classification folders…
I’m not an adventure junkie. I don’t scuba, sky-dive, bungee jump, or do any extreme sports. I don’t like to sweat. Mostly, I don’t like the outside, unless it involves a pool floatie or a beach. I’m deathly afraid of heights. Remember that LSA horse-riding thing? Yeah, it was probably the scariest thing I’d let myself do. It involved large animals, off the ground, outside, and sweat. That, and once my friend owned a restaurant, and he made me stand on a ladder to write out a menu on a chalkboard. SCARY. Truth be told, I’m risk-averse. I embrace it. My adventures are pretty cookie cutter. I’ve spent most of my life dreaming inside the box – even if begrudgingly.
What was that? What did you say? I abandoned my entire life and MOVED TO KOREA? Oh, yeah, that.
Most days, I find it difficult to believe I actually live in Korea. A year ago, if any person had told me I would relocate my entire life to ROK, I would have cynically and skeptically told them how wrong they were. While I have frequently changed life plans, none of my plans have involved international travel. Most haven’t involved out of state travel. None involved moving abroad. I couldn’t have dreamt of a choice more wrong for me.
But sometimes, wrong is right. My life, was simple, but stagnant. . The benefits and consequences of having a conventional life quickly began feeling mundane and repetitive; I was constantly restless, always seeking the next best thing ever. Life began knocking me off of my path of convention, slowly, in tiny ways – I lost a job, I lost a love, I took a different job, I lost a different love (yes, yes I know… the elevator). I was beginning to feel rootless – but more terrifying – I was also beginning to feel deflated. I wasn’t in love with anything in my life except the comfort of knowing what to expect. I wasn’t really invested in the life I had created for myself.
So, without knowing where I would land, or where the ground really was located, I jumped at the opportunity to move to Korea hoping to find a sense of gravity here. Every day I wake up in Korea, I start my day like a normal day, and at least once a day, I have to say “Oh yeah. I live in KOREA.” Something happens, which makes me realize, it will never be normal. Something happens, like an old ajusshi throwing a cell phone at my face, or having an ajumma give me a two-handed push in the street, or being told “if only you could learn to be more KOREAN…” Something happens, and I know, I’m not in the Desert anymore. I know: I LIVE IN KOREA.
Of course, it isn’t always when bad things happen. I also think, “Oh yeah, I LIVE IN KOREA,” every single time I eat soon doo boo jigae for 3000 won ($2.80). I think it when I see Korean men linking arms on the street leaving the norebang and Korean girls taking out a full size mirrors from tiny purses. I think it when I travel from Daejeon to Busan and watch the waves flow toward the skyscrapers at Haeundae Beach. I think it when I spend an entire afternoon in the underground bargaining, shopping, and buying purses. I think it when I see couples in head-to-toe matching outfits. I think it when I answer the phone and someone hangs up on me because the ONLY word I say in perfect Hangukuh is “yobuhsayo!” (hello!) And I think it when I hold the babies at the orphanage and remember how easily my life could have been truly Korean.
My birth may have been an accident, but I must stop living my life so haphazardly. Every year, I feel like a square peg, belonging no where and to no one. My adventures in Korea have only reinforced this reality. What I’m coming to accept is that as much as I have felt uncomfortable with convention, secretly I’ve probably hoped that the right unconventional choice will enable me to embrace a super conventional existence. I don’t think that’s how it works. It’s time for me to feel the edges of my box and understand that being square means I just have a larger platform to create change for myself, and ultimately – hopefully – for others. I want to begin dreaming bigger about the ways that I can be a catalyst for change, I must begin forcing myself to think on a grander scale about how I can marry my social worker heart, my legal training, and my analytic brain to be innovative. To feel satisfied, I have to feel useful, and lately, I’ve just been sorting through ideas of how that can happen. It’s time for me to remember what it means to make a master plan, except this time, I must make myself its mistress.
So, I’m back at start. AGAIN. Except, this time, I live in Korea*.
*OR, I will again after this PAID eight week visit to the USA… ^-^