I couldn't think of anything remotely original for this title so I wrote my age. And because I just turned 27, I thought I'd reflect...or say something introspective about where I was 2 years ago when I turned 25 and where I am now at 27. For one, I think celebrating your birthday on a remote tropical island pretty much trumps everything. To be honest, twenty-seven feels a little different but not much. It's a rather obscure age - not the same fanfare as 25 or 30 (I assume). My life has taken many twists and turns since two years ago - some serendipitous, some horrific and scary but all unexpectedly leading me to this moment of contentedness. I feel like things are in order on all fronts for once and for that, I'm grateful.

There's little doubt that I came to Korea at a vulnerable time in my life. People always ask me why I chose Korea out of all the places on Earth and it was a matter of finances. Yes, that's right. Korea had money to be made and opportunities to be explored - perhaps I realized a little of the American dream here. Before I came to Korea, I met an ex in Seattle. He and I shared a particularly long and emotionally draining 3-year "situation" that carried on in limbo after graduation (at least in my head). I went to visit him either hoping to find "closure" or to re-kindle something special - neither of which happened. But he said to me in the wee hours of the night, as we lay there staring at the ceiling and realizing this was the end of our story, that he hoped I found what I was looking for in Korea. That stuck with me and I've carried it around with me since then. What was I looking for in Korea? Was I just another lost foreigner who couldn't hack it back home and felt the need to put multiple oceans between myself and reality? Was I running from something? Yes, I was. Most people probably hightail it to a beach or some remote location when they need to get away - I traipsed to a new land where I didn't speak the language. Crazy or genius? The jury's still out but at least it put me on the right path. I've learned a lot in Korea this time, too. For example, being an intern is a title that doesn't carry much weight here (or maybe anywhere, for that matter). I found myself in uncomfortable situations where I was immediately discounted perhaps because of my title, my gender, or my race - a potential trifecta of insignificance in Korean society. Like before though, I found many Koreans to be friendly and welcoming toward me. I consider it my second hometown.

A large part of me hoped I would be able to relive my old Korea days, with many of the same people and personalities from before. But of course, this did not happen. Many of my friends had moved on or moved away, leaving me only with memories of our time together. This is a difficult part of living abroad - change. My boyfriend lived in the Bahamas and Jamaica for a bit and he absolutely loved it. He often finds himself longing for those good times and wishing he could live there again, but I explained that he's nostalgic for the people. It is not the place that brings on these feelings of longing as much as the people with whom you shared those memories. His time in Jamaica (much like my time in Korea before) was reinforced and crystallized by the unique time and place I shared with a unique group of individuals. It was my time. He clings to those memories and those people because they all met at a special time. Returning to either place now, without those same people around, would surely disappoint him. I was thankful for all the new relationships I built in Korea this time, but I also found myself longing for old friendships. I thought I'd see Robert more, but he moved to Daegu shortly after we met at Seoul Tower. I did not see any of my kids, which I knew would be a long shot since my hagwon closed down last year. One of my favorite couples now lives in Canada, a fact I discovered only after arriving in Korea. And although many of my girls still live here, there was just never enough time to get around to see them all.

I suppose Korea is a microcosm for life though...and a big reason why Facebook is so popular. People enjoy getting back in touch with old friends and keeping in touch with new ones. A life as a diplomat isn't exactly conducive for someone who abhors goodbyes, but I suppose that's all a part of life...or something. Right? So, I've resolved to just say "until then" :)

Until then,



Anonymous said...

"People always ask me why I chose Korea out of all the places on Earth and it was a matter of finances. Yes, that's right. Korea had money to be made and opportunities to be explored - perhaps I realized a little of the American dream here."

Wow, you were bold enough to post this?

Joia said...

Well, yes. Do people not move to places where they think they can be successful, make a good living, and explore new opportunities? I don't think anyone moves somewhere and says "Well, I'd like to be poorer and stagnate..." Korea was a place where I could make a decent living, learn something new, and gain self confidence. Perhaps it came across wrong, but I don't think I'm the only person who chose Korea because of the financial opportunities it provides for native English speakers. I don't want to sugarcoat that at all.

rosibelle said...

I love this post, I can totally relate. Happy belated Birthday.