Tag Archives: change

Finding a renewed excitement

For the better part of the past year, I’ve sat at a desk designing sales literature on an LCD monitor. Despite being my first full-time job out of college, the the first few weeks’ excitement quickly wore off. Springing out of bed to prepare for the day soon became repeatedly hitting “snooze” to keep those few precious minutes of shut-eye. Coming into work ready for another new project soon became sauntering while despising another mind-numbing chore. In the span of only a few months, the bright-eye newbie became yet another jaded employee.

My desk, cluttered with piles of stray paper and empty coffee cups, had the joie de vivre of an abandoned warehouse. Its biggest drawback was its positioning: I could see the single window in our office but not what was happening outside it. Only a co-worker’s remarks would alert me of the blizzard or monsoon occurring on the other side of the building’s wall. From my desk, I had literally no contact with the outside world.

In the past seven months, I’ve gone from conforming to societal expectations (“We’ll grind it out at this job for a year or two for the experience.”) to following my interests and talents (“I would much rather be skiing and designing newspapers.”) to doing things for the sake of tickling my fancy (“Move to another country? Sure, why not?”).

I have less than a week at my job before embarking on a life of travel. In August, I’ll be moving to South Korea to teach English. I’ll relinquish all things familiar for constant unknowns. New obstacles will make the journey from point A to point B trickier, but those challenges intrigue me and can only add to the experience.

In this new stage of my life, I’ll see sights most other people will have only seen in photographs or read in books. I’ll meet people most others will never know existed. I’ll take in sensations most others’ senses can only imagine. The ultimate prize for me, though, will be the mental transformation (if not growth) that brought me here. Even if I never find point B, it’s good to know I am in enough control of myself and my life to leave point A on this adventurous, undefined path

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Looking beyond the desk

Everything on my desk — save for the collages, photos and toys I brought to decorate my desk and keep me human — annoys me. I sit in front of a two-piece, L-shaped desk cluttered with remnants of projects that hardly tickle my fancy: price sheets, printouts, books and various data CDs. Phone lists, sticky notes and holiday notices adorn the edges of my LCD monitor as the Mac Pro tower looms to its right.

I’m ready to flip this desk — and all its contents — over and onto the the floor. I’m ready for something new, something different, something challenging. I’m ready to put in my two weeks’ notice and move.

I know this journey into South Korea isn’t always going to be a cakewalk. I know there are going to be days I’ll be stuck at my school, behind a desk with nothing to do for hours. I’m sure the novelty of saying I live in Korea will wear off within the first couple months, but the fact that will make it all better will be knowing I’m more than 6,000 miles away from everything to which I’ve grown accustomed and pushing myself to do what I want.

The other night, I was talking with my mom about the details of my departure (and all the other nitty-gritty details about which moms tend to worry) when the conversation detoured into the future. I told her I had no real idea what was next on my life’s docket after my year-long contract expires in Korea, but those concerns come after things such as making sure I can find my Korean apartment at the end of each day. In the end, she told me to make sure I wasn’t gone for too long and that I’d come home every now and again — which shouldn’t be a problem based on past experience. I’ll always need some time refresh and collect myself.

In the meantime, I’ll find out in the next year whether dinking around the world really suits me. In the end, it might not, but right now it’s fun to dream, and I’m welcome to change.

Change that comes in 30 days.

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The Future Is Mine

In 37 days, I will literally be in a new world. I’ll be starting a new life — even though it might only last a year — in the bustling city of Seoul. I’ll have an entirely different job teaching English as a foreign language and living in a completely different environment (population density: 44,600/sq mi[1]). While the decision came rather suddenly, the thought process has been lingering for more than a year. The pragmatist in me, especially during my most recent job search, was always rationalizing my next move.

I need to get this work experience. I need to put my skills and my degree to work. I need to have a job.

Running off to another country seemed like something to be saved for later in life after I became established with my graphic design, after I had some money — after I lived life the way the world around me told me to. Traveling for the sake of traveling didn’t really register as a possibility, especially with its capricious nature.

But capricious was what I needed after sitting at a desk doing mind-numbing work for too many months. I knew that while the job prospects could bring the change I needed, I would always want to see more. The reactions all been positive, with a smattering of “That’s so cool. I could never do that.”

My reality doesn’t have to be anyone else’s, and this voyage will fulfill many things on my life checklist. It’s more than escapism from the daily 8-5 grind of my job:

There is another part of escapism that is implied– the temporary nature of the relief that it provides. The unspoken concern is that you will take this flying leap of faith and promptly land on your face. You can’t run away from yourself, as they say. The problem with this type of logic is that it is very poor at predicting the future and even worse as a guiding principle. If everyone took this advice, the human race would be very boring indeed. We’d never take risks, we would never grow, and we’d be exactly where we started, year after year.

I’m growing up. Maybe I’m not growing in the sense of building my resumé, buying a house, saving loads of money, or whatever those supposed societal standards might be, but I’m growing up in the sense that I’m feeling more in control of my life. I’m doing what I want and how I want. That’s how I know I’ll be ok.

Nobody knows how exactly this will help me in the future, but then again, five years ago I never would’ve guessed that my first job out of college would be in graphic design. I might be a graphic designer again in five years, but I might find something else that suits me even better. Either way, I’ll have a story to tell.

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Prologue

The “new chapter” in my life officially begins in 39 days or so: If things go as planned, on August 16, I should be touching down at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. Fourteen hours and 6,600+ miles away, I will begin my new job as a “native-speaking English teacher” in a public school in Seoul. That’s as much as I know about that. I won’t know where in Seoul I’ll be working or where I’ll be living until I arrive and go through orientation.

At this point, the fact that I will be in South Korea, half a world away from home, for at least one year is all I need to know. It’s quite a departure from my current situation as a graphic designer for a company that manufactures and sells disposable foodservice products. I can only look at sales literature for foam and plastic for so long.

I was ready to leave this job about seven months ago, but I had no idea I would head to the other side of the earth. I spent the first five months of 2008 looking for a different kind of job. I wanted to use my graphic design skills in the field I studied in college: journalism. I wanted to create pages and graphics for newspapers. My search took me to Bozeman, Montana, to Visalia, California, to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. None of those prospects worked out as I had hoped, which made me reconsider my options.

Life has too many paths for me to paint myself into a corner. I had missed out — by my own fault — on the study abroad experience in college, and I knew I wanted to see the world at some point in my life. That point became now.

I’m excited. I’ve always welcomed the idea of change but not always its practice. As much as I love the familiar, there has always been a part of me that has wanted to drop everything and start a new life in a new place. I’ve made a smaller jump before when I moved to Michigan by myself for college — after having visited only once. At least I could understand the language when I got off the plane.

Like searching far and wide for college, this wasn’t a difficult choice. It was finally making that first step toward a new place that was the hard part. Now the ball is rolling, and I’ll let the winds carry me as they may.

See you in Korea.

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