Tag Archives: growing up

Transience

The sun sets over Seoul, as seen from Olympic Park.

The sun sets over Seoul, as seen from Olympic Park.

As the end of May approaches, I’m rounding the three-quarter mark of my teaching contract. The end of this go-around is visible on the horizon, and it’s the popular water-cooler — actually more likely patio table — topic of the moment. Are you staying? Are you going? What’s next?

It’s decision time around the city, and Korea continues to impress me with its professionalism. My co-teacher breached the topic of renewing with this gem: “Are you satisfied with your job?” Clearly that’s the only criterion we use to decide whether we should dedicate another year of our lives to this country. In addition, this conversation happened yesterday, and the deadline for my decision is tomorrow. If my math is correct, that gives me two days to choose. Awesome.

Two days for a life-changing decision. That pretty much summarizes life as an English teacher in Korea: as adventurous and challenging as it may be, it all comes and goes very quickly. Nine months ago, I arrived as a wide-eyed American, but it feels like the pages of the calendar have just flown off the wall. The evanescence of this experience, however, goes beyond the time that passes.

This experience is as much about the people as it is the place. Ever since orientation, when I was quarantined for a week with 200 other foreigners, I’ve basically survived with this group of friends. Now with the questions, we all realize the adventure will soon drastically change for everyone. A large portion of this group is headed in different directions, and it’s over,  just like that.

We’ve all been through this at least twice before: high school and college. I had essentially the same friends from second grade through graduation — 11 years — and then I had to move on and start over. The cycle repeated itself in college but instead in a five-year period. Now I’m in Korea, where the lifespan of an English teacher — and its consequent friendships — is all too often only one year.

Tomorrow I decide whether this one year in Korea is enough for me. I think the easy decision is to avoid the unknown and re-sign, but the thought of giving one more year to this venture isn’t one that inspires joy in me — especially without a handful of my newest and closest friends. They’re leaving as quickly as they appeared, and I could very well do the same thing.

Stay tuned.

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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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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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