Tag Archives: life

Here we go again

This is the street I take leaving school each day. In three months, Ill take it one last time on my way out of Korea.

This is the street I take leaving school each day. In three months, I'll take it one last time on my way out of Korea.

It’s done. I’m officially leaving Korea at the end of August. I told my co-teacher, and it was a much calmer event than I had anticipated considering my co-teacher’s general anxiety and proclivity for histrionics. It still wasn’t any less awkward than I imagined, though. I don’t leave for another three months, but my co-teacher essentially forced me and my other co-teacher to talk to her so that we could get to know each other — almost three months into the job. It was clear to me that the other co-teacher didn’t want to chit-chat all that much since she actually wanted to finish her work. Awkward.

Anyway, if the renewal discussion had come up last week, my life would be completely different. I was pretty set on staying for another year, but then something — I’m not quite sure what — happened over the weekend, and doubt quickly took over. In the end, the fact I wasn’t completely sold on Korea meant I shouldn’t commit to another full year. The worst thing that could happen is I go home, dink around, run out of money and come back. I could fly back here at the drop of a hat. It’s nuts when I really think about it.

It’s very liberating to have this decision finalized, but it’s a little nerve-wracking not knowing what’s coming next. It’s much easier to deal, though, because I have no deadlines or expectations to meet at this point. Except for a couple of bills, I’m free of responsibilities and can fly as far as my money will take me. I could dink around Asia a bit before I head home, where I will definitely bounce around the country. Right now, I’m taking any ideas I can get. I’m nervous, but I think it’s the good kind of nervous.

See you stateside.

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Social Experiment Update

Update: Failed.

I couldn’t do it. On December 16, my experiment to live on 180,000 Korean won ended — just eight day shy of my target date. I couldn’t make it, and I even bent the rules (i.e. didn’t count any of my Taiwan expenses, which totaled around 180,000 won for the weekend alone). Even then I didn’t really expect to succeed, and my stash of cash even lasted longer than I thought it would.

I might’ve made it a few more days if not for a few foolish five-day stretch. Two weekends ago, I spent 40,000+ won wandering around Hongdae, which isn’t that much for a night out — more than I really should’ve spent on this budget. The following Monday, I went out with my friend, who was looking for a cheap dinner, but those are hard to find in the tourist/ex-pat district of Itaewon. I ended up spending 10,000 won for an unsatisfying hamburger dinner. That Wednesday, I essentially committed financial suicide by going out for a quasi-fancy Thai dinner, dropping me another 16,000 won or so.

This three-week asceticism trip wasn’t all that tough, though. I had gone grocery shopping beforehand, and with the cold weather settling in, I didn’t have too much desire to be wandering away from my apartment’s cozy heated floors. Saturdays were dedicated to practices for Taipei, which usually left Sundays for my “See a New Thing Each Week” tour. Also, it was a good way to wean me away from the hazy, party-filled weekends.

I’ll probably end the month spending just under 400,000 won, meaning the future budgets of 600,000 won will be plenty. Even as strict as this budget was, I don’t feel like I was missing out on anything. I think I needed a chill month after the craziness of the first two. I feel like I’m really starting to settle into this town and living as an English teacher rather than a wide-eyed tourist.

I think I can chalk this one up as a victory.

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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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