365 days ago I was ecstatic. Preparing for the interview process with potential schools, being assigned a position in Seoul, then, because of an unfortunate school fire, being reassigned to the position I’m presently at. I remember feeling my heart race as I waited for my documents to arrive, packed, prayed, and prepared myself to ship off into an unknown but knowingly life-transforming experience. It was all very exciting.
The unknown is a great thing. There’s so much to discover, so much to learn, so much to see. This is one reason I love travel: because the world is a great unknown. Honestly, outer-space intrigues me a little more but, until the Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek, or Dr Who is a real thing, exploring my own beautiful planet will have to do. But now, 365 days later, this little closed off peninsula called South Korea is no longer the unknown. Rather, it has morphed from a place of mystery and intrigue into a place of comfort and home. It’s a place I love.
Just like I love my own city, and dearly miss it, Seoul is now a city full of people, places, and experiences I will soon miss and long for. This highly caffeinated city of delicious flavors, culture, and 10 million people has warmly accepted my year long intrusion. It’s allowed me to observe, taste, and experience all it has to offer, and it has not disappointed. But just as with all good things, in 30 days, it will end for me… the food, the friendships, the job. It will become merely the past, leaving an impression of memories that I can look back on with gratitude and sincere joy. For this was the time in my life that I chose to go, not just for a week or a month, but a year.
It’s had its ups and downs, sure. But when I reflect on this year, I hardly remember the struggles… the freezing cold, the poor air quality, the mosquitos, or lack of nearby relatives.. because the great things are so much more memorable. The time I got to explore the country alone and met some wonderful people, the time we had Christmas dinner in a pub, the multitudes of hours spent in cafes (Laybricks), at the river, or playing card/board games with friends. I won’t forget the long walks, great public transportation, highly fashionable people, kind church community, smiling faces of highly energized children…how could I?
This is definitely a year to remember. Definitely the most wonderful and unique 335 consecutive days of my life to this point; a time of growth, a time of friendships gained and sometimes quickly lost, a time of certainty and uncertainty and a time to understand myself more than ever before. It was my time, and it was a good. But now it’s time to say goodbye to this and move to the next stage. Because while Korea was everything I could have hoped it to be and more, I could not live in this state forever. I’m not meant to.The next great adventure, the next great unknown, is marriage. It’s going to have its own bits of growth, struggles, and great times; but it will be done with the person I love most. My number one complaint about my year here? Doing it alone.
I wouldn’t take a moment of my time in Korea back. It was the most productive, active, laid-back, exceptional year of my life. And what I’m truly learning is that no matter where or what age I’m at, every year can be exceptional. Every year can be fantastic. Yes, there will be moments of despair, boredom, and anti-productiveness, but ultimately, the greatness and beauty of each day overcomes anything that might keep me from living and loving life at hand.
I feel a little like Alice after a time in Wonderland when she states: “I could tell you my adventures- beginning from this morning, but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
And going home won’t be as yesterday was, it will be different, it will be a new sort of unknown.
Thank Hellen Keller for reminding us that, “life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.” Paste this quote to your front door and don’t forget to live.
See you on the flip side, America.
사랑 해, Korea.