Moving to Korea Pt. 1: How did this happen?

Before I left to go teach English in South Korea, I had every intention of updating my blog regularly to help friends and family and anyone else who is curious see a little glimpse of my new life here. Well… I’ve been here for two months and as you can see, I’ve not lived up to that. I knew that my life here would be quite busy right away, but I didn’t anticipate how busy… not that I’m complaining. Busy is good. I’ve also been trying to keep close friends and family updated as much as possible, which includes writing many long messages on a somewhat regular basis which then makes it harder for me to sit down and write a blog post.

Anyway… I’m going to attempt to post a few different posts within the next week or so, partly because I need to force myself to sit down and think and process it all and partly because I know there are some who would like to read about it. I’ll start with how this all began, in case anyone is interested… So here goes – here is part 1:

So…a few years ago I made a crazy decision. With an interest in traveling, a desire to fully experience other cultures, a love of language and desire to help those who want to learn my mother tongue and the realization that I am still quite young and untethered, being able to pursue any path… I decided to go back to school and earn the proper credentials to teach English abroad. I specifically had my eye on South Korea to be my starting point and then maybe Taiwan, The Philippines, Vietnam, and possibly other Southeast Asian countries. There were many times during the process of going back to school that I thought maybe I wouldn’t end up here. Maybe none of this would go as planned and I’d be doing something else entirely.

One big thing happened that caused me to think maybe it wasn’t something I wanted to do anyway, but once that thing was no longer in my life, I realized that in my heart, I still desired to take this path (could go into more detail about this, but it would take a long time and frankly it would be unkind to share too much). It was surprising to me, a bit strange even, how confident I then became that this was exactly what I wanted to do. I still had doubts that it would all work out, but I was not afraid of taking the leap, which given my history with anxiety, is frankly quite astounding. In general, I hesitate to say that God placed a desire in my heart for something as I don’t want to put words in His mouth and there have been things I’ve strongly desired in the past that were not to be. But I know that God has me on this path for a reason, as nothing is outside of His control. I know that at least part of it will be in struggle and hardship and probably even disillusionment, though I like to think I have come prepared and knowledgeable about the potential downsides of my decision.

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This was the first time I got my passport…it started to feel a little more real at that point…

After I finished my Bachelor’s and started going through my TESOL program, everything began happening so fast. My life was very busy and hardly ever slowed down, which increased my perception of how fast everything was happening. A little before I finished the program, I applied for a teaching position in Korea which would be starting only a few months later. That’s when it all started to feel real. This was really happening. I was really going to leave everything familiar behind and move to the other side of the globe for a minimum of one year. There were times when I was really excited, and times when I felt as though I was being ripped in half, but still the feeling at my core that this was what I wanted to do, this was the right direction for me, did not waver. It’s such a strange sensation to feel the heartache of not wanting to leave your friends, family, and home country behind, while also feeling like it is something that you strongly desire and must do. I am no stranger to feeling two or more opposing emotions or sentiments at once, but this was something new to me entirely.

 

The month before I was to leave, I made as many plans as possible with my close friends and family and tried to soak in their love and companionship and general amazingness as much as possible, knowing that I’d regret it if I didn’t. I also ate a lot of food and visited a lot of places that I knew I’d be missing. I filled up my schedule to the brim while also trying to get all the details and preparations in order, continue working as a caregiver, and trying to maintain my sanity and emotional stability. I think when I originally had planned to make this big move, part of me was doing it as a means to escape some things that I didn’t want to deal with anymore, but by the time I was actually leaving, I realized I no longer had anything I truly wanted to escape from. This is definitely a healthy and good thing, but it made leaving much more heart-wrenching. My life tends to be filled with bittersweet situations and this was certainly one of the more intense ones. I was so excited and eager to start this new adventure, but I was heartbroken, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to just go meet up with my close friends at a cafe or head over to my dad’s house for dinner. I was leaving knowing that I would miss so much back home, but that I would be experiencing a great deal of new and interesting things abroad.

 

My last month in America was a whirlwind. I had a lot of really good times with friends and family and I had so much preparing to do every day. I don’t think I have ever been more social and productive in my life! I should also mention that at this point, a lot of things were still up in the air. I didn’t know for sure that I would be going in February (and this was January) or if I’d be a late intake in March or April, and I also knew that there was a slight chance of it not working out at all. I found out about half way through January that I would be going in early February and about a week later I found out I’d be in the province of Gyeongbuk (or North Gyeongsangbuk-do), but wouldn’t be told the exact city until I after I arrived in Korea and completed the orientation. I also wouldn’t be told how many schools I’d be teaching at or what age group I’d be teaching. I truly believe that the only reason this didn’t completely freak me out was that God had prepared me for uncertainty and had given me a peace that was beyond my ability.

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The day I found out I’d be placed in Gyeongbuk

Before I knew it, I was all packed and ready to go and my dad and stepmom were dropping me off at the airport. After a tearful goodbye, I made my way into the very confusing and daunting place that is LAX with my giant suitcases that were almost too heavy for me to manage (packing for a year living in a place where you may not find clothes and shoes that fit you is a difficult task). I checked my bags, wandered through the airport, got myself some coffee and a snack and texted with my friends and family. It didn’t feel real to me. I couldn’t believe any of it was happening.

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Stopped crying momentarily to take this photo with my dad at the airport ❤ (also featured: my giant suitcases and my wonderful airplane attire)

My flight was 13 hours long. Thankfully most of it was during night time, and I had a whole row to myself so I was able to get some sleep. I was in somewhat of a daze on the plane. I didn’t feel nervous or worried, I felt a little bit excited but mostly just calm. I still had no doubts about whether I was doing the right thing, and I wasn’t afraid of making such a big change in my life.

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My Looooooong Flight

My plane landed in Taipei around 5am local time and I sleepily walked to the gate of my connecting flight to Busan. There were only 3 other people there when I first arrived and I slowly watched more and more people trickle in. My ears were filled with the Korean language and it was the first time I really started to feel like a foreigner, but I wasn’t uncomfortable. I tried to listen to what people were saying and see how much I could understand as I had been studying Korean for a few years before that, but had gotten quite rusty and was no where near fluent.
The flight from Taipei to Busan was only 2 hours, so it felt like nothing compared to the flight I had just been on.

At the Busan airport, I met my recruiter and a few other English teachers who had just arrived. I instantly felt comfortable with them and was excited to meet more teachers in the coming days.

This post is getting quite long, so I think I will end it here for now. I’ll be back with part 2 when I get the chance to sit down and write it. Thanks for reading~ ^_^

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A Little Unorganized Reflection

I can’t believe I’m here. The last few years have been a series of drastic changes in my circumstances, sense of home and security, relationships, life goals, overall path, and even in my personality. There were so many times when I didn’t know what I was doing or where I would end up. There were quite a few times when I didn’t know where I was going to live or who I would have around me. I’ve had to adjust to new normals over and over again to the point where I don’t really have a strong sense of “normal” anymore, and it doesn’t bother me. I’ve moved and adjusted so many times that my sense of “home” is something that I’ve learned to carry with me and manifest outwardly wherever I am. I’ve taken so many scary leaps of faith, learning to feel the fear and just keep moving forward, trusting that the Lord would get me through. And you know what? He did. He always did. It has been even more solidified to me that God will use many different unexpected means to take care of me. I’ve learned to let go of so many things that I held so tightly. I’ve learned to take each new challenge as it comes, looking to the future, but focusing on today. I’ve learned that just because I’ve been a painfully shy introvert for the majority of my life, doesn’t mean I can’t learn to love being in a crowd and talking to strangers. I’ve learned that I (and any introvert), in fact, can be part extrovert and that labels are really only useful if they are removable and changeable. I’ve learned what an amazing ability humans have to adapt and adjust to the unfamiliar. I’ve learned that every setback is a blessing, no matter how painful it is (and perhaps the more painful ones carry weightier blessings). Even in loss, there is always gain.

It’s so strange and wonderful to look back to who and where I was just a few years ago in comparison to who and where I am now. I was scared of so much, I felt the need to spend countless hours alone, I had no real goals for my life and often felt a sense of panic, crisis, and even doom. But one scary step in a difficult and uncomfortable direction led to another. And another. And another. Until I no longer recognized where I was and the fear of the next step was greatly diminished. Now, while I won’t pretend to be fearless, I have much less fear and anxiety in my life and much more peace. Now, I enjoy and do need some alone time, but my love of being around others is equal to my love of seclusion and I often even find myself being energized by others. In the past year, I’ve strengthened old friendships and made so many new ones that I never knew I had the capacity to gain. I made goals to go back to school, earn my bachelors degree and my TESOL Certificate, and this past year, I’ve reached both of those goals and am on my way to reaching my next one. Even as I am never quite sure what the future will bring, I am no longer in crisis and I have a sense that everything will go exactly as it should. That old sense of doom is nowhere to be found. I never expected any of this and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I won’t pretend for a moment that any of this is my doing. I could not have come all this way without the Lord’s intervention and the wonderful people He has placed in my life. I am so thankful for all of it and I can’t wait to see what is to come.

Ramblings About People

Human beings are so beautiful. They are so complex and interesting. They are ever-changing yet constant. They are all the same yet all unique. We are all connected while also being separate. We feel the same things but we feel them differently and often for different reasons.

I have struggled most of my life with a fear of other people. This is in part (a big part) because of my own pride – my own “shyness” which is really a manifestation of my desire to be liked and even loved by everyone. I think I missed out on getting to know many people because of this fear. This small form of social anxiety often kept me from even simple things like going to the store or making important phone calls.

I’m not sure exactly when or quite how it happened, but I eventually started to realize that other people are AMAZING and I miss out on so much by being so focused on myself. God did a work in me, reminding me that all of us are of inherent value because we are disigned as mirrors of His image. That is the bottom line and that is what drove me to desire more to reach out to others than to be liked by others. The funny thing is, learning to stop caring so much about whether everyone likes me (though I will not pretend for a second that I have totally conqured this) and to just really enjoy people and find ways to connect on deeper levels has brought me more wonderful friends than I ever thought possible or even thought I had the social and emotional capacity for. Sure, there are times when I leave myself vulnerable for someone in an attempt to connect and am shot down, but after meeting and connecting with so many wonderful people, it’s definitely worth it.

Part of being made in God’s image means that we are all complex beings. Certainly not as complex as God, but complex enough that even knowing someone for a lifetime is not enough to know them fully. Though I am a very introspective person, there are times when I feel that I hardly even know myself. My personality is always changing, my taste changes, my desires and my dreams change – sometimes faster than I can keep up with in my ever-swirling mind. I think about how complex my own mind is and I wonder at how complex the minds of others must be too. This is why I think people are wonderful. There is always so much to discover about a person and it is so special when a person allows you to do so. What a privilege it is for another person to let you behind the gates.

At Ease

I haven’t felt like this in a while and I’m so happy, I’m on the verge of tears. I feel inspired, I feel enthralled with the beauty of language, of music, of storytelling and memories, of human creativity and the reflections we are of the One who created us whether we believe in Him or not. 

I am captivated by the sounds and the air, the soft light coming through my window. 

I feel at ease again after weeks of inner struggle, sleep deprivation, and disproportionate amounts of stress.

Life can be hard but God is good and beauty is everywhere and I know that everything will be just fine.

After Failure and Repentance

Lord, you are so tender.

You see my heart as I sin against you. You see my filth, my defiance, you feel the whips and the shards of glass, the thorns crushed into your skull, the nails piercing through your hands and your feet, the agony as you struggle for breath, the cold darkness of isolation. Lord, you bear it all even as I doubt your love for me. Even as I blame you for my sin.

And you never change your mind.

You watch as I run from you and you chase after me, calling my name in the sweetest tone. And you never stop chasing me, no matter how far I run. No matter what choices I make, you keep loving me, you keep chasing me, you wait for my return, my surrender.

And when I finally turn back, you fold me into your arms and kiss my brow and not a harsh word is on your lips.

Lord, you are so kind. You are love. You are grace and mercy.

I’ll never deserve you, but I’ll always have you.

Anxiety 

Anxiety wakes me up when I’m just falling asleep even though I’m completely exhausted. It sends pains all over my neck and arms and legs and head. It makes my hands tingle and my feet go numb. It tries to convince me that I’m dying, that I’m having a heart attack, that I’m having an aneurysm. It tells me that I can’t breathe even though I’m taking long, deep breaths. It convinces me that I’m totally alone and that I’ll never get through this. It tells me that I’m not normal and that I am pathetic and that I should be able to just go to sleep like everyone else but I can’t. It tells me that if I do fall asleep, I’ll either be tormented by awful dreams or never wake up. 
I want to be well. I must conquer this. I will conquer this. 

The Something of Doing Nothing

I’ve come to a point in my life where I am not as creative nor am I as in tune with my own thoughts and feelings as I used to be. This has greatly increased my anxiety and depression as well as made it painfully difficult at times to deal with everyday situations. Writing has been, for most of my life, the main outlet for my thoughts and emotions. I have often said that I don’t know what I really think or feel about something until I’ve written about it. Since I’ve had more and more to occupy my time and have opened my journal less and less, I feel like I have lost something, I feel like I am barely holding together even though many things in my life are going well. Even when I sit down and try to write, try to unblock those rivers, my mind is cloudy and I can’t really focus; I can’t really get much more than a few drops out. I’ve realized (I’ve known all along, really) that one of the main things holding me back is the fact that I am always doing, even when I’m just relaxing. I’m always doing school work or running errands or reading something or watching videos or listening to podcasts or making plans or organizing or researching or spending time with people, etcetera. None of these things are bad, it’s just that there is something very important that I’ve stopped doing: nothing. I’ve stopped staring out of the window and letting my mind wander. I’ve stopped moving my pen aimlessly, drawing unidentifiable shapes as I explore my own thoughts and memories. I’ve stopped sitting down to write about nothing in particular, just to get it out. I’ve stopped laying on the floor and praying about anything and everything that comes to mind. These are the things that used to keep me sane. These are the things that helped me to reflect and to understand what was really going on in my head. These are the things that kept my creative juices flowing and my fictional characters breathing and my head on relatively straight. I somehow adopted the idea that it would be a waste of time to do such things, that if I was going to just sit and relax, I might as well be watching, reading, or listening to something, or I should be going somewhere. I forgot that I have to stop to really think – even if I’m afraid of what I might discover. Many, if not all, great writers and thinkers take time to do nothing, to just stare, to just think. Great minds understand the importance of spending quality time alone with themselves. I think many of us focus so much on the importance of community and of spending time with others and the importance of productivity that we forget that it is equally important to spend time in our own minds, even if only for a few minutes in our busy schedules.

PS – I have been trying to write about this for a while now, but have had trouble writing it just the way I want it. Then I saw this video talking about pretty much the same thing and figured I should just get it out, no matter how much I disapprove of the way I wrote it. Anyway, I thought I’d also share said video. Though the writer of it is not of my worldview, I agree with most of what is expressed there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lz-qrVUecE