The new year brings great opportunities for people to find ways in which they can focus, review and refine their goals for the upcoming 365 days. As I began my 2015 yesterday, I became overcome with a kind of relief that most people attest to when they have come to the end of a bad experience.
For me it wasn’t that 2014 was such a bad year, in fact, many great things happened to me in 2014. It’s just that the beginning of 2015 marked the beginning of the end for my time in Korea. My exit from the land of the morning calm is drawing nearer and nearer, and prospects of a new beginning loom even more realistically now that we have crossed the great annual divide!
I guess the relief I felt was derived from an impatience and anxiety to what we Kiwis say “get on with it already.” I’m currently waiting to see whether I get admittance to a PhD program in the U.S. so I can pursue my doctorate on my path toward becoming an academic, which is what my ultimate career goal has now become. I won’t receive news of that till mid-March, so I’m counting down the days waiting and hoping for good news.
I have previously declared that at the end of my current employment contract I will be leaving Korea for good. So irrespective if I gain admission or not, it’s time for me to move.
It’s funny, one of my friends asked me the other day why I had decided to make the move, considering that I have become so entrenched in life here, I work for a Korean organization, I received my master’s degree from Korea’s top university and I’ve developed great lifelong friendships and relationships here, it is obvious that Korea has become a second home to me. So if I don’t get admittance to a program, why don’t I just stay here and apply in the next cycle?
But the truth is, nothing is permanent, even this life is a temporary state that can be taken away from us at any moment. And because of this, I believe in following what’s in your heart and in your dreams as desires for your future. Korea is no longer where my dreams lie, they did a few years ago, but I have achieved what I set out to achieve in many different realms when I first moved here. And I believe that after nearly 7 years of living here, it is time to move on, in search of the next big part of my life’s aspirations.
Living in Korea now doesn’t feel like an adventure anymore. It’s not that I’ve done it all, I think that there comes a point when you realize that something has reached a conclusion, where you enjoyed doing particular things, with specific people, associated to a particular location, was actually also tied to a specific moment in time. You can’t go back there.
Instead, you should embrace change and look back at your past experiences, bank them as lessons and build toward your future. That’s how I feel right now. I don’t want to be the friend that stayed too long when the party was clearly over a couple of hours ago, and now you’re just ratcheting up the awkwardness that comes from being ‘that guy’ who just wont leave!
However, my journey here still has a few major chapters to be written, I still have my first full marathon to run, and I also have a few more surgeries that need to be completed before I can leave Korea permanently. There’s also a small matter of 5 months left to go on my current contract, which means living here still and including two more months of the unforgiving Korean winter.
But before I leave, I’ve decided that I’m going to blog more of my experiences over the past 7 years as I prepare to embark on this new journey.
It’s not a new years resolution per se, it’s more an attempt to document my experiences somewhere, so I can share with my family and friends around the world, and also as a way for me to keep track of my own personal story and hopefully allow me to appreciate and evaluate how my life has changed so much from when I first got off that plane in 2008.
I was thinking about what’s happened to me over the past 7 years and I have to say that it’s been a real humdinger of a journey, so why not write about it?
The new series I will begin to write hasn’t got a name yet, but has a loose methodology. I will pick one of my many significant experiences from living here over the past 7 years and from a personal perspective, I’ll add my own little interpretation and spin to events that transpired. There’s so much that is published in the media about life in Korea these days, but a lot of it I think looks at Korea from either a critical macro-perspective, or as an exotic oriental modern marvel, filled with surgically constructed beauty and KPOP music and fashion on every corner.
Despite it being well known that Koreans are some of the most ethnically homogeneous populations in the world, (97% of people living in Korea are ethnically Korean) there exists far more diversity than many give its people credit for. This diversity isn’t necessarily ethnicity or nationality, but exists in a wide spectrum of the experiences reflected in human emotion and being.
The range of experiences a person has here is dependent entirely on one’s interpretation. So don’t mistake my writing for anything resembling an authority on any particular issue. It is merely going to be an attempt to document my experiences through the foggy lenses of a liberal Samoan New Zealander from South Auckland, who has found that he loves, detests, is repulsed by and attracted to, Korea in the same sentence, yet ultimately admires it in the concluding paragraph.
And there’s a lot to admire, which I’m sure I’ll have lots of fun documenting, I’ll probably be forced to laugh a lot, re-live some not so pleasant experiences, and even perhaps shed a retrospectively induced tear or twenty. This has been a great but tough journey emotionally and physically, and everyone has a story to share. I just like to think that mine will be of some interest to someone, somewhere in the world.