Heeeeyyy, been a while, huh?
Or, as my students would say, "Long time no see! Nice to meet you again!"
(For some reason, they avoid saying 'Nice to see you again' no matter how many times I explain it.)
Anyway, it's been so long that the (few) who regularly check this blog have probably wondered if I'd jumped ship on Korea or something. But no, I haven't pulled a Midnight Run. The reality is that, because it was my first Christmas away from home, I made sure to stay busy. I prepared not only for a Christmas Cookie Gathering at my place, but for my brother's visit. He'd arrived in Korea the weekend before Christmas, and I wanted to show him Seoul. Then, just before New Year's, we hopped on a plane to Japan for some snow. (A trip I'll share more about in another post.)
Between Seoul and Japan I had a week of lessons to teach. To be fair--I'd breezed through them. Even if I had to teach Christmas Eve/the day after Christmas, I just played Holiday themed English speaking games with my students for weeks on end. (They had finished their final exams sometime at the end of November, and my co-teachers wanted me to do more cultural lessons anyway.) By the start of New Year's Weekend, I packed my bags and rounded off my brother's Korea trip with my favorite hike in Busan.
Though I'm sure you're wondering how the planning of that all went--after all, I haven't talked about EPIK vacation dates yet.
I've never been a fan of Thanksgiving. Actually, Brooklyn 99's Jake Peralta sum's it up quite nicely:
But hey I guess whoever knows me IRL (and actually cares--hi mom!) is wondering how I'm faring the oncoming holiday season. Thanksgiving actually came early for me this year because I'd--sort of--celebrated Chuseok. Before going on break all the way back in September, I'd made hand-turkeys with my students and made all those comparisons between Korean and American Thanksgiving.
I'd even made my own hand-turkey, went hiking, and thought about how thankful I was for the legs that carried me up the mountain, for the opportunity I've had to see this much of the world already.
So what now? In Korea at least, November 22nd finished with little fanfare. I went to work. I planned a week's worth of lesson's for Winter Camp and calculated the cost of some materials. I didn't wake up to the smell of spanakopita baking, but I'd barely noticed the missing food when I'd crawled out of bed that morning anyway.
"I hate Thanksgiving!"
"I wish we could skip straight to Christmas!"
"Seriously, it's the worst holiday anyway!"
"...but yo we're still gunna get everyone together for like a dinner right?"/"Friendsgiving is going to be a thing, though."/"But like...we're gunna eat."
I've been so lucky to have met the people I have so far, to have built the friendships that made and continue to make my time in Korea all the more wonderful. While bemoaning our shared hatred of Thanksgiving we, of course, planned a Friendsgiving gathering. So yeah...let's talk about what I'm thankful for I guess.
I’ve waited two weeks to collect my thoughts, but what can I even say that hasn’t been said already? What can I even say that will undo the murder committed by a single man and a group of cowardly politicians too selfish to deny blood-money from the NRA?
Sorry—was that too “political?”
People talk about five-year plans like there's only ever one road--one path--you could take.
At midnight, I'm standing in the kitchen with my father, and my heart feels like breaking. He's not yelling, and he's not angry.
Growing up, you lose time.
Quite literally you age, but beyond the passing of one year to the next you also start narrowing your interests down. As a kid, it was soccer practice, then ballet, then art class, then karate, then play rehearsals, right? Volunteering at the animal shelter, then guitar lessons, then practicing frosting designs on a batch of cupcakes for your friends. Swim team. Track. Even reading.
Growing up, you were told you could try anything--become anything. You had the chance to live as passionately as possible, to throw yourself into new ideas and see them through, either to ruin or triumph.
Now, these interests have a way of disappearing when you're so overwhelmed with living. You go to school and work, then come home to a list of errands and practical goals. Somewhere along the way we stopped making decisions based on what we enjoy, but rather "What's safe?" "What's my middle ground?" "What needs to get finished?"
"What can I put on my resume?"
We don't ask ourselves how we can draw everyday, or keep making lyrics like when we were bored in math class. We don't ask ourselves to mash music together like when we first started learning how to play the piano.
We work and we get tired, choosing to watch TV before bed. We are pressed on all sides to make a living then enjoy the fruits of our labor--a fancy car, a flat-screen TV, whatever.
And this isn't always bad. It isn't always the usual "creative-mind-becomes-trapped-by-the-nine-to-five" hellscape scenario. Sometimes that 9-5 lifestyle fits. Sometimes the creative mind finds contentment in their day-job.
But sometimes we feel a dull ache for the type of curiosity, physicality, and creativity we'd had when we were younger. We open our eyes one morning, excited for the change that a recent business merger provides, only to notice that something's slightly off--just a bit hazy, right there by the corners.
I had a plan for today. A schedule. A whole big "Five-to-Seven-Edit-Marry-The-Moon-Draft" and then a "Seven-to-Eight-Study-Korean" and an "Eight-to-Nine-Work-On-Blog" thing.
But then life happened.
This past Saturday was completely my own. I slept in, didn’t make plans to see anyone, leisurely completed a writing to-do list, and even—gasp--watched TV. I won’t bore anyone with the details of my day, but a few things happened that made me reflect… First, I cleaned out the guestroom/office.
Yo. I know. Crazy shit, man. But cleaning out an office led me down a rabbit hole of childhood dreams...
First posts should either be under or overwhelming--somewhere between "hey everyone this is my blog whaddup" and "here's my life story."
Chances are this post will lean toward the latter. I have a tendency to overshare when I write, so consider yourselves warned. For your sake (and mine--I've got to get to bed soon!), I'll try to keep this post focused on three topics:
First, some housekeeping:
Who am I?
If you haven't scrolled over to my "About" page or even read my sidebar: I'm a twenty-three year old New Yorker fighting existential terror one blog post at a time. That itself tells you a few things if you wanna use your noggin and some deductive reading skills.
Twenty-three = millennial = how do adult?
New Yorker = stubborn and loud but grew up with the whole world right outside my door
Existential terror = see twenty-three*
Blog post = love writing
There's more to me of course. (I've done theater since I was eleven. I own over four-hundred books. I rock climb and practice martial arts. I work as a part-time ESL teacher at an international school. I am a storyteller and want to become a published author. I love Peter Pan and all things Jane Austen. I have traveled to ten countries. I'm Greek-Cypriot. I'm bla bla bla.) So I'd love to sit and list the one-hundred forty must know facts about Lena, but I'm sure those will come out in subsequent blog posts.
Why am I writing?
*fighting existential terror*
Okay but in all seriousness, my hope for this blog is that it reminds me of my own agency. With all the hardship you'll end up facing, it's easy to think that you're not in control of your own life. I know that I've felt that way lately, and so I wanted to challenge that sense of helplessness.
The past few months have been...trying...to say the least. I've been torn by personal ambitions/fears, family difficulties, and typical post-grad roller-coaster stress. Simply put, there were things thrown at me that I could have never planned for. Nothing was stable, and I felt lost
And it was all like an earthquake too.
Every calm was disrupted by an aftershock, by another piece of pain.
Most of my fear had been about want. “Why do I always want The Most?” Then a lot of the other terror had been obligation. "I need to be a good daughter/sister."
And when the want and obligation intermingled, I kept myself frozen. Panicking. Frantically staying up until three in the morning, researching about ten different job options, and then going on several medical websites to read up on my family's current situation.
Of course I tried to stay positive. I said things like "This too shall pass." and "Not all those who wander are lost."
They helped. Didn't really fix anything, though. Didn't get rid of the sleepless panic-cycles and sense of nerves. But they helped me stop crying long enough to distract myself with climbing, fantasy worlds, or the beach.
The thing is, I also told myself "I don’t know what my future holds, and that’s okay."
But then one day I realized that I could take it a step further: "I don’t know what my future holds, but I know what I want out of my future."
Yes, there is a lot of life that we can't control. But life can't control us either. Life happens, and we react--from family crises to personal growth.
Yes, ambition and desire are terrifying--because what if our goals don't happen? But what if you never find out the depth of your potential either?
So I sat down, and I thought:
I know I want to live a full life.
So maybe I wanted, and continue to want, a lot out of the world. And maybe I can’t get it right now for one reason or another (money, family obligations, time constraints). That’s okay. The world will be here in a week, a month, a year, two years; I’ll see to these dreams when I can. Work hard to achieve them. But I'll also realize that between myself and my ultimate goals there are a thousand set-backs, failures, and small victories that I must face first.
This time is my time, and I can’t let it fade away. I am going to live the life I want everyday. You should too.
*hey everyone this is my blog whaddup*
Life's hard, kinda terrifying all around. I'm writing to remind myself of my agency. Hopefully I can remind you of your own agency as well. Time is precious. Let's not waste it. Mushy gushy vulnerability.
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience