Thursday, June 9, 2011

What keeps me coming back.

This week, I sent my first box home. Things I don't need here: winter clothes, souvenirs; maybe even some things I will end up donating upon arrival in Seattle (which makes the value of those donations, thoeoretically, way higher because of shipping costs!... but I digress). Two more boxes sit in my apartment now, open but empty. It is a constant reminder to me of my looming departure. There's excitement as well as sadness; hope as well as anxiety. All in all, it's a happy thing. I may not always like change but boy do I love packing.

It wasn't easy, though-- getting to this point. For those of you who aren't famliar with the system here, my 1-year contract is up for renewal in August. To give the Metropolitan Office of Education enough time to fill my place, they needed to know if I was renewing or not by mid-May. I've never had such a difficult time giving someone a "yes" or "no" answer (and for those of you who really know me, you know that's saying a lot). Nay, there were many times I flip-flopped, debated, and utterly freaked out (which, sadly, happened at least twice). I try to refrain from outright asking for advice; however, I found myself in desperate need of some. Friends and family alike had their take on how to make the call.

Some people suggested a healthy dialog.

Others thought I should make a list.

Some even suggested flipping a coin to see how I felt about the outcome.

After trying everything, I almost found myself more lost than before. I talked myself in circles and flipped a variety of coins (for some reason I thought the type of coin might make a difference), all to no avail. And the list part-- MY typical default-- was the worst one yet! On the "Pros" side were the important, hard-hitting and adult-type aspects:

job security
housing security
relatively low cost of living
amazing health care
continue learning a language
continue traveling

Wow. Well that's the way to shove me out the door.

This is a dillemma that many a Guest English Teacher face in Korea. The fact is that, despite our complaining and serious confusion in this culture at times, the Korean government has made it almost too enticing to leave, especially in this economic climate. That's why many of us stay here after a year, whether we had planned to or not. It attracts all types: people who are trying to save money; couples who want to work and travel; legitimate teachers (the rarer breed); and party-hearty die-hards who can reconcile their lifestyle in a culture that accepts them as both an educator and as a drunken fool.

With all that said, many people ask me why I decided to leave Korea after only 1 year.

I often get asked this question as if there must be something wrong with my situation, like I got shafted on the school/principal combination, or I finally snapped after eating kimchi every day.

The best way to describe why I'm leaving is this: it's about love.

"Love, like truth and beauty, is concrete. Love is not fundamentally a sweet feeling; not, at heart, a matter of sentiment, attachment, or being 'drawn toward.' Love is active, effective, a matter of making reciprocal and mutually beneficial relation with one's friends and enemies.

Love creates righteousness, or justice, here on earth."  --Carter Heyward

We all have to listen to our inner voice. Sometimes the voice inside of us is really loud, and it shouts for us to do something. But sometimes it's quiet and small. That doesn't take away from its value, or mean we can ignore it. We just need to listen closer in order to understand what it's trying to tell us.

The love I have inside of me is to affect change for those who need it. It's not the kind of thing that fills me with rom-com joy, or has a 'happily ever after' tacked onto the end. It's not even something I think could lull me to sleep at night. In fact, that voice screams at me daily to get up and do something for others. But the voice that prompted me to go back to the States was small and scared, because starting over-- even at home-- is difficult.

I was afraid, for a time, that going home meant I was failing myself, like I wasn't able to live across the world alone. What I ended up realizing, after a million coin tosses, 2 lists and an emergency international call to my parents, is that it takes just as much courage to follow your passions at home as it does if you're on the other side of the world.

And now that I know, doesn't that make every day an adventure?
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  1. You can make me cry so easy, good tears that people like you exist, forgive my cheesyness but you're one-of-a-kind-awesome.