If there was one word that could best describe how I have felt the past six months, I might want to go with humbled.
That’s what it has been like for me ever since I returned to Korea and started living and teaching in Daejeon—a most humbling experience across the board.
In the beginning I tried to fight it all the way—being back in Korea and having much less than what I did a year ago when I decided to quit my previous teaching gig and leave Korea once and for all—but over time the bitterness, anger, depression, and loneliness slowly dissipated as I settled into a routine and accepted what I had on my plate.
It was not easy though. At first, I was envious, terribly envious of my former colleagues who found better jobs in Seoul. I felt depressed because I had to settle for something less—to take what was out there and be damn happy about it; just to get back here again was all that mattered. Of course, I was furious for not planning my exodus from Korea last year better and for lining up a job quickly. Then again, as I have always professed, there is a reason for everything that we do and sometimes it just takes us awhile to figure out everything. That’s what you have to believe when things are not going the way you would like them to. You’ve got to believe in Karma. Yeah, Karma. A cause and effect universe.
At the same time, I was bummed out to the max after having spent three weeks in Japan before returning to Korea and suddenly realizing that when I finally got to Daejeon my life would be very, very quiet. That’s when another reality sunk in that I wouldn’t be able to travel as much as I have in the past and enjoy the kind of lifestyle which made living in Korea bearable all those years knowing that I could check out of here three-four times a year and have a decent holiday and get my ink done, visit my family and friends, and have a quality of life which I haven’t really had in Korea for about six years.
Then there was a going away party for a former colleague at the end of March in Seoul when I had the chance to meet some of my former colleagues when I realized (all too late) how much I missed them and how I wished I had been a better friend and colleague when I was at Yonsei. (One former colleague said that I was “quite the asshole when he knew me at Yonsei.” Ouch. I guess I did a pretty darn good job of alienating myself when I was there, especially after my wife died in 2001.)
Yeah, I was fighting being back in Korea all the way and on a few occasions I almost lost it in class (well, just one class, but it was enough for me to step back, take a deep breath and start easing up a little).
Everything changed when I went to Thailand at the end of May though. Spending that weekend with On changed everything. She saved me. When I came back I was feeling better (of course feeling very sad because now I was missing On a lot). Then everything sort of quieted down. The semester ended, I had an easy summer teaching schedule, and a three-week vacation with On in July.
I lost that chip on my shoulder I brought with me when I came here. I slowly began to accept what I have now and just make the most out of it. I have a good woman who thinks the world of me. I have an okay job. Could be better, but at least I am working. (And okay, so I have put myself in debt a little trying to sort out everything, but I will be okay). I have a new apartment. The best one I have stayed in since I have been in Korea.
I have a lot to be thankful for. It’s not what I once had but it is what I have. It is what I have to work with for now.