With my last entry, came a written illustration of autumn. Oddly enough, as I sit here now, my hands already want to start spewing out thoughts about winter just a short week later. Today especially, it seems as though winter is about to hit Seoul with fury. Naturally, being a fall and winter person, I'm enjoying it far more than I did the humid and sticky summer days in the city. The temperature is dwindling between the lower 40's and the high 30's and I can't help but think that with the deduction of a few more degrees in the coming weeks, I can expect snow. The walls that line the sidewalks which guide me home have officially lost all of their vines, leaving them looking a bit like death, but the trees are still hanging on to life. Each day at 4:40 the sun is beginning to softly set as I stroll home, leaving the buildings in the distance with a glowing essence. I have purchased and am now fondly wearing an over-sized purple scarf that both keeps me warm and makes me hate myself when I realize that under my coat it makes me look like I'm carrying (and I don't mean books). My winter taste buds have taken a specific liking to green tea lattes, replacing a gap that in past winters has been filled by the Starbucks peppermint mocha latte. Sooner than later, in my opinion, winter will be in full swing. If that means sitting in my bed under soft winter blankets, with heat rising up from my floors, a candle lit, and cheesy winter movies, I'm ready. However, winter's arrival could also means that I will be smothered in so many layers that I will begin waddling around like an anime giant, lacking the ability to move my limbs effectively and that the subway operators will start blasting heat. With those two things in mind, perhaps I should enjoy the lighter side of winter before I start to feel like I'm in a sauna in Ralphie's winter snow suit. I hear that winter's can get bitterly cold in Seoul.
With the passing of fall and the arrival of what seems like an early winter, some big decisions have rounded the corner as well. Just one week ago, I was faced with the question that I knew I would have to answer from the moment I landed in Korea. Do I stay or do I go? Contract renewal time. The funny thing about big decisions is that you think you've got it in the bag, you know what you want, or what you'll do, until suddenly you don't. The questioning period begins. Something about seeing it in writing, and signing off one way or the other, makes the decision much more real, and much much more difficult. When I first came to Seoul, I knew that two years could be an option, but I was also convinced that it wouldn't be practical for me and that SURELY I would be going home at the end of this contract. What I didn't realize, was that I was wrong in making a premature plan for my future without knowing what Korea would hold for me. I could have never imagined that the decision to go home could be as difficult as was the decision to come here, harder even.
Three or four months ago, I recall being asked about renewal by my friend Cameron. I think, speaking for myself and many others, it's something that we had all thought about on a biweekly basis since arrival. Some weeks when we all were homesick, we would be leaving, other times when we were having the time of our lives, we couldn't imagine leaving. At that time my specific answer was, "No, I'll be going home ." Not because I disliked Korea or my life here, but mostly because I planned for a year and the idea was to go back home in a year, find a good teaching job in the states, and reunite with my loved ones. For many people, teaching here is outside their actual career choice but for me it's what I've studied, trained in, and strived for. You would think that would make it a better experience for me but I'd be willing to argue that. Although I'm still teaching, I'm not using my abilities and my knowledge of education to the fullest. I still work hard, but I could work harder, and it is surely a more simplified version of what it would be to have my own homeroom class in the states. With that said, my initial thoughts were validated with that being my main reasoning. I don't want to become a lazy teacher by investing two years in a teaching job that is far easier than what I'm qualified to do.
Then, a week ago, the papers were put in front of me and the question was asked, "what will it be?" The problem is, signing off on those papers, saying that you will be going home, puts a limit on your time. It's like having realized that all of a sudden there is a ticking time bomb on your shoulder, reminding you daily that you only have t-x days to enjoy this place. I never imagined that the decision would have been as difficult for me as it was. In my case, I feel that I have grown, changed, and learned a lot from living abroad. This has, hands down, been the best year of my life. When you have an experience of that caliber, it seems almost impossible to walk away from it. I feel almost as though my heart now has two homes and the strings that connect me to each are pulling firmly in opposite directions. After the past 8 months here, I was beginning to believe that home didn't have as much to offer me. In reality, I think my hesitancy to go home is mostly weighed by fear: fear of not finding a teaching job at home right away, fear that home won't be as appealing as the big city has been, fear that my longing for my past life here will leave a small hole in my heart. The problem with that is that when it comes to fears, you have to face them, and you can't make a decision based on fear of the unknown, because most of the time, the unknown ends up being surprisingly refreshing and totally worth while (a little something I learned in Korea).
So, although it took me exactly one week to say the words, "I'm leaving." Although it took me crying on the phone with my mom, constantly discussing it with my friends, and weighing my options to the point of mental exhaustion EVERY DAY. Although that now, every day, when my students make me laugh or make me smile it will give me both joy and a pang of sadness, I have signed the papers and have made it official. February will be the end of my teaching contract in Korea. At first, I wasn't sure that I had made the right decision, but I think it was the permanence of the papers that really had me shaken. The reality of my time limit is still fresh, but IN time, I will come to terms with leaving this place and I have just under 3 months to do so. Perhaps it's easier to leave home because you know it will ALWAYS be there, but I'm sure, I won't ever live in Korea again. However, as one of my friends here in Korea said, it's better to be leaving on a high note, with an appreciation of this place, the friends made, and your time here, rather than stay another year and become fed up and ready to go.
It's still tugging at my heart strings a bit, and as I sit here writing this, I feel a surge of emotions making me tear up but, regardless, I'm beginning to become one with my decision. It seems that even with the passing week, I'm beginning to have good feelings more and more about going home. I have had good dreams revolving around home in the past week and it seems like where my mind suppressed my cravings for things I miss back home, they are starting to resurface. I cannot wait to see my family again, be with Lauren and Chelsea, and be home to help plan and attend my best friend, Morgan's, wedding. The best part about leaving is that I'm planning a 3-4 week backpacking trip in Southeast Asia. I plan to visit Thailand and Cambodia before making my way home. I certainly need to scratch my travel bug just a tad bit more before landing back on the east coast of the USA. The worst thing about leaving will be saying goodbye to my students, and I honestly think that it was one of the biggest factors in my hesitancy to go home. I have always loved my students whether here or at home, but these kids truly hold my heart. However, as my Mom has pointed out, I have cried when leaving every class I have ever taught for a substantial amount of time. I suppose, it's both expected, and inevitable. For now, I plan to enjoy my time that I have with them, avoid tearing up thinking about goodbyes, and live the next three months I have here to the fullest.
Instead of leaving you with the things I will miss about Korea, I will leave you with the things I can't wait to get back to at home... See you in 4 months USA, family, and friends!
"We may not have started out together,
but we sure do belong together."
|Mom & Dad|
|Casey & Derek|
|Rachel & Tara|
|Bryce & Tara|
My dear family, sometimes things can get a little crazy living a life like the brady bunch, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Our parents brought us together and they are the seam that will always hold us together. Even when our household is a circus, we still always manage to make light of it and laugh together. I can't wait to be home with all of you again! We sure do know how to hold down the fort.