It has been one year since I left the United States.
One year since I saw my mother or my dog. One year since I stepped off American soil and onto a plane leading me to a completely different life. A year ago I had no idea what to expect from life in Korea. I was excited, anxious, and ready to explore.
Was the past year one of the most exciting I’ve ever lived simply because of the circumstances or because I demanded it? I moved to Korea with the goal of “make this epic.” I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity, and make sure this once in a lifetime experience was worth it. I certainly think I was successful. I doubled the number of foreign countries I’ve visited. I’ve seen more and done more than any other time in my life. I’ve stretched myself creatively, gastronomically, and intellectually. Would it have been as exciting if I hadn’t jumped into it bursting with wonder and energy?
Probably not. After a year in Korea, I truly feel that your experiences are what you make them. When Jared and I first married and knew that we’d be moving around with the Army, my mom got me a bookmark with the popular quote, “bloom where you are planted.” It really is the perfect phrase for our lifestyle. First, it turns you into something passive. We do not plant ourselves; the Army plants us. The soil may be the clay of Alabama, a drought-dry dirt in Texas, or in the foreign earth of Korea. We don’t chose the dirt. We can chose to bloom. We could complain about the lack of sunlight (ok, I still do that), or we could spread our roots and grow.
However. However. However. This is difficult to admit, and I feel that some may not like it. However, just because we bloom doesn’t mean we are blind to the flaws of our surroundings. In a recent conversation with my mother, she said, “you really love Korea, don’t you?” Well. It’s difficult to answer. I love living in a foreign country. I love the travel opportunities we’ve had. I love the people I have met here. I love living in a more urban area. I love blogging about our adventures in Korea and Asia. I love tutoring Korean students. But is it Korea that I love? I’m not so sure. When we move away, I don’t think I’ll want to revisit my current home. Of all the non-American foods we eat here, Korean is my least favorite (I know I could eat Indian food everyday for a month and not get tired of it.) I don’t crave kimchi. I get absolutely furious at the locals who walk down the middle of the road and then stop to block traffic. When I sit and think about it, the things that I love about my life here are not the essentially Korean things. It’s rather more the experience of it all. Although I don’t use the term “ex-pat” to refer to our lifestyle here, that’s more the idea of what I love. A new place, different people, a culture I haven’t seen before. (I think we’re more “super-pat.” We move for our country, not from our country.)
I really think I would experience the same approximate level of happiness with our living situation if it had been in Japan or China or some other comparable nation. (Except Europe, I’m convinced my dream lifestyle is in Europe). Isn’t it a bit better that way, though? It’s not the place that makes me happy, it’s the life.