It’s a fair time to open up a little wider.
Evolution moves at a glacially slow pace. That paraphrases something Amanda, my best friend, said to me recently while I was plodding through some Korea Growing Pains. Thankfully these don’t involve growth spurts that make me knees hurt or Kirk Cameron. Unfortunately, they do involve not feeling particularly good about myself.
Coming to a place like South Korea really exposes a lot about ourselves, a lot that can easily sit under the proverbial pile of papers at the bottom of the bottom desk drawers you have intended to sort through for a year, but have never gotten around to it. In our comfort zones, even if they’re not always comfortable, they are familiar. I know that pile is there and nothing in it is so necessary for me to deal with that I can deal with when I have the time. Whenever that is.
Coming to Korea has been like being told I’m being audited and can’t find last year’s information. It’s being told I need to give a speech on Physics in two hours (I was an English major). It’s losing my wallet with all my credit cards, money, license and the only physical copy of the Bill of Sale for the van my brother loaned me for two months before I moved here (that last one actually happened).
It’s being completely exposed. Now, you’re naked. Now what?
Back home, those inconvenient truths (nagging self-esteem issues and/or insecurities) can be thrown in that drawer. They’re still there, but we can deal with them another time. When we’re stronger. We have ready ways to help us forget.
When you move to to a new place, when you’re trying to make new friends, trying to find your place in this very foreign world, the drawer is ripped out, its content thrown all over the floor. So, what are you going to do? Aren’t you going to pick that up?
And, it can be scary.
I have been back in South Korea now just over three weeks (24 days to be exact. Like a new baby, we tell age in days, then months. Eventually, years. But, I won’t get ahead of myself. Let’s get through the first month first). In this time I have started making new friends, reconnecting with old friends, establishing a routine at my hagwon job and trying to acclimate to living. A routine. The domestic stuff.
It’s a lot to sort out in three weeks (24 days). But, it’s not just what is being sorted out over 24 days, it’s what has been exposed in those 24 days that has built up over 33 years. I’ve been exposed. The drawer’s contents are everywhere. Trying to socialize them back into the drawer won’t work. I quit smoking almost a year ago so luckily they can’t be smoked back in.
They’re right there. I’m looking at them right now. And now, I need to slowly (glacially slow, as Amanda pointed out) organize them, sort them, categorize them and get them in show condition for the rest of my life.
This is what I am learning about myself in South Korea. I need to be patient. It’s all a long, methodical process. But, the process is worth it.
“It’s like being pushed out of a car in the middle of nowhere. All you want to do is get somewhere fast, but you can’t. You’ve gotta walk. And you realize for the first time just how vulnerable you are. But, through the walking, you learn how strong you are too. It’s not until you feel the depth of your vulnerabilty that you can find the root of your strength.” – Amanda
“Man, that’s good. I’m going to add that to the post.” – Me