Friends

I think I have a knack for unhappiness, like how people have a knack for drowning unless they swim, float or tread water. For me to be happy, I must constantly tread the sea of “new” and “positive” experiences–if I stop for a second, or if the tide breaks, or if one tiny thing happens that interrupts this flow of outer-stimulated “happiness,” I begin to drown.

This past year has been different than the last. Last year I had a school that I hated (in some areas) with a boss who was mean to me. But I had a lot of friends, a huge apartment, enough money, and eventually a boyfriend (whom I still have at least. So one outta 4 ain’t bad I guess).

This year is different. I don’t hate my job (who could hate working part time?), but I have a small apartment and, I’m starting to realize, very few actual “friends” (at least in Korea).

I don’t know if spending so much time alone has made me too rigid, or if working in an office with constant gossiping and social politics has made me too self-conscious (I suspect both), but one thing I have felt, over and over this year, is that I mean very little to most of the “friends” I had last year.

In any case, this year is much different than last year, and I find myself spending much more time in my own company than in anyone else’s. This ought to be great–it’s kind of what I wanted, more time alone, more time to write. But I guess I wasn’t prepared to get it on the price of feeling rejected and blown off, and I mostly dread my own company and hate being alone.

Or maybe it’s all in my head. I’m about six months into my new year-long contract, and without constant new experiences as distractions–and I do mean constant, did I mention that I just came back from Bali Monday?–and a constant barrage of people telling me I’m wanted, I’m a good person, I’m loved and needed–and I do mean constant–the six-month blues is at hand, letting me know that I have to spend another half-year on the other side of the world from everything that’s comfortable.

I watched Eat Pray Love last night (because Bali) and there was a quote that was something to the effect of she believes that if a person is willing to leave their comfort zone, seek answers, and believe that everything along the way is working toward their good, they will be rewarded for it.

I guess the first time I watched that movie, I accepted that sentiment as gospel. This time, however, I just thought it was awfully “neat” that she left her hubs with no warning, took off, and got True Love and Enlightenment in a year flat.

My life has been much more messy than that, and I suppose it will continue to be. I suspect the lives of others are messier than that too, and I am increasingly upset by how dishonest things related to the universal human experience (things like heartbreak, loneliness, pain, joy, travel, budgeting, etc.) are portrayed in entertainment. Everything is too neat on TV, and even when it’s messy, it’s still too neat.

I mean, I get it in part. It hurts to read or watch something that portrays heartbreak honestly. Something that doesn’t glaze over it and make it syrupy and cute and funny. But that’s no excuse. Because heartbreak hurts, and it hurts for longer than two episodes. When you really love someone, or when you think you really love someone, does it ever go away?

How about when your friends find other friends and leave you behind? How does that feel? Is it ever even shown? And is your heart not allowed to break for the loss of these people whom you did love and did not think would reject you? And how about in your country, incidences of mass violence, or the economy, or feeling like you are a target, that you will never be allowed to have a good life? When does that stop hurting? In two episodes? Three? How much time before we move on because it’s boring and we need something slapstick to cover it?

This life is not easy and it’s not neat, but who will write this story now, in these days? I don’t think I can–it’ll take too long, and I’m too impatient, sadly. And I can’t get away from writing characters who are autobiographical, or essays, which are too direct, too unimaginative, and too damn boring.

What they don’t tell you about relationships

Or hell. Maybe they do.

What they don’t tell you is that when it’s all said and done, when the dust settles and the thrill of exchanging I-love-yous has faded,

you’re dating a person.

Not an idea.

I mean, I have definitely heard that before, but I never really got it until now, with my current boyfriend.

For the first time in my life, I am dating a man, not an idea.

Scratch that. I’m not even dating a man, because a man is still an idea.

I’m dating a person.

I’m dating another person.

I’m dating a person who farts and scratches and burps and pisses me off because he teases me about my hair.

I’m dating a person who is tired when I’m not, and who wants to have sex when I don’t.

I’m dating a person who promises me just 10 more minutes at work, then he disappears for an hour-and-a-half.

There’s this meme going around now, and it talks about love, saying something to the effect of “it’s harder to love those who are closest to us because the closer they are the more we see their flaws.”

Why is this so true?

Why is it that we see flaws like they’re under a microscope, while the good qualities fade away?

Why is it even true with ourselves,
or at least me with myself?

I even have an idea of myself that I seek to love, while often not voicing any of the things that make me a person (something that’s insanely detrimental as a writer).

I haven’t said a word since I left work tonight (8 hours ago). I literally haven’t opened my mouth to speak a word once.

That’s how lonely, how isolated, my life in Korea is some days. Things I should give voice to arise, and then they fade as my mouth stays clamped shut.

Self-reliance, I tell myself. No one here to depend on but me.

It’s an idea of strength that I want to love about myself while simultaneously starving the truth–that I need other people, that I’m lonely as hell–to death with disacknowledgement.

Not my place

It’s no secret that you miss things while abroad. Not miss like emotionally miss (which you totally do as well), but miss like physically miss. No family reunions for this little expat. Cousins graduate from college, families celebrate birthdays, friends have weddings you can’t attend and have children you’ve never met. My little nephew is growing up before my eyes; my grandparents are getting older, and as long as I continue to live on this side of the world, there’s nothing I can do about that.

We all experience it, and when it gets bad enough and circumstances permit we go home for a visit.

I went to two high schools, and this past weekend was my 10-year reunion for the first one I attended (the one I didn’t graduate from). I watched a lot of TV growing up, so I’ve always had this fantasy about attending my 10-year high school reunion. The first high school is the experience I held on to. It was the one I attended in 9-10 grade, and it was the one where I felt like I blossomed and found my place. It is the one with friends that I hold dear to my heart, in the way you only can with people you loved deeply before you “grew up.” Although I didn’t graduate from there, that was the reunion I wanted to attend, because it was the one for the high school that I felt in my heart was “my” high school.

I signed up for emails and searched airplane prices. Back in February, I was seriously considering coming home in June anyway–contingent on whether things worked out for me here (worked out with the boyfriend, worked out with the school, worked out with the money….oh, and worked out with the boyfriend). 

Things are working out, and I don’t get vacation time until August (and only a week at that since I’m at Hagwon)–so that’s that; no reunion for me. It killed me to watch them plan the reunion (via frequent facebook posts about venue, food, pricing, etc.).It killed me to get the emails, and to see my “friends” from high school posting updates about being excited as the event drew nearer.

And then finally the day came, and it killed me to not be there. I’m not gonna lie; I straight-up creeped it on facebook. I read all the posts, looked at every photo, and watched every video. I wanted to know what it was like, if I couldn’t be there myself.

And then it was over, and something happened. Something clicked.

This isn’t my high school. 

I saw maybe one friend from my high school “notebook club” (that’s what we called ourselves, we passed a notebook around between four or five of us filled with all our stories of making out and hating teachers, boys stole it periodically, it was dramatic and fun). I saw maybe one friend from my “orchestra clique” (the girls of the notebook club + the boys from orchestra). P.S. it was the same friend. P.P.S. she and I fell out years ago.

It just hit me. No one noticed I wasn’t there. No one missed me.

Not in a self-pitying way, of course. That’s not to be all “no one loves me.” Just saying that I finally realized that I’ve been holding on to this high school experience that ended for me twelve years ago. I’ve been considering it my “real” high school experience. My “real” place. The “real” memories of what my high school days should have been. Could have been.

But they didn’t hold on to me because it’s not my place. It’s just not my place.

As far as high schools go, maybe I don’t have a place.

In a way, I’m happier to have been abroad and seen it go on without me than I would have been to make all of the effort to cross state lines only to attend a reunion that would have been just fine without me.

 

Seriously?! F*** Mass Shooters

But don’t actually fuck them. You don’t have to. It’s actually your right to say “no” when some creepy motherfucker creeps on you. It’s your right to protect yourself. And no, saying a quick “yes” now to avoid pissing him off is not protecting yourself. It is becoming more deeply entrenched with a creep. Say no now, and say no often.

That sicko *I refuse to say his name* had money, two parents, and I saw his picture–he was decently good-looking. Do you know what it means when a rich, decently good-looking man can’t get a date? IT MEANS HE’S A FUCKING CREEP.

If you are a rich, decently good-looking man and women don’t want you, guess what? YOU ARE A CREEP.

It’s a harsh truth, but guess what? Life is full of harsh truths, and dealing with them is part of living. EVERYONE struggles. You are NOT the only one with SHIT. You are not the only one whose fucking parents divorced!! You are not the only one whose father’s business went under! YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE WITH ROMANTIC TROUBLES>>>>IT’s called “dating”! Welcome to the rest of your damn life! DEAL. WITH. IT.

oh, and one more thing. There is one grand secret that will lessen your troubles and aid you on your grand quest to getting laid. Are you ready? Write this down, you’ll want to remember it. It’s really important. OK, here goes:

STOP BEING A PITY-PARTY THROWING, ANGRY, SELF-LOATHING, JUDGMENTAL CREEP. STOP IT RIGHT NOW AND I PROMISE SOME DRUNK GIRL WILL SEE YOUR MONEY AND DECENT LOOKS AND OVERLOOK YOUR GENERAL ABSENCE OF A PERSONALITY.

That’s what I’D say to that sicko if I had the chance. Right after I slapped the shit out of him.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever live in the States again. I’m 27 years old and I feel LUCKY and BLESSED that I made it out alive. Literally, that I made it out of our school system without ever having undergone the trauma of a mass shooting.

This is fucking wrong. This is the wrong thing.

Our society has always had two category of celebrity: the famous and the infamous. Everyone knows Al Capone’s name and no one thought any harm of it. 

Well you know what? Harm has come. This particular little shit wrote a 141-page MANIFESTO that reads like a damn set of theatrics. He coordinated this. He wanted to be seen. And guess what? It’s OBVIOUS. And guess what else?

WE’RE GIVING HIM WHAT HE WANTS.

So you know what we just said to all the other entitled ass kids who want attention and can’t think of any other way to get it? Try mass shooting. You’ll be famous. You’ll be all over the web and TV. Everyone will be talking about you. That’s what you want right? MASS SHOOTING IS THE WAY TO GET IT.

That’s the message we’re sending!!!!!!!! IS ANYONE ELSE NOT OK WITH THIS?????

You know what I propose? Anyone who commits grievous crimes against society, a la mass shootings, should be stricken from the damn record. It should be a crime to say their name in public. Their social security numbers should be wiped out, their school records should be burned. We as a society should erase them. They should cease to exist. 

Do you give a screaming 3-year old in a grocery store that popsicle?? Or do you make it known that that’s not the way to get what they want, and that sometimes they’re just gonna have to deal with the word “no”? Fuck; I hope it’s the latter. 

Cherry Blossoms

I’ve seen plenty of cherry blossoms,
In Korea, no less.
Dc has a cherry blossom festival too
(Although I hear theirs is covered in snow this year).
I haven’t made it to a cherry blossom fest yet–
Haven’t traveled to any beach or island or forest to see them on bloom
Instead, I watch the spring snowflakes drift from their branches on my morning walk,
A swirling white that lands on my shoulders and warms me with hope instead of freezing me with more winter.
I think about when I leave as I move through the cherry-lined street,
And I wonder if I will regret never having gone to a Cherry Blossom Fest

 

This is my last year in Korea, and already the cycle is in mid-swing, and I am missing out on things that I will maybe never have the chance to experience again.

Part of me is starting to wonder what’s the point—will it matter that I never went to this or that festival? Or will the experience trump everything, overall?

Image

Cool-ass Korean women

A lot of people out here say it can be difficult to get behind the veil of Korean culture–if you’re not “우리” (pronunced “oo-ri”, meaning us/our) then in general you just don’t get to see behind the public facade.

I’ve met a few Korean people (and quite a few non-Korean people) who have been pretty conservative, or who haven’t let their guards down.

But I’ve also met some mind-blowingly cool, honest, down-to-earth Korean women and this post is about two of them.

I didn’t really have an easy time of working in Korea my first year here, but there are two women who made my experience downright bearable. One is Mrs. L, the school nurse at my high school. There were days when I would walk into school nearly in tears from the anger/frustration/depression of being isolated (the only foreigner; the only non-Korean speaker; boss/person I share an office with generally refusing to acknowledge my presence) at that school. “Literally no one in this school cares about me,” I would think. I would hear teachers talking and laughing in the other rooms and see them sharing treats, and I would sit in my office cold and alone (I’m thinking about winter here because Christmastime abroad is particularly lonely).

But over the course of that year, Mrs. L and I developed a true friendship. She is about 40 or 45, and she married young, but she is a free spirit at heart and quite honest. During the course of our year-long teacher class, we talked about beauty, health, plastic surgery, women’s rights, bullying, and a range of other topics, and she always surprised me with her candor and thoughtfulness.

More than that, though, it was to her that I would turn when I dragged myself into the office feeling like shit. In Korea, you don’t call out, so I would come to school feeling terrible and longing for my home country, where people would rather you come home than bring your cold to the office. 

I would go into her office and she’d comfort me, give me medicine, and let me lay in one of the clinic beds. It meant the world to me to be taken care of–to be shown care toward.

And it was her who, once my contract was over, organized a goodbye luncheon for a few cool beyotches (my word) where they told me that they didn’t like my boss either; that she is a strange sort and quite difficult to work with–I was blown away first by being assured that I’m not crazy and second by the level of trust we established for a Korean to somewhat-badmouth another Korean to a foreigner.

The other cool-ass Korean woman I want to tell you all about is my belly-dancing teacher, Ms. K. 

I want to ask her about herself; how did she end up having a career in bellydancing? And she’s really good–she can shimmy, wiggle, drop, bounce, and sway with the best of them. Plus, her splits are to die for. I find this fascinating, but we have a serious language barrier we’re slowly bringing down (we’re about the same level in each others’ respective languages–which is more than we’d originally assumed, because it’s easy to be more than none, but we still can’t have in-depth conversations).

Although we can’t really talk about anything, she cemented herself in my mind as a cool-ass woman today when I showed up to class with a bandage under my ribs from a new tattoo. I thought she would kind of freak–tattoos are pretty rare/frowned upon here. But duh. She’s a bellydance teacher. Of course she’d be more liberal right?

She asked me if I was hurt and I told her it was from a tattoo, and she just told me she wanted to get a tattoo on the back of her shoulder. Then she asked me if I would be OK for dancing, and we got the hell on with things.

So cool, and I really think that over time we will end up being friends, even if we can’t talk to each other much.

Anyway that’s it–I just wanted to update about these two women who were on my mind.

 

Gray Hair Haiku

Sliver of gray shines

The land of morning calm gray 

This place ages me.