Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Coming & Staying Home

After a little over one year in South Korea, I returned home to the United States of America in the last days of this past September. I think back to that very last day in Korea, my flight day, and remember that I couldn't sleep I was so excited-ansty to catch the early morning bus to the airport. I hauled my luggage down to the taxi stand, and my very last taxi ride in Icheon was with a fine taxi driver, noticeably irritated at the amount of luggage.

I had chosen to wear one of the bows I had bought from Artbox that day -- my friend the special education teacher at school always wore these big, beautiful hair bows. And I daresay the bow made me extra sweet and extra likable. At the airport check-in, not an eyelash was bat at my overweight, extra-extra large checked bag. Sitting at the gate, five traveling friends with matching carry-on luggage approached me and put some of the fruit they were munching on into my hands. Leaving the restroom, I was chased down by a cleaning lady: she handed me a sturdy Lotte shopping bag for the quilt I was carrying. I would miss this genuine interest and nature. I would miss Korea.

Time in New York:

Landing in New York City, it was home to see the street lights. The street lights in Korea are different, and those silly street lights were a sight for sore eyes. My time in NYC was something I was glad I had planned into my return home. It wasn't so much about a chance to transition and breathe (because I had a difficult and somewhat angry transition later on) but maybe it was about letting my eyes adjust to a place that would be familiar - not home but recognizable with an air of new. 

I spent five nights in a HOTEL three blocks from Times Square. I spent the days walking, taking pictures, looking at the planes in Central Park, going to the ballet, and visiting museums. This piece in particular at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or the Met:

Portrait of a German Officer (1914), Marsden Hartley

Could it be? I walked closer - quick and cautious. It was. I had studied PORTRAIT OF A GERMAN OFFICER (1914) in one of my college art history classes. My mind, a millisecond ahead of my eyes as I processed the plaque, thought about my grandma and remembered that particular discussion in my sophomore year. I had had a brilliant TA, and it was a combination of the information she sought to explain, how she spoke, and her deep, overall knowledge of art which changed how I thought about art and art history. Painted of a German officer killed in the war and loved by the artist, this oil painting has a simple and painful premise - of love and, perhaps in one world, of avoidable loss during wartime. 

It was the only piece I took care to come back to look at a second time in the Met. It was a very unexpected 'welcome back.' 

One of the more common social reactions to my five-day NYC vacation was the stigma of being alone, traveling alone. By the fifth day I was ready to come home, but I had a lovely time living my solo life in NYC.

Moving to New York:

The last few months in Korea, I had this idea of moving New York. All these articles I was reading, the podcasts, and college classmates succeeding in the Big Apple had me thinking, "Hmmm. Such a creative city with opportunity all around." I met up with one my killing-it-in-New-York friends at a small coffee shop in the East Village. Hope recently got hired full-time, working for FORK FILMS and has always been a point of inspiration for me. She's worked hard (and up the career ladder) to get where she is, and that's something I greatly, greatly respect.

It was funny to hear her voice again. We hadn't seen each other in a while, the last time a masquerade party in college. With a new background city, it was so good to be casual and chat. And after meeting up, I was reinvigorated and more informed about making a move to NYC. However, as the week went on and the feeling of almost relief as a meeting with a fashion designer/commercial artist I came into touch with through my dad fell through, I began to wonder if this was what I really wanted.

I think the financial realities of moving to New York and also the stakes of moving to New York scared me but in this way: I'm afraid that my motivation to move would cater too much to the title "living in New York" and to relying on an address change to boost my craft and person. I can do what I want to do - write, review, design, organize - arguably from anywhere.

I just needed a real, passionate reason to let myself put down my hard-earned money from Korea in New York. And I couldn't come up with one because I've been playing this game too long to fall for my own tricks. It's increasingly become important to me, especially after traveling a bit this past year, to make sure I move and work and live not only for raw experience and exposure to new things but also with a purpose. It doesn't need to be fully fleshed out or even right in the the end - I only need a goal, as big or small.

Coming Home:

Coming home felt like coming home after a very long day. And oh how I slept! Resting and sleep in Korea had always been more like passing out. That's one of the things I had missed - sound, peaceful, cozy sleep. Being able to switch off meant the world to this sloth.

I had a rough transition. I wasn't the most pleasant of house guests. Mostly I was angry about things and relationships I had no control over because that's life. I also suspect reverse culture shock may have been at play. The first few weeks, I manic organized, sorted, rearranged, and trashed certain belongings from my lifetime. I ignored any hint of ambition and walked the new family dog. I bought and ate familiar foods. And slowly, I started feeling more myself.

Staying Home:

Time with family and time to do family events - marching band competitions, birthdays and holidays, and the every day chores, TV watching, and games - is time I most enjoy. Whatever my mood, time with my little brothers and (grudgingly) my parents (haha) is something good. Coming home reminded me of the place I am in with my family and staying here maybe reflects a heaviness that I might not have that anywhere else.

It's been a full two months at home, pulled out of the workforce and society. Maybe I got too comfortable. Definitely I am disillusioned about many things that make me guilt-free about it all. This is my life and with little responsibilities, it's been very easy. I'm sitting on the respectable pile of money I earned working for a year in South Korea and taking a breather. Deserved or not, good for me or not, selfish of me, yes.

Again, I don't know if I am right in my current decisions, and I catch the hints from others, but frankly, I don't care. The doubts and worries aren't original - any judgement is one I've thought about myself already - and I've taken care to turn the wheel away from satisfying or mollifying just these "terrifying" premonitions of my future. I'm not going to let them motivate my actions anymore.

So, what's next? I spent a year teaching English in South Korea. One the past two months, I've built a fence with my dad. I've raked up and wheel-barreled leaves into the garden. I've shoveled snow. I've helped house break our new family dog. I've dominated TICKET TO RIDEI've started to really like the idea of CARVING OUT A CAVE. I don't know what I'm going to do, but I am feeling okay about that and it's time to start struggling to find work that I enjoy in a way similar to the fulfillment I have being at home. "Everything Just Wonderful." - Lily Allen

1 comment:

  1. It's so great that you've captured these moments in time. After writing every day on the Camino and in London, I only wrote in my journal once during November, and December is following the same path... Yikes! Despite my own actions this time, I find it helpful to capture transition periods, as those thoughts and feelings are so unique to the present situation.

    I bet your TA would love to hear that story about the Met! : )

    And the breather is definitely well-deserved and beneficial! Be proud that you created it for yourself! Most Americans never even take the time to realize they need a break, let alone actually make it happen and allow themselves to recoup and recharge.

    May you have many more wonderful times!