All That You Can’t (But Must) Leave Behind

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Moving to Korea was one of the best decisions of my life, but that doesn’t mean it’s always sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. It’s a trade-off, I suppose– for every step I take toward building a life for myself here, I’m taking one more step away from the life I had back in the states. I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s something I keep spiraling back to. I have a bizarre form of that trendy new malady FOMO, a fear of missing out on the things I’d have been doing had I not moved to Korea.

The most obvious thing to miss is family events. No matter how much you email and check Facebook and Skype, so many things fall through the cracks. My aunt went through a huge medical situation and I had no idea how serious it was until I visited home well after the fact and heard the whole story. That really spooked me.

Moving to Korea was one of the best decisions of my life, but that doesn’t mean it’s always sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. It’s a trade-off, I suppose– for every step I take toward building a life for myself here, I’m taking one more step away from the life I had back in the states. I know I’ve written about this before, but it’s something I keep spiraling back to. I have a bizarre form of that trendy new malady FOMO, a fear of missing out on the things I’d have been doing had I not moved to Korea.

The most obvious thing to miss is family events. No matter how much you email and check Facebook and Skype, so many things fall through the cracks. My aunt went through a huge medical situation and I had no idea how serious it was until I visited home well after the fact and heard the whole story. That really spooked me.

While I must admit I don’t miss my family as much as I feel I should (sorry mom!), my younger sister is the one who really gets to me. She’s 5 years younger, at that age when she’s changing so fast and learning so much about herself and the world, and I really wish I could be closer, to step back into my role of Cool Older Sister who Already Made All The Mistakes. Not that she won’t make mistakes…but I could at least save her a bit of time on some of them.

I guess every decision has two sides. Huh. That sounded much deeper and more revelatory in my head. This has always been an issue for me, for as long as I can remember. I don’t regret taking the road less traveled, and neither would I regret taking the road more traveled, but I get really anxious about the road not traveled. The second I choose one, I’m POSITIVE the other would have been better. If I choose to stay home for vacation, a nagging voice tells me I should have traveled. If I choose to travel, the same voice says I should have stayed home and saved my money. I’m the human version of a cat– the moment I’m let outside, all I want in the world is to be let back in.

This is probably nothing special, but it drives me crazy, as much as I’ve learned to ignore it. It’s a basic problem of not being able to trust myself. I don’t know what I want, or maybe I’m too easily satisfied. But is being satisfied enough? Who knows.

I’m 26 now, almost 27, and while I know that that’s not old any way you count it, the speed at which time passes is starting to get to me. It doesn’t help that so many of my friends and coworkers in Korea who are around the same age as me are getting married and having children, and many of the people I know back home are buying houses and moving up in their careers, while I’m just sitting here…living a life that hasn’t changed much in two years. Sure, I’m a better teacher than I was 3 years ago. My apartment is nicer. My Korean has improved. But to go back to a metaphor I use too often, all of this just feels like grinding for XP. I’ve been leveling up my abilities and now it’s time to start a new questline, but I can’t seem to find anyone with that telltale exclamation point above their heads.

There are all sorts of new life stages to move into. Getting married is one that a lot of people around me are doing, and while I’m certainly not ready for that, I feel a similar push to start moving toward something bigger. More and more I think that something is grad school, but that means letters of recommendation and a great deal of money and every time I think about it I feel immediately overwhelmed and end up scrolling through tumblr mindlessly for an hour. This, unfortunately, is my main response to hardship and difficulty.

I suppose the real issue here is that I hate uncertainty. Once I have a goal, I’m stubborn enough that I generally pull it off even though I’m a bit of a human tire fire with a tendency to do things wrong in new and creative ways! I guess if you fuck up enough times in a row it makes a positive? So far, that seems to be the way I’ve worked my way through life, but since it’s gotten me this far, I guess it works. Plus I have no idea how to change.

So, that’s where I am right now, older than I ever considered myself being. When you’re sixteen and dreaming of a better future, 25 seems like a lifetime away. Now that I’m past that, the world is stretching out before me like an overused first snow metaphor, and I’m stuck in place, afraid to leave the wrong footprints.



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