I've been thinking about endings a lot lately.
As I move through my final days in Korea, I frequently find myself considering those first three days after I arrived. Meeting my new co-workers, getting introduced to my school, and seeing my new apartment all for the first time - I remember all of that as though it were yesterday.
On a deeper level, I find myself preoccupied with the idea of a circle. Life is full of them, and the closer I get to the close of this particular circle, the more I think about the beginning.
The truth is, those first few days in Korea were pretty terrible.
I remember quite clearly the first time I saw my apartment. It was late afternoon. I was tired from hours of travel and terrified to be fully alone for the first time in my entire life. I had cast myself out into the world, and this is where I had ended up.
The bed was unmade, the stained shade was drawn, dust hung in the air (made infinitely more visible by the falling sun), and the ugliest chairs I have ever laid eyes on were perched haphazardly around the room.
Suffice it to say, I was not impressed.
But despite this impression, I still felt an overwhelming sense of comfort. Shabby as it might have looked, it was still mine, and I knew with a little love and a lot of 409 I could turn it into something beautiful. If nothing else, at least I had a place to rest and recover.
Moving to Korea was the first time I had ever left the U.S. and it took a lot out of me both physically and emotionally. In fact, I consider my decision to teach English abroad, and my subsequent international move to be, by far, the most drastic thing I had ever done.
Who just packs up their life and moves to Asia?
Don't mistake me, I'm so glad I did it. But when I stop to consider, I start thinking that it's kind of a weird thing to do.
As I said though, that first weekend was actually pretty rough.
The phrase, "What the hell have I done?" kept swirling through my head.
The reality is that things weren't off to a very good start.
I've talked before about how EPIK is essentially a massive dice-roll in terms of the quality of your school, and by that point it was clear that mine fell quite far on the lower end. In the folder of information they had given me about the school the first two bullet points were: 'All students are very low-level' and 'There are many behavior problems'.
On the way back from my first visit to the school, right as we were pulling up to my apartment, my co-teacher ran over a curb and got a flat tire. Though she kept her cool, it was pretty clear she was angry as she pointed to my apartment and told me to go inside.
That was the last time I talked to another person until the following Monday.
The thing about moving your entire life to an entirely new place is that you start from nothing. I had no phone, no internet, no common language, no friends, and as I said before, no real idea of what I was doing.
When I think back on that weekend, I remember the two loafs of raisin bread in the pantry, flicking through the five English channels on TV, and a grey sky that alternated between rain and general gloom.
I left my apartment twice. Once because I felt I should explore, and once because the rain had momentarily stopped and I knew that, unless I wanted the Monday walk to school to be a soggy one, I needed to find an umbrella
The first venture outside came to an end rather quickly. Though I'm sure part of it was in my head, I felt wholly overwhelmed by the sideways glances and oftentimes outright stares of passerbys on the street.
One of Korea's many quirks (and something that eventually came to be my least favorite part of living there) is the unflinching way that many Korean's will openly stare at someone who is obviously foreign. In other places if you catch someone starting, they immediately look away. In Korea, they just keep looking. Middle school age kids often break out into whispers and giggles, and the youngest children will go so far as to point you out to their friends and yell "Waygookin!" (the Korean word for foreigner).
This aspect of Korea doesn't bother some people nearly as much as it bothers me. In fact, I know many people who enjoy that kind of attention. I, however, am not one of them.
On that first day walking about, people mostly stuck to staring, but I was already feeling overwhelmed from the persistent jet-lag and sheer newness of it all. I quickly retreated to the empty sanctuary of my apartment.
The second day actually went much better.
In fact, I found myself on the receiving end of what I consider to be a tiny miracle.
As I said before, this time I left my apartment in search of an umbrella. The rain had been stopped for a while, so I figured I was safe. Wouldn't you know it though, I was hardly to the corner when it started raining again. As I turned around to head back inside, I saw it:
A black umbrella lying open by the side of the road.
That umbrella certainly wasn't earning points for looks: it was dirty, bent, and one of the spokes was broken. so that when I held it the wrong way it dumped water onto my back. Even so, I instantly felt a bit better about everything.
It seemed like some kind of sign. The universe might have a weird sense of humor, but in the end it always seems to provide what is needed just in the nick of time. It's not always as obvious as a broken umbrella appearing right as it begins to rain, but then again... sometimes it is.
So, I took that umbrella, found a convenience store, and bought my own.
On the way back into my apartment I left the umbrella where I had found it, thinking that maybe someone else in a similar situation could use it - broken spoke and all. Besides, now I had my own.
If I had to list only one important lesson from my two years living in Korea, it would be that tiny miracles happen every single day. They are so easy to miss, but if you keep your head up and your heart open, you'll start to see them everywhere. Even at our lowest points, on our very worst days, there are reasons to be optimistic, happy, and grateful.
Those three days seemed to move so slowly, but now two years have passed and I barely seem to have enough hours in each day. There's suitcases to pack, cleaning to be done, and goodbye's to be said - somewhere along the line I ran out of time.
Life is funny like that. It's beautiful and it's strange, and despite the figurative and literal close of the door, it's truly an honor and a privilege to live the life that I do.
Something big is ending, but I couldn't be more excited to move forward and continue ever onward.
Some of you might have noticed I have been a bit absent with posting. This is because I've been spending pretty much every free minute working on a whole new site. If you're reading this, then you are among the very first to know!
I will be making all my official social media announcements next week, as well as revealing the new name and website in it's beta form - this will include a giveaway, a video introducing the site, and a call to join my subscriber list.
The new site will be dedicated to unbeatable travel resources, creating meaningful dialogue between like-minds, and building a community of millennial wanders who are dedicated to finding their best selves in an increasing convoluted and confusing world. I hope to see you there!
If you have any questions please do comment below or find me on Facebook :)
Enjoy the beautiful view!