It is the last day of August. I hadn’t expected to let a month slide by before posting again, but you know how these things go.
It’s a time of change. Although the heat and humidity will most likely continue through mid-September here (at least during the day—already it’s cooler and more bearable at night), somehow the end of August feels like the end of summer. With September comes the start of a new semester, and I will be seeing my students again after what always seems like a very long time.
My good friend Kevin had (or is still having, I guess) a birthday today. This one in particular is an important milestone because now he can officially get senior citizen benefits. (I know he says on his blog that he turned 43, but I hear you tend to fudge your age a bit when you get that old.) Happy birthday, dude. Save a spot at the old folks’ home for me.
But I have a personal reason for writing today, and it’s also the reason why I don’t have too difficult a time remembering Kevin’s birthday: the last day of August is the day I first arrived in Korea, some seventeen years ago now. It was raining that day, at least in the morning when the plane landed. I couldn’t see anything through the gray soup of clouds. Today, on the other hand, the weather was beautiful. I was out late in the morning to run some errands (renew my parking permit, return and borrow books from the library) and the sky was clear and bright and blue.
Somehow the weather seems apt. When I first arrived in Korea, I had no real idea what I was doing or where I was going. Truth be told, I came to Korea because I had just graduated university and didn’t really have any clear direction: I didn’t feel like going to grad school right away and I had no real job prospects. And I thought that maybe moving to the other side of the world would get me away from some of my problems. You can imagine my disappointment when I unpacked my luggage and discovered that I had brought all my problems with me.
The first few months here were hell. Sure, it was exciting to be in a new country, but also very, very difficult. I don’t think I have ever been more depressed than I was during those first few months. I was still young, so I suppose there was no real hurry, but I felt like I was standing still when I should have been going somewhere. I had plans and dreams, but I had no idea how I was going to bridge the gap between where those plans and dreams were and where I found myself at the time.
Which is not to say that I have everything figured out now, of course. For quite a while now, I have felt that I am on the cusp of something. On the cusp of what, I have no idea. I think what I am feeling is new possibility opening up before me, the sense that I can do anything or be anything. I wonder if that’s a strange thing to think on the brink of 40. It’s how I feel, though, like the sky is blue and clear and I can see as far as my imagination will take me.
A lot has changed since I first came to Korea. This brief note isn’t even a taste of that—it’s really just a stream-of-consciousness musing on it.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been seventeen years. Nothing left to do now, I guess, but dive into year eighteen of the adventure.