It’s 11:09am and I’m sitting in Starbucks.
Despite the weather being annoyingly typical in its adherence to maintaining its unpredictability, I’m still sticking to drinking my coffee hot rather than iced. I’ll sweat my way through this drink, then brave the humidity on my walk back to work. If I’m lucky, it will be windy. That’s island weather: Like wading in a lukewarm bathtub one moment, then braving sudden gusts of wind that ruin any hope of styled hair, then, if you’re lucky, a sudden downpour.
I’m not complaining though – however, the imminent outdoor soccer practices will soon prove otherwise – I’m living on an island, where fresh seafood is plentiful, cold noodles are a staple, and my days off are spent lying on the beach with friends, drinking, and playing cards. For the moment I’m not going to mention work life as I’m off right now. And when I’m off, I really try to maintain that air of being off, or else I would go insane.
Not that work is particularly awful or anything; it’s not.
I moved here two months ago. A strange thought in the long run, but nevertheless a fact that I’m sometimes reminded of whenever I’m looking out at the ocean, or when any type of food is brought to me at a restaurant. I get that same gust of complete satisfaction with my decision when I’m out on the island – outside of the small expat village where I’m currently living. That sudden burst of serotonin, that high that my coworker described today while eating 비빔냉면 in Museulpo. This is the feeling I have to remember when I’m on my third overnight at work – I have to remember that everything is impermanent. This situation, that situation, this feeling, their reaction, my sudden fall into the depths of feeling sorry for myself – none of it is worth clinging onto.
Here is what I’ve been telling myself:
You are not lost.
Because at the end of the day, if I really take a moment, sit, ponder, balance my chin comfortably in the palm of my hand, practice my best thinker position – I am inevitably going to feel unsure about everything. This is that moment when you step over the line marked honeymoon phase and do a full split into the boundary of something that vaguely resembles the real world. Sometimes those little questions begin to fill up in my head, and slip over the edges like a dangerously full coffee cup, and they burn. They drip with gross purpose down the lip of the mug in succession until I can’t get the rhythm out of my head. Do you even want to be a teacher? Why are you wasting your time here? Is this your impression of a successful escape from the real world? Do you enjoy your job? What is the point of being here? What is your plan? Do you want to go to graduate school? Don’t you want to make something of yourself? What if you made a mistake coming here… Why aren’t you studying? Figure your life out! You can’t hide here forever!
And as I sit and stare out the window, taking in the sunlight that has begun to peak out from behind the clouds, I remind myself that it doesn’t matter. I’m twenty-two years old, fresh out of college (so fresh that I can still feel the weight of my heels and the mantra “Don’t slip, don’t slip” blaring in my eardrums as I walk across the stage – that fresh), and I don’t need to know what I want for my future yet. At least, I don’t need to know the career I want for myself yet. What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know voice, I don’t know!
But why do I feel like I need to know already? Is it because pretty much everyone around me already knows they want to work in education? Despite my coworkers telling me that I come off as much more mature than my age, I feel like an infant compared to everyone else around me in some respects. I keep forgetting that I’m an ADULT now, with health insurance, my own phone plan, and a steady paycheck. I’ve yet to get a conservative $5 haircut, or a mortgage, but besides that, I’m pretty competent. You could even go so far as to call me responsible.
Regardless, I’m a little bit confused most of the time. What do I want for myself? What do I hope to gain from being here? (someone call in the grandmother from Mulan to tell me I should bring a man home from war instead of a sword). All my hopes, dreams, desires, and other things I collect in a jar of fairy lights and pixie dust can be narrowed down to a small collection of ridiculous “what ifs” and a few tangible small time goals that could fit neatly onto a post-it note. I’m clearly not entertaining the big existential questions until next month. Sorry folks.
All I know for myself right now is that I’m pretty content. Not to say that I don’t have my off days, but as of right now, I have some goals that I will work towards to keep myself busy alongside work. People never stress enough how important routine is until its gone, until its swept out from underneath you and you have to find something to cling to that vaguely resembles a comfortable quilt or a warm cup of ginger tea. But, let me tell you right now: routine is everything. It might even be the thing. The bees knees, the cat’s pajamas, the whipped garlic butter on top of a vegetarian pizza.
Amongst all the emotions, all the late nights, the endless cups of coffee, the ranting and small-talk on the bus, weekend trips, and long distance Skype sessions with family that run into the early hours of the morning – I’m left in this strange abyss, no longer sinking, but floating delicately on its surface.
I’m sitting here smiling because something just occurred to me. It’s a funny, maybe slightly naive and stupid little thought, but, I’ve made a life for myself here. So I remain starry-eyed, positive, and curious when my energy allows for it, and try to ignore the urge to slip back into the comfort of tucking myself away in solitude like I so often do.
But here I am. Alive and well (though, a little sleep deprived) in the humid, quite idyllic and beautiful little island of Jeju, South Korea. Existing on some days, wishing I wasn’t on others (those soju hangovers can kill you), and overall trying my best to enjoy myself. I’m still trying to find that glint of inspiration, that hint of determination that I can channel into something more concrete and creative, but for now, I’m still adjusting to the demands of my job.
Please be patient with me. I’ll become a regular blogger again soon.
Stay gold, Ponyboy.