Have you ever wanted to run away? I think we all have at some point.
When I was young I sometimes gave my parents that stereotypical childish threat of packing my suitcase and leaving. They, of course, never believed me so one night I grabbed a backpack and snuck out. I made it as far as the street sign at the crest of the hill (I grew up in the countryside), and ducked behind a shrub to hide from the blinding headlights of a neighbor’s passing car.
I shivered in the crisp night air, looked up at the sky, and began to cry. Where did I think I was going? Sure, I had left behind my issues at home, but I now faced the entirely new problem of being a nine-year-old with a backpack and no money or destination, hiding in the bushes in the middle of nowhere. They might do it in the movies, but even my youthful common sense knew that running away, as appealing as it seemed, was clearly not going to make my life any better.
Last week I experienced that same desperate need to escape, the overwhelming desire to simply run away. I looked at job postings in California, scanned flight costs, reviewed my savings and calculated how long it could potentially last me if I left this country in February with a one way ticket. I felt the world closing in on me from all sides and I collapsed tearfully under its weight, wondering how on earth I was going to survive another year living like this. I couldn’t possibly stand it.
Truth be told, I am not as happy with my life in Korea as I had hoped to be. When I hear others talk about how much they love their school and coworkers and friends and how they are just having the best time of their lives here, it makes me wonder if I’m doing something wrong. Although I know I have been gifted with an unusually challenging set of circumstances at work, I still feel as if it must be my own fault that I’m not enjoying this experience. I must not be trying hard enough. I must be weak. It’s a terrible feeling that I want nothing more than to escape.
I’m a firm believer in changing your life if you’re unhappy with it. But would that mean going home? And if I, essentially, ran away from Korea, what would I do instead? I know I could go home and find an average job and settle back into my old lifestyle. But although I’m certain my friends and family would welcome me back with open arms, I would always see a quitter staring back at me in the mirror.
I came to Korea for a purpose. I planned to stay for two years, save a certain amount of money, and then embark on the adventures around the world I’ve dreamed of for so long. I planned to develop my writing portfolio and explore the option of writing as a career. If I left now, I wouldn’t have enough money to set out on the journey and some of those dreams may never be realized. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my life following my travel adventures, but I know that going back home now would be a certain dead end.
After a good long pity party and reveries of returning to sunny California, I pulled myself out of the (metaphorical, this time) bushes and decided to stay. I’m going to do my best to stop being irritated by the things I cannot change (my job, Korean culture, the pervasive smell of sour kimchi everywhere) and focus on what is within my power to control. I am honing in on my priorities and will be throwing myself into writing, blogging, photography, and saving money. Hopefully I will have time and sanity leftover for exercising and developing friendships.
My hand shook, but I signed the renewal papers last Friday. Korea Part 2 is on the horizon, and there’s no turning back or running away; it’s up to me to make it worthwhile.