Contributor on ‘2020 – A Year’s Worth of Ruminations’

Paige – Korea

January 31, 2020

Question 1: How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of each month and what stimuli caused you to feel that way?)

Today was relieving. 

It’s 10AM on a Friday morning and Incheon Airport is bustling already. Rolling off an overnight plane from the warm weather of Vietnam back to a chilly (not quite cold) South Korea seems like it wouldn’t be as inviting as it felt, but being once again surrounded by the tinkle of familiar language that I could understand, knowing that my bed (my own personal bed surrounded by kpop posters) was only an hour and a half subway ride away, once again paying for my 삼각김밥 with my credit card rather than a handful of bills I barely understood – I was home once again.

After spending a whirlwind ten days consuming mass amounts of new foods, climbing a waterfall, feeding elephants bananas, reading a vampire novel in the sun on the beach, and buzzing through Saigon on the back of a moped, I had felt the excited energy drain out and felt myself internally aching for the comfort of home. I’m not usually like this – I love to go out and explore. As the winters in Korea tick by, the more comforted I get by my small apartment and having a space that is really my own in a country that has been another ‘home’.

Most of this day (after dragging my tired but happy body through the subway ride back into Seoul proper) was spent sleeping horizontally – I never sleep well sitting up and babies scream cried the whole night, and I had lost my earplugs during vacation… but it felt deserved. I deserved to be lazy after all the running and chaos of flights and taxis and unknowns that came my way in Thailand and Vietnam. So I suppose this day, the final day of January, wasn’t a wasted day in bed, but a realization that I am allowed to be still, and a reaffirmation that Korea will always have the title of ‘home’ in my heart, no matter how many places are also ‘home’ and no matter how many places become ‘home’ after. 

Question 2: How would you frame your day (answer to the first question) to a complete stranger?

Today was comforting. I just got back from a ten day vacation in Thailand and Vietnam so it was really nice to be back somewhere familiar – and somewhere where I can understand the mother tongue again! Basically I slept all day but I was happy to be back living at home and not out of a suitcase. 

February 29, 2020

Question 1: How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of each month and what stimuli caused you to feel that way?)

A lot of emotions were running through me today. I’m going to be candid without taking up too much space, but today was the day of a birthday party of a friend (coronavirus be damned), and to which, you might say, “Why would you feel anything but happiness for that?”. This friend was someone I had a pretty serious crush on for a few months until he revealed he had met someone, and I hadn’t seen him since he had dropped that bomb on me.

Of course, I had never revealed how I felt verbally and he didn’t owe me anything, but suddenly the thought of seeing him after knowing that felt like me beating myself up, putting my heart in a washer dryer and standing back as I felt the door lock and the water flow in… and he kept mentioning how he wanted me to meet his girlfriend, and it all felt too overwhelming. Now fast forward to two days ago, and I AGREED to help the girlfriend with a surprise element to the party… part of me felt that I wanted to be angry with myself, why help with this when you were still hurting on the inside?! Yet, the adult in me wanted closure, to see them happy together, for me to be mature and of course, help my friend, and not just on the condition of being able to win his romantic affections.

So today I felt nervous, excited, confused, overjoyed, and still a little overwhelmed with this newfound want to take my hard emotions and take them head on without being facetious. The surprise went perfectly – the friend walked in with his girlfriend, assuming that everyone would be there in about two hours time, to see a cake with his name on it and my goofy face popping out from behind a couch with 6 other Korean friends as a corny rendition of “happy birthday” blasted through bluetooth speakers – his face was priceless. The friend’s girlfriend wrapped me in a hug immediately and we began to talk, and mentions of the girlfriend saying, “He has told me so much about you” less made my heart ache, but made me proud that I had been a good friend to him and could help him settle into his life in Korea.

After pizza, introductions, hugs, beer pong, Jenga, and even some hushed conversations about more serious topics (the looming virus worries, stress, etc.), I returned home in a taxi (which is a bit fuzzy but I was safe) to my friends, drunk and yet still overwhelmed at how complex my feelings were. They listened to me cry and ramble on: “Guys, she’s so nice and beautiful and I wanted to hate her but I don’t… and they’re so happy and she was so thankful to me for helping her pull off the surprise and I’m glad he’s not with someone who I think is awful…” as I continually apologized, and eventually took care of getting into pajamas and making a 까르보불닭볶음면 before crashing asleep to drain my body of the alcohol after the bittersweet but relieving tears left my system.

I know I’m still holding back details here but this already feels like, quite an exposure of myself (which I’m not afraid of) – I wanted to be candid since these quarantines and health situations have also been putting stress on me, but surprisingly, I feel so much better after the party. My feelings can truly start to heal now and I can move forward, at least in this respect.

Question 2: How would you frame your day (answer to the first question) to a complete stranger?

I decided not to let the virus stop me from a little (careful) fun, so I went to a friend’s birthday party! We actually surprised him by getting there early and tricking him, and it went really well. It was nice to get out and just forget about the stress and fear surrounding the virus for a while, and I really needed this night to help balance me out.

Question 3: Two paths diverge in a yellow wood… which do you choose? One winds into a dark canopy headed towards a beautiful valley, and the other heads straight for the top of the mountain. Choose wisely 😉

I would one hundred percent choose the dark canopy path. For starters, I do NOT enjoy hiking so the mountain path was out from the get-go, but secondly, I really love the lushness and mystery of a path that has only little bits of light leaking through the heavy canopy. I’m always intrigued by something along those lines – that’s not to say I see an empty abandoned dark place and want to go in!

Something about the naturalness of the path draws me in and also gives me such vivid mental imagery of what it would look like. It’s less about where the path is going and more about what makes me want to choose it over the other. Maybe it’s a current reflection of my complex emotions, but I have always felt the journey is even more important than the destination. I even quoted something to that effect (from a song by Dreaming of Lights) in my valedictorian speech when graduating high school: “You can feel the destination, but it’s the voyage that you seek.”