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

Emily – Korea/U.S.



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 is… sucks. The grammar of that sentence pretty accurately reflects my mental capacity today and also my lack of motivation to fix my mistakes, or anything else. 

It’s my first real day in Seoul during this vacation and you know that Seoul puts me in a weird mood. Yesterday a 편의점 (convenience store) attendant was rude to me. Today I almost got denied entry to a university campus because I was a foreigner (no tourists allowed, probably because of coronavirus, but the signs have no indication of the reason). Then, I got to the spot on campus I had lugged my big film camera to (and was excited to practice shooting with it!) and the whole thing just jammed. So, i made my way back to the gate of the campus where the security guard was still exclusively harassing non-Asian-looking people. 

Currently I’m sitting in a coffee shop that I chose only because the one I really wanted to go to has inexplicably turned into a sketchy bar, waiting for my endlessly-supportive boyfriend to return from Daiso with a screwdriver to open up this camera and see if I can avoid returning it (and paying exorbitant international shipping prices). 

I promise, I’m normally not a negative person. Seoul just brings it out in me.


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

(Based on my responses to tinder messages)

Today was not my day. I traveled kind of far to take pictures with my new camera and it broke immediately. So I’m eating my feelings, haha. But it’ll be fine, I’ll just go to sleep and wake up better in the morning. 


Question 3: What are some aspects of your routine now (daily/weekly) that you think should be changed (for health reasons, stress, etc.) and what are some things you do that you would recommend to someone else? What are a couple things you would want to add to your routine to enhance your lifestyle?

Good: yoga everyday, even when you don’t want to. Just having some kind of consistency in your life. 

Having a supportive partner or friend who knows when to indulge your bullshit and when to pull you out of it. 

Trying new things. New restaurants, new foods— go the whole mile and get a new hobby! Sometimes you can feel stuck when things are too consistent. You can’t count on anyone else to make things interesting in a way that’s right for you. 

Positivity. This one needs work sometimes, but overall I think I am a person who always tries to find the best in things. 

Bad: naps. They’ve gotta go, but they’ve become a staple in my life. 

Depressive cycles. One thing goes wrong and then the whole day is fucked. I need to learn to let things slide sometimes. 

ANXIETY gets out of control when I’m put in a position where I feel I’m responsible for other people’s happiness. Having my boyfriend here is GREAT but also I feel pressure to make things worthwhile for him. It’s hard to sleep at night when your brain won’t shut up about all the things you should be doing.


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?)

Yesterday, I decided that I’m going to leave Korea and return to the States. Our company allowed us the option to return early due to the threat of coronavirus here. It both was and was not an easy decision— one that took a lot of mental faculties to come to a conclusion about, but I feel 100% confident that I am making the right decision. Today, feeling completely comfortable with my decision and tentatively excited to return home, I went to a cafe to do some work on my future. 

In the future, I’m going to want to come back to Korea. The only issue is that John (my fiancé) didn’t necessarily understand why I would want to live here, he hadn’t experienced it. But, toward the end of our time here, as we waited for our coffee in my favorite cafe, he told me, “Maybe this is bad to say, but I think I’ve finally gotten used to living in Korea.” 

After that, we talked about what he meant, what he liked about Korea.

It’s easy to live here

It’s so convenient here, there’s everything everywhere. In America, you’d have to live in the city to have all these same conveniences. 

If you want to go to the city for some reason, you can go so easily and cheaply. 

I haven’t had to drive at all in two months

Seeing your students in your elementary school made me realize that it might be fun to teach kids

He says it’s a lot of pressure to ask him why he might want to come back. It’s a selfish reason for me— if we can write down the reasons that he wants to stay, maybe in two or three years when I’m debating coming back, it won’t be so hard to convince him to come with me. 

A big part of the reason I’m leaving Korea early is him. Not anything he’s done specifically, but having lived together here for the last two months, I don’t know if I’ll be able to live alone again. We’ve had such a great time together here. I love Korea but I know that without him, spending two months here would not have been nearly as fun or memorable. With him, it doesn’t really matter where we live because I know we will make the most of it and have fun there. 

Basically the key point of this story is that when there is nothing to be stressed about, I will find something to stress about. Not always a bad thing, as it makes me apply for jobs much earlier than I need to (though if I get replies from those jobs now, it would be perfect!) and also keeps me constantly moving forward. But to worry about something so far in the future that might not even happen? That’s something so simply ‘Emily’ that I’m not even upset.


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

Not much has happened today. I decided I’m heading back to the States so now I’m looking for jobs there. Honestly, I’m excited to head back. It feels like I’ve spent the time I was supposed to spend in Korea, and this offer from our company came at quite literally the most opportune time, it would be almost stupid to ignore what a great opportunity they’re giving me.


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 😉

True to myself, I think I would choose to go straight down the middle. Remember during our teaching orientation where they gave everyone superlatives and mine was “most likely to get arrested for trespassing”? My curiosity is one of the things I take the most pride in and I have a dumb need to be ‘unique’ even when it causes me more hassle than the potential payoffs. Exploration is my game, give me two paths and I’ll do everything I can to actively avoid both of them.