September 30, 2020

*Note – Full versions of each contributor’s September reflection can be found by clicking their full name at the bottom of this post or from the table on the project overview page.

Reflection Prompt 1:

How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of September and what caused you to feel that way?)

E [Korea]

It’s been such a weird time. I know everyone says that, but I don’t think I really understood what it felt like until just now. It’s October 2nd, and I should be writing this reflection about September 30th, just two days ago. So why can’t I remember anything I did that day? 

I started my AmeriCorps position on Sept. 9th, and have been serving at my site since Sept. 13th. All’s new and well, but the days already blend together. My days are crazy, honestly.

Some days I wish I would’ve taken a position at Starbucks so that I wouldn’t have to bring my work home (what a funny thing to say in a world where most of us are practically living at work). I’ve been envying people who get some time away from home in their jobs– a complete 180 from where I was at the beginning of the pandemic. Maybe that mindset is what is causing people to put themselves at risk by going to parties, etc.

The thought of staying at home is so much worse a thought than the risk of getting COVID. If I’m envying a job that would have terrified me (and still should) just six months ago, maybe I’m not so different from those people. 

As you can see, lots of vapid anxieties floating around. I can’t even think to begin to let myself ponder politics right now because I would risk losing myself in the insanity.

NS [Chicago]Some weeks during Covid blend together to create blurs of time, holes in my memory where it becomes difficult to distinguish one day from the next.  Today, September 30, 2020 however, was one of the exceptions.  First of all, it just so happens to be two of my cousins’ birthdays.  Last night was also the first presidential debate leading up to the election in a month’s time.  It was tough to see the way both men were acting and ever harder to imagine that such behavior was reflective of the highest station achievable in our country.  I spent the first half of the day mentally recovering from whatever choice words anyone might have for that debate.  

Around mid afternoon, I had a scheduled performance review with my managers and it was nice to finally get to talk to all of the people at my company who I work under (some more than others).  For a while I’ve received positive feedback and been working hard to contribute as much as possible to my projects, but I’ve been waiting to see when I’d be able to take the next step and move up to the Consultant position.  I’m more comfortable now with the idea of taking on responsibility and trying to make a bigger change in the world.

At the end of the day, I wasn’t expecting it to take any other turns, but again I was proven wrong.  I normally don’t get calls from my mom at 11:20pm, so I knew something was off right away.  And unfortunately, when my mom told me that my grandma had passed away, I already knew deep down.  I had visited her just days before and seen how ready she was (her body truly just a vessel at that point) to pass along peacefully. 

I sang the Five for Fighting song ‘100 Years’ and although she didn’t show any signs of recognition, I think the music was able to get through somehow. 

As the year goes on, I feel like I’m becoming more connected to my thoughts and emotions and I know in my heart that life is ours for the taking.  By the end of 2020, I want to be proud of the choices I’ve made and the person I continue to become.

K [Korea]It’s been… a good time these last few days.

There has been some uneasiness bubbling under the surface in regards to upcoming school deadlines and application due dates, but these last few days I’ve been able to really process things well and take a moment to stop and appreciate places… even places I’ve visited many times before. I find myself in Mokpo during this Chuseok holiday visiting a friend and meeting a few new ones. This is a city I’ve spent significant time in due to its proximity to my “home” Korea city (Naju), and due to the special bonds I made with people who lived here. Occasionally it can feel weird with them not here, indeed this time and the last few visits have almost made it seem like this is a completely different city. 

I think before I was appreciating the people who lived here more than the place itself, and even though I really enjoy the time I spend with the friends I have here now, I do feel like I’m exploring and appreciating the seaside nature of this port city more. I’ve ran more places, explored more cafes, rode on scooters at dusk, it’s been almost… a youthful type of joy? 

I recently learned the phrase “유체 이탈 체험”. It means “out-of-body experience”, and in some ways I think I’ve felt it quite a few times mentally, but on more practical yet philosophical grounds, I question why I don’t just live everywhere. Life has been too kind to me, I like too many people, and find myself wanting to visit them frequently. Now that school has been online, it seems the perfect time to visit everyone and appreciate them when otherwise it would be impossible. 

Yet, of course, this talk fails to mention COVID, and I am of course obligated to mention it all of 2020 it seems. Concern for other’s health is a heavy part of every action I take. I do things as carefully as possible for opportunities to see those I miss most. It then would be remiss to not mention I’ve felt distance from many of the friends I’ve met this year. In particular, though many of us moved to Seoul, I’ve not seen any of them. I attributed this to starting graduate school and the stress therein of adjusting to our new lives, but other friends have made themselves available and have reached out to me, whereas others haven’t.

The worst part about that was that there was no update or notice, just ignored messages after promises of getting back to us. It… hurts. I think saying it like that is simplest and best. Maybe things will turn around and I’m worrying for nothing? I just wanted this to be a record of my feelings now. 

Also, both my parents got COVID but didn’t let me know at first. Obviously, I’m half a world away and can’t do anything, but the sudden revelation did worry me. I don’t really let on, but I’m concerned for their long-term health.

At this moment it seems like they’ll recover, but as we all know by now, the science on the full aftereffects of COVID is not fully known or settled yet. I pray for the best.

Will I be able to visit the US in January or February to see many friends before they graduate and peace out from my area, or will I have to miss them and try to accommodate some other travel itinerary in the summer? I suppose a vaccine schedule and decisions by the Korean and American governments are what all of this hinges on, and I have no way at present to affect either, so I will just try my best in school and applications for now and see what pans out.

Paige [Korea] Today was lazy yet productive. I feel like I’ve written the same intro sentence before, but I feel like many days have happened like that for me this year?

Today was the first day of Chuseok break so I have the next few days to myself; Chuseok is much the equivalent of Thanksgiving in Korea, where people travel to their hometowns and cook a bunch of food and honor their ancestors.

As a foreigner, it just sorta means the community goes quiet for a few days while we either hang out with friends or stay at home and veg.

I had actually already been at home the last few days since my school was doing some construction on the water main and so I did Zoom calls from my house, fully showing my students how much of a Kpop freak I am with my walls covered in various boy group posters.

The days have blurred together a little bit, but I have still gone out to grab food and go to dance class; the only excursion out today was to the local mart to grab some groceries in case the marts wouldn’t be open tomorrow on actual Chuseok day. I spent the day moving slowly, but I cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom, as well as got some video editing work done and called a friend back in the US to help her with questions about the Fulbright program, as she’s applying for Korea! So it’s been lazy and relaxed – nursing an iced americano for a few hours, the one candle I have is lit, the rain pouring down outside, snuggly in my sweatshirt and leggings – but I still have gotten quite a bit done, and have plans with friends for the two days after so today feels like a good balance.

Gigi [NYC] Today has been a good day, just the norm. I don’t have class on Wednesdays, so I sleep in until 6am (wild, right?).

After a morning coffee, I did some schoolwork, then headed out to walk dogs around 10:45am. My mind has been drifting to my sister’s wedding a lot – it’s the day after tomorrow! Her and her fiancé’s large wedding has been postponed to next year due to COVID, but they still wanted to have a small, family-only wedding on Friday.

I bought a beautiful dress to wear for the occasion – it feels odd to wear something that doesn’t have holes in it! I hope I’ll get years of use out of it, and the shoes… those thangs ain’t cheap. 

Because I go to school virtually in Norway, I go to sleep around 5pm, this day was no different. I haven’t seen much of my parents as a result of that, which is a bit sad since I’m leaving so soon.

Reflection Prompt 2:

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

E [Korea] I worked hard today, just like I’ve been doing everyday. I don’t know where all my time goes during the day, but when I look at how many hours I’ve clocked, I’m always depressed. I think I work best when I’m trusted to do a good job and engage in my work as an adult who made the choice to take a year of service rather than a traditional salaried position. 

NS [Chicago] To the strangers out there listening, looking at me from behind their face masks, potentially judging or potentially curious because we have far less opportunities to interact with people we don’t know well, I have this to say.  Today was an emotional rollercoaster, but I made it through in one piece.

Through the good and the bad, the simple pleasure of enjoying a nice fall day to the poignant jolt when my mom called me to tell me of my grandma’s passing, we continue to face 2020 head on.  With such an unprecedented year, we must keep going as if it were normal, with our heads held high and our minds very open.  *With the additional care and precaution that comes with surviving a pandemic of course

K [Korea] I’m doing…. hmmm, yeah I’m pretty good I think. Things have been kind of crazy with school and COVID but I’m happy to be here and to be enjoying Chuseok. School is manageable, I’m in my first semester, and COVID has cancelled a lot of stuff and I’m worried about it making a resurgence after Chuseok and cancelling more stuff, but overall I just want to enjoy stuff what we have for the moment.

Paige [Korea] I mostly stayed home and cleaned up my apartment, but I still relaxed and enjoyed myself! Just a comfy, beginning of fall day!

Gigi [NYC] I slept in a bit, did some work and then walked my daily pups! Always makes me happy.

Then came home, had some dinner, and went to sleep. Just your average Wednesday (given the global pandemic haha RIP our world).

Reflection Prompt 3:

When you close your eyes and pause your heavy thoughts for 30 seconds, what do you see?  Where does your mind take you when you get a chance to slow down and breathe?  Where do you want to go and what might be holding you back from reaching that place?

E [Korea] I just see nature. All types of nature. A farm field filled with knee-high corn in the summer. An oceanside cliff with a precarious scaffolded structure disrupting the clear line from left to right. A wide-open sky overtop a park nestled near the edge of a forest, one of those merry-go-rounds that you barely see at playgrounds anymore (and for good reason).

The weather is always beautiful, but different.

Crisp near the ocean, fall chill creeping in with the waves. An early spring day at the playground, ground unfrozen and buds doing their best to burst from the ground and the trees– yet invisible to human eyes. Everyone senses that it’s the end of winter, but there’s nothing they can really say to convince each other. If you were there, you would know, too. 

NS [Chicago] When I close my eyes, the colors come and go in soothing waves.  I stare up at the ceiling, past my eyelids, past my ceiling, to the places I wish I were right now if only I could be. 

I can be. 

I go to the random city streets of Korea pretending I’m still there finding my way in the world. 

I go to the coast of Menorca where I’m living out my predestined love story. 

I go to places not that aren’t that far away, but in times that feel a lifetime ago. 

And what’s holding me back from actually visiting these places?  The pressure of living a life that the world makes us want to live, when I know I’ve already lived the way I want to and should continue to. 

The only thing blocking me from reaching that place is me. 

Fear and indecision and me.  And Covid.

K [Korea]

To frame this, I think I need to be very frank; I don’t miss being in Oklahoma, I miss the people that are there (and some of the food).

When I think of locations in my hometown and in Oklahoma City, I don’t feel a longing to be there. If I was there, I’m sure I would feel nostalgia, I’m a sucker for it, but I think it’s important to note I miss being with people doing certain activities.

Certain places are beautiful, certain areas I’d love to visit, but I want to go there with friends. That being said, I want to go for a run with all my old teammates, I want to travel to a new festival in Korea with my cohort friends and some of those that came after, I want to walk around DC and New York and explore more with the countless friends I have that now live there, I want to have five flights in a month like I did last August, I want to interview the Korean Athletics Federation during a research internship over the international dynamics of sports funding, and I want to guide run for Paralympians again. 

I’m TIRED of being limited to doing one thing.

My time management skills are commensurate with the number of things I have to do, and I want to feel that productivity and have the opportunities that would come with being all over to get all of that done. This sounds like that most ridiculously cliché thing but if I could just arrive instantly wherever I thought about wanting to be, would I be satisfied? Would I discover that existentially distance is merely the surface problem, and that when that veil is lifted, I’ll find the barriers to my wants and happiness just as insurmountable? I don’t have the answer for that today. Hopefully eventually. 

Paige [Korea] I don’t know if I go to a specific place every time to clear my mind, but I feel like a good place to envision if I need to calm down and breathe, or if I want to clear my mind of negative or heavy thoughts, I can picture a place.

My freshman year dorm room was on the fourth floor, and looked out on Lake Michigan; this dorm was the closest one to the water, and since we were up high, when you looked out the window, it looked like we were on the ocean (because you couldn’t see the ground).

The first night I spent there in my dorm, the first night that I knew I would be away from home long-term for the first time in my life, I was laying in bed with the window open on the top bunk, a nice chill September breeze cooling the warm room, my roommate fast asleep a few feet beneath, the lights out, and the sound of waves on the lake hitting the rocks gently filtered through my headphones as I listened to the second movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

I do think back to that moment a lot, of how filled with excitement I was about starting anew at college and the prospects ahead of me, and how blissfully peaceful it was as I fell asleep. I think when I need to calm down and take some time away from the stressful world, I should recall that feeling and find a way to zen myself out. 

Gigi [NYC] My mind whirls incessantly when I close my eyes; it is hard for my mind to relax, it is hard for my lungs to breathe beyond a shallow intake.

I think of regrets, missed opportunities from this year… there have been so many… lost jobs, lost study opportunities… the weight can be crushing sometimes. But, at least I have an income, there are about 40 million people in the US alone who cannot say that. 

After those anxiety-ridden swirls clouding my thoughts subside, my mind eventually drifts to standing in the kitchen with my girlfriend, or sitting on the couch with her. That calms me down a lot. We have not seen each other in almost a year because of this pandemic, and it is hard. I’ll be able to see her soon though! Once I go to Norway and get out of quarantine, I’ll be able to travel to Denmark because there is open travel between Norway and Denmark. I’m excited!

Find each contributor’s full-length September 30th reflections using the links below:







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