Paige – Korea

January 31, 2020

Question 1: How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of January and what 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 February and what 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.”

March 31, 2020

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

Today felt like a contradiction, both relieving and burdensome. With all the madness of the virus and the Fulbright program at large being suspended, the threat of being forced to go home had loomed very heavily on my heart and my mind for a weekend, and then the clearance was given to us to use our discretion; not wanting to jeopardize my family in America’s health and selfishly not being ready to leave Korea, I decided to stay.

While the decisions today were not groundbreaking, progress was made and unmade, and clarity was found, yet muddied. On one hand, I received notice from my school that they would take care of anything I needed until the end of the semester in August, which was not unexpected but a huge relief nonetheless to hear from their mouths directly; on the other hand, progress towards normal life was yet again set back with the Korean government announcing that schools would go online for instruction, without setting an end date. Yes, I do get to get back to work, but now I have an entirely new set of challenges to face.

While Americans may have just been beginning their quarantine journey and were bored out of their gourds, Korean society had been doing this to a less extreme degree for almost a month prior; I had gone from restlessness and boredom from staying at home to finding some strange semblance of a routine for myself, and wasn’t bored anymore. However, the thing I believe was intrinsically keeping me going and from getting bored was the promise of being back with my coworkers and students on April 6th, and moving to online school for an undetermined amount of time from the 9th on was a loss of that “end goal”. I spent much of this date restless or napping, and not much was accomplished. This day was a weird limbo between happy and frustrated, but I just hope the world can heal so we can resume normal life once again soon.

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

I didn’t get much done today, but I did find out that my school will help support me in light of my program being suspended. The online school news kind of put a damper on me, but it’s not the end of the world – we’ll get back to normal things hopefully soon!

Question 3: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from social distancing?

I.e., Thoughts about how to feel connected during this time/How are you spending all this (presumably more than before) downtime?/How do you feel about the worldwide impact of COVID19?

Social distancing made me realize how busy I actually am on a normal basis, and also it has made me realize how much I crave and need human interaction and even just physical touch. I knew I was extroverted but enjoy my alone time, but I also know that my love languages are quality time and physical touch (with friends and romance alike), so the loneliness in the lack of hugs and even playful punches has really impacted me recently. Being at home and living in a one-room apartment alone denies me that sense of touch and closeness even so to the point where I have seriously considered adopting a cat recently (and I’m a dog person)…

While this time has given me an opportunity to watch TV shows and videos I haven’t had the chance to see, or webtoons and books I haven’t gotten time to read, or new hobbies to pick up (watercolors), I haven’t been all that productive, and I need to remind myself that that is alright – I don’t have to be. I also have to limit myself in the amount of information I let myself take in related to the virus – for a while after the virus really hit America, even someone messaging something small about it made me want to explode, as my life had been saturated with this news for three weeks and suddenly I couldn’t escape it as Americans began to flood their social media with post after post. It was like a media virus as well.

I want to be informed, but sometimes I have to just get away from that rhetoric and allow myself to think of other things; I know the importance of everyone doing their part and being informed, but I also know that I need to continue living my life and not be crippled by mental fear constantly. (I apologize if this is disjointed – I feel I have tried too many times in the past month to recount how I feel about the virus and the situation that things may have been lost in the shuffle here.) 

April 30, 2020

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

Today, unlike the sort of largely reflective days of past month’s ending days, was a simple one – a day of simple little pleasures. As today is Buddha’s birthday, I had the day off from school, and therefore could sleep in – win #1. The weather is nice – around 70 degrees, and I got a piece of lemon cake from the bakery around the corner from my house. I also had racked up enough points on my CashWalk app (a Korean app that allows you to get coins for walking – like a pedometer with rewards) to trade it in for a chicken burger set from Mom’s Touch, so I got a free dinner – score! Now I get to relax, do some watercolor painting, and watch some Netflix. This feels oddly surface level, but today, I feel untouched by stress or strong emotion and can just enjoy myself on this long weekend. 

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

Today, I had the day off from work because of Buddha’s birthday, and I just relaxed and chilled out! 

Question 3: If you could choose one musical artist that you believe everyone should listen to critically at least once, who would it be and why?

Hmm… I think I would choose The 1975. I may be biased because they are one of my favorite bands, but I think their music is incredible. First off, the melodies and the way the music sounds is entrancing, but looking too into the complexity of the layers that make the music as intricate as it is, as well as the deeply thought out lyrics that the lead singer, Matty Healy, has made really are worth a study.

May 31, 2020

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

Today was… relieving? It sounds like a weird way to phrase the contents of this day but as a whole, this fits the best.

I had woken up after a few hours of sleep at an Airbnb with some friends for a birthday celebration (we stayed in our place, don’t worry about chiding me~) and after bidding them farewell, I hopped over to a favorite brunch place nearby (shoutout to Grain in Yeonnam-dong in Seoul!) to meet a Fulbright friend from my original cohort. We had just beat the lunch crowd and chomped on delicious brunch food while catching up on the various life changes that had been mainly spurred on by coronavirus shaking up the world. It was nice to have that outlet, and we continued for a few hours more at a nearby coffee shop.

The calm of that after the wild and loud birthday party of the night before (while I love loud and noisy and wild things) was really refreshing, because while I’ve not had a lack of deep conversations because of all the extra quarantine time, I have lacked having them in person. I then ended up not attending my improv comedy session that night due to a stomachache, but the relaxation and relief of just laying in bed and making dinner when I finally felt like it was nice. I topped the night off with a late night call to a friend in America, and the last instance of “relieving” in this day was finally watching the finale of season 12 of Rupaul’s Drag Race and knowing who won, rather than having to avoid all social media to avoid spoilers!  

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

I had a great long life talk over a delicious brunch with a friend, and spent the night relaxing at home and catching up on some things that needed to be done.

Question 3: What’s on your “quarantine ending/life returning to normal” bucket list and also unique things on your overall life bucket list?

As someone who has been in Korea during this whole “quarantine / social distancing” period, I haven’t ever actually been on a mandated lockdown, but that being said, I have done much more social distancing and tried to keep to the rules but also still let myself enjoy little things sometimes? I’m smart about it, though.

I think the two things I want the most for “life returning to normal” is to be able to socialize without fear of social judgment and not having to wear masks. I think it will take a long time for these to be realized, sadly, but since I have been able to go places if I please (restaurants or some shopping or small get-togethers with friends and my dance academy – NOT the clubs), I want to be able to go to these places again without having to worry that someone who doesn’t know the situation in Korea to get on my case about me not doing my job for the greater good. 

Also, I really despise wearing masks and can’t wait to breathe freely once again (especially in dance classes – it’s like waterboarding dancing with a mask on in a humid studio haha but we do it to keep safe!). 

I suppose one more thing that I want back badly is to be able to go to concerts and performances again. I miss seeing concerts and idols I love, as well as I miss being able to be onstage performing improv comedy for audiences. I have my students back in the classroom so I get a little of that performance aspect but the mask aspect also is a bit suffocating when you are as animated in the classroom as I am. ㅋㅋㅋ 

June 30, 2020

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

Today I felt appreciated? It’s not as if I don’t feel appreciated normally, but I had a really rewarding moment today as a teacher. I teach a class called Advanced Communication to 17 and 18-year-olds, and these kids are nearly if not fluent in English, and this class is mainly to get them talking and engaging in conversation in English. One of two big projects in the semester is a TED talk-esque presentation – a five minute presentation with a powerpoint about whatever they like.

I told the students they could come ask for my help if they couldn’t decide what to do or just wanted some help, and one of my sweetest boys came to ask me for my advice, and set up a time with me to meet after lunch. He came and we talked through his two ideas, settling on the one that he and I both felt was more unique and that we were both more excited about, with me spitballing things he could speak about under the topic until he had a lightbulb moment.

I saw the excitement flicker in his eyes as he said, “Oh my gosh, I know exactly what I can start the speech with!” and described it to me. Once making sure he felt okay and had a good basis on where to begin for writing down his script, I thought he would leave, but he didn’t – he stayed to talk to me for the rest of the class period just for fun, which was about another 40 minutes!

I was so touched that he wanted to stay and talk just about different things from college to books to whatever he thought of. It really made me feel appreciated from the students’ point of view – I know they like my classes and me, but since they’re more studious and shy, I don’t get shown moments like that all that often and I won’t soon forget that time!

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

Today was a pretty typical day at work, but I had a student come ask for my help on a project and he ended up staying just to hang out and talk with me! It was really sweet and made my day!

Question 3: Describe something that you believe in, but there’s no concrete proof of that thing/idea existing (you don’t have to justify the belief).

What makes you continue to believe in it? The feeling? The principle behind it?  Someone else instilled the belief in you? Elaborate in your own way. 🙂

I think that something I believe in that doesn’t have concrete proof or evidence is soulmates. I believe people have soulmates in the world, and I leave the plural form there intentionally. I don’t think people only have ONE soulmate, but many people that they could consider soulmates. I think you also have platonic soulmates and romantic soulmates. 

Platonic soulmates sort of sounds like just “best friends” but I think it’s different in my mind – a platonic soulmate is someone who you never get tired of being with, even if you live with them or go somewhere with them and you are always constantly together (you can have best friends that you would MURDER if you had to spend all that time together even though you love them). They’re someone you could live with forever and marry if you didn’t find a romantic partner, and you could be happy just having a sexless partnership together (irregardless of sex and gender, just like you are only attracted as friends, not sexually). 

Romantic soulmates are what we are more familiar with, and like I said, I don’t think there is just one person for everyone; I think that you can run into different soulmates throughout your life and that doesn’t cheapen the connection, but shows that you aren’t doomed or cursed if it doesn’t work out with one single person and that too you are worthy and capable of being loved by many people that you will love with as much intensity back. 

The reason I believe in soulmates and that I believe more than one can exist is because I have found my way back to an old romantic soulmate recently and am just as crazy about him as I was 7 years ago. There was nothing linking us together still and suddenly, one non-committal snapchat sent sparked a conversation that hasn’t stopped, and feelings very quickly reemerged despite being 6,000 miles apart – me being in Korea and him in America. I had never really believed in the “if you love something and let it go and it comes back, it’s meant to be” thing, and more had told myself that as a way to comfort myself when being romantically rejected throughout the years, but I fully let go of him and was fine with it never coming back, but I’m extremely grateful it did. I also feel I was able to believe in multiple soulmates because of him; the sort of chemistry we had back in the day when I was 18 really showed me what I wanted and I never wanted a love that felt less intense than that. Because I knew what love could feel like, I dated a lot less because I wasn’t willing to settle, but I did feel similar intensity chemistry with a few other people between 18 and now, so I knew that while he was ONE person I could feel that soulmate vibe with, he wasn’t the ONLY one. 

I think I would have believed in soulmates without this rekindling romance appearing, but having a soulmate reenter the picture and finally be the person I wanted him to be plus who he has always been really makes it real for me. I don’t need someone else’s concrete proof – my own experience is enough now.

I suppose one more thing that I want back badly is to be able to go to concerts and performances again. I miss seeing concerts and idols I love, as well as I miss being able to be onstage performing improv comedy for audiences. I have my students back in the classroom so I get a little of that performance aspect but the mask aspect also is a bit suffocating when you are as animated in the classroom as I am. ㅋㅋㅋ 

July 31, 2020

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

Today I felt both lazy and accomplished? That in itself of course is contradictory but it sums up the laziness of a Friday after the final grading of exams has ended and the numbers have been punched into the system. I spent this past week ripping through grading over 200 exam papers (even for classes I myself didn’t teach) and so the laziness and lackadaisical nature of the last few desk-warming (ironic in this hot ass monsoon weather) feels oddly deserved.

So in this desk-warming time, I take my time with my breakfast and coffee and binge watch any interesting videos that pop up on my Youtube channel. I ended up getting tagged in a few grainy recordings of high school plays and having a good laugh at both my cringey moments and my genuinely funny moments within snippets of my ragtag high school “stage” that was just risers set up in a gym (where we also ate lunch every day and sometimes had church – yep, a ‘gymachurchacafetorium’ is sometimes what we would call it).

I have started making reaction videos to Kpop content in the last month as well so my “productivity” for the early part of the afternoon was editing a video and a half for that purpose, but that was after being treated to lunch off-campus (spicy stir-fried octopus – 낙지볶음, followed by a stop at a nearby coffeeshop to round out the meal) by the eldest English department teacher. You see that lazy-productive balance striking there again. I had an errand to run in Hongdae to reserve a time for a laser tag match for a friend’s surprise birthday outing, and yes, I took the nearly 50 minute trek over to Hongdae on the bus because I would rather do it in person.

While I put myself out of my way, I made it worth my while, going to a vintage/secondhand dress sale and scoring big on some really cute pieces, running to HomePlus for goods I can’t get at a good price near my house (namely, better pasta than just straight spaghetti noodles and deodorant), and went to a cupholder event for a Kpop idol’s birthday. This impromptu run did make me feel productive, and I didn’t take any desk naps or naps at home today either. Okay, I’m rambling, but I think that just reinforces the nature of this odd, lazy and yet still quite active day.

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

Today was good! I was like, both lazy and productive, if that makes sense? I did a lot of little things I wanted and needed to do but nothing huge and life changing, but I had a yummy lunch and did some hobby stuff and got cute dresses and that makes for a good day overall!

Question 3: When do you feel most social and comfortable around others? Covid has taken away a lot of opportunities to be around the people we love, but what are some qualities about another person (that you know or don’t know) or situations that make you feel like you can be yourself?

I’m a very outgoing person, so I feel like there aren’t many situations where I feel necessarily uncomfortable, but I think I feel really comfortable when I’m doing improv comedy, especially after a show.

I always have liked being onstage, and I felt that sort of social butterfly buzz of comfort and pride doing plays in high school when people would come out and tell us how well we did, but I don’t think I realized the difference in feeling until I got into improv in college. You memorize scripts and songs and feelings and choreography for plays, which is all amazing and impressive, but in improv, everything is made up, and it’s not easy by any stretch to begin with. But in that freedom you really get to show off your quick wit, your ability to build stories, to become other people at the drop of a hat with no plan, to acknowledge fucking up and almost just make it part of the joke and then move on, and to really charm an audience.

I have that part of me that loves to shine in the spotlight, and I particularly like making people laugh, and when the audience first comes into the improv shows, they see us just intermingling so the performers are reachable and approachable. Then we start the show and run out on the stage, and while we are in stage mode, they see the same person they saw take their money and give them a hand stamp and joke with them and tell them to grab beer, and now you see that person improvising and being witty and really living in their element, not caring if they look silly or if they make a joke that isn’t that funny because they know it too. You as the performer sorta wrap the audience around your finger (not in a manipulative way) and then after the show, you feel powerful, confident, social, and like you have proven yourself.

I feel I can really shine there in making fun banter with performers or friends I already know but also that I feel confident enough to chat with an audience member who I have never seen before. Again, rambling, but I love that feeling of having both confidence and comfort – I’m a social butterfly in almost all cases but this is the situation where I feel the conditions are most ideal for me to feel like the best and most radiant version of myself.

I suppose one more thing that I want back badly is to be able to go to concerts and performances again. I miss seeing concerts and idols I love, as well as I miss being able to be onstage performing improv comedy for audiences. I have my students back in the classroom so I get a little of that performance aspect but the mask aspect also is a bit suffocating when you are as animated in the classroom as I am. ㅋㅋㅋ 

August 31, 2020

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

Today was a rollercoaster. I had a really lovely day, despite not getting much sleep the night before (nothing wrong, I was just not sleepy, being the night owl I am) and having a heavy class load of all online courses (which all went well and the students were responsive and having fun and participating in the activity I asked of them – we played Scattergories!).

I came home from school and didn’t take a nap like I usually do, instead getting distracted listening to my favorite albums from like, 2013 to 2015, reveling in nostalgia, dancing around my apartment and singing at the top of my lungs. This then devolved into looking at old Snapchat videos and pictures of my college years, and the time seemed to melt away before I noticed I had been doing this for almost two hours!

My mood was jovial, I laughed a lot, and then suddenly my mood changed sharply – I have been really struggling with severe hormonal acne for the last year, and it’s taken a sharp turn for the worse in the last six months or so. It makes me horribly self-conscious since your face is something that is very apparent and hard to hide, and while we have on masks most of the time in public now, I still feel horribly sensitive about it.

I don’t really experience much anxiety most of the time, but this was a rough night, with lots of tears shed and not much made me feel better; all I could do was listen to music turned all the way up in my headphones and just let myself cry it out. I can’t say I went to bed feeling better, but at least I feel I got out all the bad emotion? I know I’m being vulnerable, but this day was a notable one, and not in the best of ways, but it was how I carried out the last day of August.

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

Today was weird – I was really happy all day and had good classes as well as a “college music” jam session and reminisced through old pictures, but I got really sad at nighttime? Having a day with such peaks and valleys is always strange, I guess.

Question 3: Since we’ve all been writing our monthly reflections as if we were sharing them with a stranger, what’s the best recommendation you could give to a stranger and why? Make it an uncommon one, something that they probably wouldn’t already be exposed to.

Okay, this sounds quite silly, but you said make it uncommon, so one I can think of as a good recommendation even to a stranger would be to try having hard-boiled eggs along with pizza! Not ON top of the pizza, but when you get pizza next, hard boil some eggs on the stove and have it as a side. My grandma did this for my mom when she was a kid because she thought that pizza didn’t have enough nutrition for a whole meal, and so my mom grew up thinking everyone did this! When she married my dad, he was quite confused the first time she asked, “How many eggs do you want?” when they were ordering a pizza to eat at home, but once he tried it, he never went back! 

Another perhaps uncommon bit of advice would be that I think everyone should try doing improv comedy! I know I say that with bias because it’s something I love doing, but I think it helps you be more flexible and adaptable in your life, not just in performing or goofing around in scenes during a practice. It will help you think on your toes easier, be more creative, and help you think more about how we have conversations in normal life! I have found it made me more outgoing and less nervous about making mistakes, and I think it can be beneficial to explore for any person of any age. 

September 30, 2020

Question 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?)

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. So the days have blurred together a little bit but I have still gone out to grab food and go to dance class, but 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. 

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

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

Question 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 finally 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?

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. 

October 31, 2020

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

Today felt like the most productive Saturday I’ve had in a long time. 

I can’t remember the last time I woke up to have breakfast on a weekend, but today, as I woke up after spending the night at my friend’s house, I actually woke up feeling ready to go.

It’s still surreal to hang out with this friend, as we met when I was an awkward 13 year old who loved k-pop and she was a 15 year old Korean exchange student in the middle of nowhere Iowa, and now we have sleepovers at her parent’s home in Seoul 11 years later. We sat and ate sweet potatoes and fruit and coffee with her parents, chatting about this and that in Korean, and I ended up home before noon, and instead of crawling back into bed for a nap, I had lunch, cleaned my apartment, and showered.

Perhaps the biggest feeling of accomplishment for the day was finishing editing a big video project. I started doing reaction videos to new K-pop music videos a few months ago, and I wanted to show off my Kpop covered room, and had been working on this video for two months – finally finishing it and putting it up was a great feeling. To reward myself, I took a catnap and then met a friend for dinner – poke bowls and coffee at my favorite cafe in Seoul! I didn’t stop the productivity there – I even helped edit a student’s essays for his college application! I feel like I did a lot while still enjoying my time without rush today.

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

I used the most of my daylight time today, which is not the norm! I got a lot done but didn’t feel rushed, and I got to eat a lot of delicious food today, which is always a plus!

Question 3: Describe a person that you vividly remember seeing on the street or in passing, but never met.  What do you remember the most about them and write a little story about their life – what do they do, what are they like and what makes them uniquely them?

Wow, someone came to mind immediately – let me set the scene of seeing this person.

Bring yourself back to January 2018: I’m in Japan on winter vacation from my first year with Fulbright, along with my fellow ETA friends Caleb Lee, Taylor Williams, and Benjie Canady. We’re just outside a popular subway station in Tokyo (I can’t remember if it was Shinjuku or somewhere close) and I suddenly see the most BEAUTIFUL man I have ever seen in my life as we walk out of the underground portion.

He takes my breath away – he’s looking down at his phone but he was dressed almost all in white; this wasn’t cosplay or a costume, just a white turtleneck and white pants, and he had shoulder length dark layered hair. I am glad he didn’t look up and see me gawking as I took a long glance while I passed by, but even from like thirty feet away, he caught my attention as he might be the most perfect looking human I have ever laid my eyes on in person.

I truly believe if he looked up and had made eye contact with me, I would have spontaneously combusted on the spot. I hadn’t even had the chance to say “DID YOU SEE THAT GUY” because at the same time, Taylor and Caleb both spoke to say a similar sentiment – Benjie was the only one to not see this angel man, but the three of us were gobsmacked over this man and I might have thought him an angelic apparition had they not seen him too without me mentioning.

I never thought about what I imagine him to be like, but this prompt has me thinking that this man doesn’t really know that he’s so striking to people. He probably was a college student waiting for a friend – I don’t even think it would be a girlfriend, but just a platonic male friend. I like to imagine him quite stoic, maybe sort of a tsundere type (not just because he’s Japanese) – I imagine his beauty intimidates people but he’s very nice, just more reserved.

I feel like his looks might tempt people to put him on a pedestal, but I feel like he’s quite a normal person besides the devastating good looks he’s blessed with. I don’t like thinking that that angel man would be arrogant or a jerk, but that he’s almost unaware that he’s got the most perfect looks.

I can’t picture exactly what his face looked like anymore, but being able to recall that sense of awe of seeing what seemed to be an angel incarnate for only a second is quite amazing and proof that this stranger will stick out to me for a long time.

November 30, 2020

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

Today I was angry. A lot of the things I was upset about were out of my control but it put me in a funk all day. I’m still reeling after some heartbreak and finding out some details today just made me more frustrated as I felt cowardice from the other person, and finding out that the coronavirus likely is going to have my final week as a teacher be online and ruin my last meeting with my students definitely upset me more.

I tried to take a few naps to just keep my negative feelings at bay until I was at home and could deal with them on my own time, and danced out some frustrations even though my body wasn’t quite keeping up with the fast tempo of the choreography today. I ended up talking to a close friend and ranting about these things and crying a bit, which helped me feel less heavy. I know every reflection day isn’t going to be a happy one but this may be the first one I have felt where I just had this frustration sitting on me, and here I am being honest about it. 

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

It’s been a rough one – I’m not in the best mood, but there’s not a whole lot I can do to change the things that are upsetting me so I’m just trying to stay level-headed and calmly let myself feel things.

Question 3: If you had all the resources possible (time, money, motivation, etc), what are some things you would do or learn to do? Make a list.

I would love to:

  • Learn to play the guitar 
  • Learn to be GOOD at hiphop dance
  • Watch all the TV shows and movies I have been queueing to watch for years (also the youtube videos I have stored in my “watch later” section)
  • Learn how to cook complicated fancy food dishes but quickly and well like a chef!

December 31, 2020

Question 1: How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of 2020 and what caused you to feel that way?)

Today was weird. Having to go to school to be in a basically empty building, save for my coworkers, being at school knowing that I’m finished being a teacher was strange. I had been “working from home” for the days before and after Christmas, but I went to work today to have a coworker help me with bank stuff, which ended up being very stressful and confusing, and while I don’t normally feel anxiety, I felt so anxious at the bank that I thought I would burst into tears.

After making it out of that, I tried to be chill again despite more intrusions from a coworker trying to “fix” the bank situation when we really just need to find the right person to help, as well as another nosy coworker making comments about my acne – thanks for pointing it out… Anyways, I did find a silver lining as I got to leave early and got New Years Day off. I went home to take a nap and clean, and spent NYE with two friends just making food and goofing around. A sort of fitting end to a year where the weird twists and tests kept coming, but a lovely way to ring things in and hope that 2021 is much better. 

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

Eh, today was kinda rough. My coworkers were causing me a lot of anxiety but it ended up okay because I had a good night celebrating NYE with a couple good friends.

Question 3: This year has been the most consequential year of our lifetimes. What have you learned? What have you learned about yourself? About society? What do you hope to bring with you to 2021?

I’ve learned that I need to set more boundaries and to be okay with doing so. I have learned that even though I am pretty chill, it’s okay for me to draw a line somewhere and not feel bad about it. I’ve also learned that I tend to invalidate my own feelings because they don’t feel “strong enough” to warrant a reaction, as in like “oh, you can’t be mad/upset/sad because what happened to you isn’t bad enough – other people have it worse”, but I need to stop telling myself that. I feel like I’ve learned that society simultaneously cares a lot about others and that society doesn’t care about anyone but themselves, which is contradictory but also shows that I need to realize things aren’t always black and white all the time. 

I don’t have many concrete hopes for the new year but I hope that in 2021 I can make a smooth move back to America from Korea, find a job, and find my own place to live. Whatever happens beyond that for me is up to circumstance and we’ll see what happens. For the world at large, I hope that in 2021 we can go back to normal after the wake of corona. I know there’s like the “new normal” but I hope that we can get back to no masks and not fearing being out in public and being able to hug and be close again; I know that may be a bit quick to have all that be resolved in one year but that is my hope.