November 30, 2020

*Note – Full versions of each contributor’s November 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 November and what caused you to feel that way?)


Paige [Korea] 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


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.

E [US] – Today was kind of a special day, for no special reason.

A Monday, I didn’t have any classes to teach, although I did help out for the first time in an upper-intermediate course with one of the teachers I don’t get to see very often.

My timesheet, of course stamped to the exact minute, shows that I worked for about 10 hours today on various prep and admin chores. Not the most exciting of things to work on, but certainly a good way to get my hours in.

There were two things that were exciting about today: the realization that our new cat was going to fit in just fine, and a surprise message from someone I’ve missed a whole lot in the time since I moved away from Korea. 

My photos from the day show what a mixed-bag it must’ve been. The pajama pants that I got as a bridesmaid gift from my sister-in-law over three years ago finally became too threadbare to wear– a huge hole ripped clear through the thigh of them made it impossible to continue wearing them with any sense of decency.

Maybe I should’ve had a little ceremony to send them off, they’d been a permanent fixture in my life for a while now and I knew I’d miss them the moment I threw them away, but I did it without care. Tossed them in the bag my boyfriend had used to scoop the cat litter and asked him to take it out of the house immediately so I wouldn’t change my mind.

It seems a little cruel, throwing away something so important to me in the worst of ways– literally in a plastic grocery bag filled with cat poop– but I knew it was the only way to release me from the sentimentality that normally takes hold over me. I’m sure working a long day didn’t help with my decision-making, and this just seemed like the shit icing on a cat shit cake (too much poop talk, yikes).

The turning point though, came in the form of a reply to a message I’d sent a few days prior– a photo of the Thanksgiving food we’d made for this year’s (small!) celebration– to my homestay mother in Korea. She replied today with a message that somehow made the day so much brighter. “Can you believe it? My son wanted a picture of our Thanksgiving meal three days ago for his homework. Showing other countries’ food. So we talked about the meal you made for us three years ago.”

That message, followed by a picture of a wonderful-looking thanksgiving meal (I originally thought that they had recreated my Thanksgiving dinner for them and complimented how great everything looked, only to realize later that it was just a picture of the meal I’d made them back then!!), completely made my day.

Even with the funny misunderstanding where I thought they had recreated our meal together, it meant so much to me that the kids still remember me and that my family still talks about me. I think about them all the time. Without their love and support, my time in Korea would’ve been nothing, I probably would’ve stayed a single year and stayed the same person I was at the start (not a terrible thing, but I’m certainly more pleased with the person I’ve become over the years I spent in Korea). A reminder that two years is not so short a time.

Something I’ve needed reminding about a lot recently, as I feel like I talk too much about Korea. I don’t think I ever can– two years spent living with my homestay family, eight months on my own. That was a huge portion of my life and there’s no logical reason that I should feel bad about talking about it, reflecting on it, reliving it– although, I must come to terms with the fact that if I move back, I will not be able to recreate the amazing experience that I had.

Side note — I also finished my novel for National Novel Writing Month two days early. The entire thing was memories of my time in Korea. I wrote nearly 50,000 words just about my first three months in the country.

NS [Chicago] ‘Tis the end of ‘No Shame November’.  Is that right?  Something sounds a little off, but I’ll stick with it. The 11th month of the year has come and gone just like the ten before it and I can definitively say that I feel like a different man. 

I’ve started to make habits that are good for me and decisions that I know will benefit me long term.  The rehabbing of my ankle is going well and all these 7am PT sessions are getting me out of bed earlier than my work from home lifestyle has been forcing me to.  My end of work day ab workouts have me feeling stronger each day, like I’m working toward the best version of myself.

Thinking about change and the future carries me through these testing moments of my career and these darkening winter months.  On the other side of all of this I’ll be ready for a new adventure and a path toward achieving the balance of work, life, and maintaining meaningful relationships that I’ve slowly been building up for years now.  

*This section will be an easter egg for future Nathan, but I’m also the closest I’ve ever been to finding someone I could legitimately envision spending the rest of my life with. And the crazy thing is that it doesn’t seem all that crazy to me. I’ve always thought that things happen for a reason, when they happen to happen.  Who would have thought that a byproduct of this unprecedented year of social distancing and giving each other space that I might come out on the other side with a strong relationship?  Just like you, I too will have to wait and see how this continues to unfold over the next few months, but I may quickly be finding a good reason to not leave Chicago at the end of my lease next summer.

Gigi [NYC] 

My first semester of grad school is beginning to wrap up! Finals are beginning, my load isn’t too bad – only 2 finals – but one in particular is a bit daunting with the scope of knowledge needed, plus it’s my first oral exam! The professors literally wrote ‘we are not bad guys looking to nail you’ in their description of the exam… well, that just makes me more nervous. 

My days are spent in the basement of the ‘Jordinstitutett’, or soil building, every day except on Sundays, to study. The walk there in the mornings is so lovely – the sun barely lifts above the horizon at this time of year in Norway, so it always looks like the morning/evening hours. This morning was especially lovely because there was a mist wrapped around the area that hadn’t lifted yet. Other days are not as nice, we have had almost all days with completely cloud cover and rain, so it doesn’t make me that sad to be indoors all day.

A [DC] November in some ways felt like the end of the year for me.

During the middle of November, I went back home to my parents house in Connecticut to spend the rest of the year with them to prevent travel, and general exposure of COVID-19. I had to make several goodbyes to good friends in D.C., as well as do my last slice of pizza at wise guys, last coffee from Compass, etc.

It felt really odd to leave my apartment, and city, so early in the year. About 6 weeks earlier than usual.

While leaving and saying goodbye prematurely was difficult, it also was the closure I needed to finish up the rest of the year. I was looking forward to spending an extended amount of time with my parents. Such a rare opportunity these days.

I haven’t been keeping up with this journaling assignment as frequently as I should, but, I’ve noticed that I in some sense have been journaling through using my Passion Planner. There, I’m able to see how I budget time during my day/week/month. It helps me prioritize the things that matter most. In looking at how I spent my time in November, it felt very overwhelming as I had a few very important decisions to make.

Up until the middle of the month, I was spending a large majority of my time getting my business school applications in place. But being home – in Connecticut – made me realize that I could afford another year to gather more intel, and more time, to help me figure out how I’m going to leverage my business degree. I also decided to take another year to pull up my standardized test score, so I made the difficult decision of pivoting from the GMAT to the GRE.

K [Korea]

November came and went like a quiet storm.

I took a lot of hits honestly, but at the same time, I felt no strong emotions about it, merely dull sadness and disappointment. This may seem a bit of a bleak way to start this out, but I don’t think I should sugarcoat it.

I was rejected from 2 fellowships, I failed to get the “low advanced” score on my Korean language proficiency test by 2.6% despite this being far from the first attempt. My midterm grades, while not bad, were right in between good and disappointing.

Towards the end of the month I found myself wondering about my ability to produce good work, and despite all the buzz posts about giving yourself a break during the pandemic, I find myself unable to swallow my poor productivity as of late. I am in graduate school, I am interested in the topics I’m studying, so I have to question what exactly is wrong. Of course in-person classes would be a major motivator, but my disappointment most likely stems from the fact that I don’t think I should have to rely on extrinsic motivations to perform well.

All that being said, I have merely 3 weeks left of the semester. I will be happy to be finished, and I hope I can perform well, but I’m also concerned about what to do for the 10 weeks following my last deadline.

COVID, though comparatively good compared to much of the world, is resurging in South Korea. I’m not confident in the current measures to keep the numbers down as they are not entirely meaningful or logical guidelines and rules, and the general air of relaxation by the public at large continues unabated.

I do understand the fatigue, but as a result I’ve been spending time in the countryside of Gumi rather than in the densely packed city of Seoul where I technically have an apartment. I’m usually a very sociable person, so not seeing my friends and not traveling has been tough. No longer having a regular workday with things as simple as a work computer and desk have de-structured my life in ways that don’t foster productivity. Even this writing is a little late.

Things I need to keep in focus are not letting my sour attitude affect my relationships, making time to throw away my phone and focus solely on writing, and reaching out to those I love to stay connected and check in on their well-being.

Reflection Prompt 2:

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

Paige [Korea] 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.

E [US] I got a wonderful surprise message from my homestay mom today, just letting me know that they were still thinking of me and still remembered me. She told me, “two years is not short. Still my kids miss you. Hyun and I, too”. Sometimes I think I don’t give myself enough credit or realize the importance of the relationships that I’ve formed. I should make more of an effort to reach out and be a good friend to all the people I’ve cared about throughout the years.

NS [Chicago] Dear stranger, here’s a poem to describe the warmth I’ve felt recently when thinking about a certain someone.  

I woke up today remembering my dream, somewhat of a strange one.

Stranger yet that I roll over and can share it with you, unexpectedly right there.

It’s early and the sleepies are blinding my right eye, but 

I still see the outline of your face, accented by your dark facial hair.

And I can’t help but smile wondering how we got here.

Then you open your eyes and smile back and there’s no way I’ll ever fall

Back asleep when you’ve got my heart racing like this.

A [DC] I was a hot mess and did the best I could have done. Sure, it wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the month, I was proud of the decisions I made for myself.

Gigi [NYC] I’m alright! Nervous about finals, of course, but I’m going to try as best I can. Plus Trump is getting kicked OUT so there is much to celebrate!!! My American roommate and I screamed when we found out the news!

K [Korea] Today has been relatively uneventful. It’s been a tough month, things haven’t really been going my way, despite putting a decent amount of work into them. I also had help preparing those things so in some way I feel like my failure hasn’t only been disappointing to me but has let others down. I know they don’t feel that way, but it’s tough to swallow all the same.

This is my first semester of graduate school and I want to prove how passionate I am about international relations, form good friendships and networks, and not waste my time here, but it’s been really tough during COVID to accomplish all of that. 

Reflection Prompt 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.

Paige [Korea]

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!

E [US] – Oh, what WOULDN’T I do? 

  1. Become a trained sushi chef
  2. Become a dive master
  3. Become a trained sky diving instructor
  4. Learn all the languages I could absorb and live in all those countries for at least a year
  5. Donate more to charity, partake more in social activism
  6. Learn how to code
  7. Study art and practice the styles I studied
  8. Do a lot more arts and crafts
  9. Make my own clothes
  10. Make my own everything
  11. Write and publish my novels
  12. Edit my novels….
  13. Play all the video games that I have in my list of “games to play”
  14. Read all the books in my list of “books to read”
  15. Watch all the movies in my list of “movies to watch”
  16. Start my own cafe / animal shelter
  17. Learn a trade, like woodworking or welding
  18. Learn to work with metal for jewelry and other stuff
  19. Fix every broken thing in my apartment (computer, bathtub, couch)
  20. Try out a silly new hobby every month (crochet, wine tasting, salsa dancing)
  21. Go to therapy as often as possible 
  22. Get all my medical problems taken care of 
  23. Visit all my friends and family, or invite all of them to come stay for a few weeks at a time at some luxurious resort where we could really just relax and get to know each other 
  24. Set up a fund so that the people I care about would be taken care of, no matter what happens
  25. Take more pictures and videos than I’ve ever taken before, even of the moments that don’t seem important 
  26. Go back to university and get master’s degrees in every single subject that interests me
  27. Offer free English classes to immigrants and refugees 
  28. Get trained as an emergency responder for medical and mental health emergencies 
  29. Spend more time with my partner 
  30. Write more

NS [Chicago] Jared Diamond taught me that resources are what make the world go around and can either make or break a civilization.  When you boil it all down to all the intricate little ways that life plays out for an individual person, we have to account for times in our lives when resources (in some capacity) are scarce.  However, if I had unlimited resources in terms of money, TIME, and opportunity, these are some of the things that I would do.

  • Go back and re-learn all of my Spanish and Korean grammar and vocabulary
  • Then talk sexy in multiple languages
  • Write monthly letters to my favorite people around the world
  • Travel abroad to visit friends in countries like Spain, Korea, the UK, and Colombia
  • Run and play tennis or do an ab workout every single day
  • Cook a new recipe every other day
  • Build my own furniture (bookshelves or a coffee table)
  • Record music to upload on a regular basis
  • Write a book and really develop the plot in ways that can only come from deep deep thought 
  • Create little art project books for friends and family
  • Undertake the writing projects I started with friends and feed off each other’s creativity
  • Take cooking classes and impress the instructor
  • Spend more time learning how to invest and manage my money
  • Journal every day
  • Learn and improve at a new sport
  • Play in intramural sports leagues and satisfy my competitive hunger
  • Explore the city with friends and/or boo thang

A [DC] That is a great question! I’ll start off with the ones that immediately come to mind:

  • Launch my own non-profit (I’m in the process of doing but it would obviously be off the ground sooner if I was able to dedicate all of my time to it)
  • Travel to places I’ve never been to & want to go to (Japan, Iceland, Mongolia)
  • Travel back to places with people that I miss (Copenhagen, Halifax)
  • Own multiple properties – like maybe a summer house? Would be nice to have a place to escape to.
  • A horse of my own! This is my childhood dream that is still very much a dream of mine. 🙂
  • I’m pretty good to ice skating, so I would love to learn how to in-line skate! 
  • Dedicate more time to the nonprofits I volunteer my skills & time with (Achilles, Girls on the Run, Compass Pro Bono, Suited for Change.)
  • Learn how to become a really great baker

Gigi [NYC]

Oh, wow, there is so much I would do if I had the time and comfort of money!

  1. Become fluent in Spanish and Norwegian, possibly more languages, they’re so beautiful. 
  2. Develop my skills as a pyrographer (wood-burner) and paint more. 
  3. (Really) learn to play the ukelele
  4. Delve deep into the world of different spiritualities and spiritual practices, exploring as many cultures’ beliefs and practices as possible.
  5. Volunteer more, like, way more, especially at food banks and animal shelters. 
  6. Hike and hike and hike as many trails as I could get my feet on. 
  7. Learn to scuba dive! That would be a thrilling challenge for me since I get nervous in open water!
  8. Camp more, anywhere and everywhere.

K [Korea] Number one is learn every language I can. This is a tough call to make when you lack money, have limited time on Earth, and don’t have access to good teachers, but if all of those restraints are removed I would love to be able to master as many languages as possible. I always find I am learning more about my own language when I study others, and the genuine joy others express when we can communicate is always uplifting.

It would also make travel so much easier, and I think learning about other cultures as you study their language is a great way to build a more globalized and fruitful world for everyone. That may sound cheesy, but I truly believe if everyone had to learn three other languages from different regions of the world, the world would be a far better place.

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







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