I’m going to be honest. I have not wanted to write this post. This year has been long and awful and I’m ready to blast it off into space like Team Rocket in almost every episode of Pokemon. (only without its return.)
This year has felt sluggish, like I’ve spent most of it trying to drag myself out of quicksand only to find myself falling face first into a different type of pool. But this is tradition and I’m hoping by the end of this I can be like: Oh, right, this year wasn’t totally awful. But there’s also some things that all the good, all the fun, and perseverance in the world doesn’t fully negate. At the very least, I’ve survived it. I’ve survived an awful, no-good, nasty year and I can only hope that I meet next year with more prepared and less likely to get sucker punched.
I don’t have any real fun pictures of January. January found me cancelling my tickets to New Zealand and grateful for the first time in my life I’d bought travel insurance. I flew home and I got to see a lot of family, but I also spent a ton of time in the hospital with my dad. Essentially any time I could be there I was.
The start of February still found me in the hospital back home spending time with my dad and family. Tensions were high as was stress. But I’m glad I got to spend time with him. I ate a lot of Subway in the hospital and listened to a lot of My Brother My Brother and Me and Adventure Zone to take my brain off of everything. My dad’s okay, but I re-learned that I’m not someone who can handle medical stuff and found myself having to go out in the waiting room and rest until I no longer felt faint.
After I returned to Korea, assured my dad was good I continued on with my busy winter schedule. First heading toward Gangneung to check out the olympics. It felt like a dream come true to be able to watch figure skating in person. It’s something I always enjoyed watching with my grandmother and great-grandmother. Shortly after I headed with a friend to Malaysia where we had a whirlwind trip visiting the Cameron Highlands, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. There were scary moments like getting trapped on a Jetty in the midst of a thunder storm but it was also an amazing adventure.
March was a month of recovery. I did a lot of travel sort of back to back to back in February. March is also the start of the school year in South Korea so it meant a lot of teacher’s dinners and getting to meet new coworkers. I re-signed my contract for my 4th year and attended one of the many Korvia parties.
April was another pretty chill month. I went to Nami island with a visiting friend to view the cherry blossoms and wrote a guide about Chicago for Aaron’s blog.
In May I went to Gwangju for the first time, just as a go between place for the Hampyeong Butterfly festival. It was beautiful but raining and a little difficult to navigate. This was also the month where one of my favorite coworkers went on maternity leave. I also had a couple opportunities to meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile and visit a very cool art festival.
In June I learned that my mother was dying of lung cancer. She was given 6 months to a year to live so I hurried home, (though not as quickly as I wish I had) but figured I’d be back over summer for a longer visit. I didn’t make it in time to say goodbye or to say anything. Our whole family was in shock. I learned she passed away after the doors to my Korean Air flight closed and we pulled away from the gate. It was a long and awful flight, I didn’t sleep at all. I wasn’t home very long, just long enough to see people, sign paper work, write an obituary, and then turn around and head back, miss my flight, and then spend over 13 hours at another airport waiting for my next flight.
July kicked off my busy summer, mostly spent breathing in sea air and seeing how many different parts of the ocean I could dip my feet into.
First was the highly anticipated trip to Ulleungdo and Dokdo that had all of my coworkers, students and even my bosses were really excited for. It was awesome, exhausting, too hot and super buggy but I met a ton of awesome people and it was such a fun trip. It’s not easy to get to either island so it feels like I marked a huge thing off my bucket list.
After the trip I went on a school teachers trip to Gangneung. Teacher’s trips can be hit or misses but usually decent experiences and a good bonding opportunity to have with my coworkers. This one however knocked it out of the park. When the planned meals weren’t something I could eat or was fond of my coworkers made sure that there was food I could eat, even if it meant I was eating a burger in a sashimi restaurant. We also visited a coffee museum, walked along the beach and learned how to play curling which is probably in the top for favorite things I did this year.
Also I finished my internship with Korvia.
I had my first family visitors come in August. My aunt and uncle on my mother’s side. It was a very cathartic trip. I’d dreamed of traveling with them every since I was little. They were always jetting off to some country with their children and I always had wanted to join them. We talked about my mother a lot and I learned that the way I imagined my aunt and uncle to travel was not reality. It was a bit jarring, I mean you can only realize you’ve lost your uncle in a foreign country when he doesn’t have money, phone or map on him so often only for him to find his way back or where you’re going before you realize that it’ll be okay. We visited Jeju, Hiroshima and Kyoto. It was a busy, exhausting and stressful but highly rewarding trip that I wouldn’t change for the world. Childhood dream achieved.
September is one of the times of year where people leave. It’s the time where I say goodbye to friends who head home or off on new adventures somewhere else. It’s a bittersweet month of goodbyes. It’s also the month where after my feet were hurting for a little bit that I learned somehow I had managed to crush a bone in my foot…in the foot that wasn’t hurting. I nearly fainted. I’d never broken anything before and I really really am not good with medical things. Shortly after learning this I went with my students to a traditional village on a field trip, which I hadn’t had an opportunity to do in a long time. Despite the pain in my foot and being utterly lost about where I was going or what it was that we were doing I had fun.
This month also brought Chuseok where I returned to Japan, a trip I’d planned early in the year with a friend who bailed on me in June. It’d been planned as a short trip which I’d been a bit stressed about. But I managed to fit most of everything I wanted to do, including an attempt at Disney bounding as Captain Hook for an exhausting and fun trip at Disney Sea. (Posts about this trip and everything beyond this point coming soon)
This is usually my favorite month. I love fall and by this time it finally started cooling off. The leaves started changing, the dust level got lower, and Halloween was on its way. I booked a trip to Gwangju which I had only spent the night at in May. I planned a lot of things and tried to take it slow, though ended up walking a lot more than planned and had very roller coaster emotional time at the art festival. I also visited the Jarasum Jazz festival and enjoyed some Halloween festivities, including hosting Halloween parties for all of my students and those that weren’t mine, including the middle school and kindergarten. I was essentially the pumpkin queen; a lie on the floor too stressed but festive pumpkin queen.
In November I realized much to my own panic that it was time to go. After four years of teaching at my school it was time to pack up my bags and move away. I had planned to leave at the beginning of the year but when I talked to coworkers some expected or just assumed I’d stay and I thought…well maybe. I was comfortable and leaving just seemed like a ton of work. But by November I was just so tired. I’d been traveling to Bundang every weekend due to a ear infection. (I don’t get sick often and it has cleared up at this point but this was just a miserable time.) I realized I needed a change, the cons were outweighing the pros, which meant trying to organize some paperwork and start figuring out what I needed to do in order to move and change schools.
This month I told most of my students I was leaving. All but my branch students who I’ll see for the final time later this week. (First week of January) I interviewed and got a job in a city closer to Seoul, made a ton of cookies (snicker-doodle and gingerbread, there’s some sugar cookie dough in the fridge right now). I decided to meet up with new people where I made new friends and got to visit a lot of new places. I threw a couple Christmas parties with my students and started playing board games with the middle school English teacher and guidance counselor. It’s gone by quickly, much to my own horror as the countdown till I move speeds towards me.
This year felt insanely long. The fact that I attended the Olympics and went to Malaysia feels like they happened years ago. If I had to pick a word for this year it’d probably just be “exhausted“. Exhausted emotionally, having two family medical emergencies in one year was too much, one of my professors who shaped my understanding of media and how we consume it who I was fond of also passed away this year as did a classmate who I befriended right at the beginning of my journey in Chicago. Exhausted physically from running to various doctors throughout the year during my free time for various odd things. Exhausted mentally from stress. Just exhausted in general. It felt like a year where every time I felt like I started to recover from some thing a new problem or hurdle appeared. However this doesn’t mean I had a 1000% miserable year. I just hope it toughened me up a bit. I started baking again which I haven’t done in awhile and greatly missed. I read more books than expected, destroying my reading goal on Goodreads. (Mostly because I decided awhile ago to donate all physical copies of books to the school library for students wanting to challenge themselves and for future English teachers) I’ve watched a ridiculous amount of TV, nearly caught up with all of My Brother My Brother and Me and have worked on studying Korean with the middle school English teacher.
Normally I don’t do resolutions. The need to accomplish them or something tends to stress me out, especially later in the year, but I feel like having goals this year helped me drag myself out of ruts. But I’m going to leave a note for future me, when I look back at this next year: Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t accomplish all of these. To be honest some of this is more or less a to-do list.
- Bake more. Cook more. I’ve missed cooking. I’ve missed baking. I bought a slow cooker with the hope of making more things at home. When I move I’ll have access to E-marts and Homepluses so hopefully I’ll be able to meal plan and actually try to eat a more balanced and healthy diet. (Let’s be real, my diet has been subpar)
- Catch up with My Brother My Brother and Me. I started from the beginning and have slowly been working my way back, but due to my commute and often trips to Seoul/Bundang I’ve been moving a bit faster through their episodes. (Currently 361/439, less than 100 left!) Also Adventure Zone because while listening to MBMBAM I’ve fallen behind…and Welcome to Night Vale…essentially catch up on all the podcasts I listen to.
- Move. This is essentially not an option at this point, it’s happening no matter what. But it feels important. It’s time for a change. It’s time to have a new place to explore, to try new things, find new local haunts, cafes to try and restaurants to enjoy. Maybe there will be festivals and fun things to do. Plus a new school to get use to, with new coworkers to get to know as well as students to teach.
- Don’t feel guilty or regret moving. A change is needed.
- Finish editing and organizing my novel. Every time I attempted this in 2018 something came up and I’d get lost and have to restart at the beginning.
- Travel to:
- Hong Kong
- Japan- Okinawa
- go home (attend that important wedding, maybe have Mother’s funeral)
- Finish reading all the physical books I have at the moment. (A Series of Unfortunate Events final three books, Rumors by Anna Godbersen, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.)
- Be in the moment more. Take time more often to turn off anything with a screen, go out and spend time with friends or just enjoying nature.
- Call home at least once a week.
- learn something new
How was your year? What are some things you’re proud of from this year? Read any good books, listen to some fun podcasts or watch something you loved?
Happy New Year! May 2019 be better or at least may we be more prepared and strong enough to fight back or get up when it knocks us down!