Sometimes I really think about my life, where I have been, and where I am going. If you would have asked me five years ago where I saw myself at the age of 25, I probably would have told you living in Washington D.C., working for a Non-profit, and being completely "in" with anything and everything "political". Now, at 25, I can tell you that I live in Seoul, South Korea, I have been an English teacher for the past 2.5 years, I have traveled to places most people only read about, and I am in the midst of starting a new career as a "writer" for ESL (English as a second language) books, programs, and supplemental materials.
Some days I still wonder why I did not go to law school, or why I earned a Master of Arts degree in Political Science, and even why I have lived in Korea for the past 3 years. The reasons I came to Korea and the reasons why I have stayed are completely different. I originally came because I feared that I would never get a job, and I was hungry to make a real "pay-check" that didn't involve asking "Paper or Plastic?" or "Would you like to biggie-size that?" However, I have stayed for the experience, the chance to travel, and the opportunity to explore this idea of "Who Am I?"
I see myself as a changed person in so many ways, and some days I wonder whether these changes have been positive or negative. I am happy to say that I am a more active person, although I am still lazy when it comes to exercise. However, I am thirty-five lbs. lighter than I was when I moved to Korea in the summer of 2007. Overall, I think I am a stronger and more confident "me". Although I still doubt myself and my capabilities at times, I take pride in everything that I do and set out to do. I still set goals, both long and short term, and achieve them. I still struggle with saving money, even though I have made progress toward building up a savings account and paying off my student loans. If anything, my time in Korea has taught me that I am not willing to settle for just "anything". I want to be enriched in culture, to experience new things, to be challenged, to be immersed with genuine and caring people. I think while I have been here I realized that I am an adult, and I have to make decisions that are best for me. I have to care less about what others think and at the end of the day worry about me.
I feel privileged and lucky for the experiences that I have had while living in Korea. Even though some days I wanted to rip my hair out, jump back on the first plane to the U.S., and scream in the face of ignorant people, I would not change this experience at all. Aside from all the inner changes I have made as a person, I have lived life and done some pretty extraordinary things. In the past three years, I have: bungee jumped from a bridge 100 meters above a river, ice-fished with my bare hands, learned to rock-climb and propel backwards down a mountain, climbed to the peak of several mountains and to the top of an inactive Volcano, lived life as a Buddhist for a weekend, and stepped foot into North Korea. I have cliff-jumped, snorkeled, and rode elephants in Thailand. Climbed through small tunnels used during the Vietnam War, rode a boat on the Mekong Delta, and experienced my first jelly fish sting on the beaches of Vietnam. I have para sailed, explored the jungle, and walked on a canopy on top of the trees in Malaysia. I pretended to be Lara Croft Tomb Raider as I braved the country of Cambodia alone. I climbed to the top of shrines, tombs, and ruins as I pondered life in Cambodia. I saw amazing futuristic cities like Shanghai, China and Hong Kong. I climbed to the top of the Tokyo Tower, ate sushi like Japanese, and drank the best tea of my life in Tokyo, Japan. I've run around Taipei, Taiwan and rode the fastest elevator to the top of the World's Largest Building. I went to Beijing, where I hiked the Great Wall of China on my 24th birthday. My latest trip included eating pumpkin soup and checking out the best art exhibits in Amsterdam, sipping wine and ringing in 2010 in France, and enjoying delicious German food and European architecture in Cologne, Germany.
In 8 weeks I am going to jump, full force, back into living in the U.S. I am sure that it is going to take some time to adjust; however, I hope that I can make my new life in Seattle as comfortable as the one I have lived here. I am excited to be closer to my family and friends, and I am looking forward to having visitors all the time.