It’s Saturday, after my last day teaching at Chungdahm. I am now on a bus to Seoul where I will meet my Hawaiian friend Cody and my best Korean friend Yeojin for a farewell steak dinner. I can hardly believe it’s really over.
Earlier today I hardly felt anything. I almost left without saying a word today, ready to vanish like a ghost. But then I decided to go in and say a proper goodbye to Korean staff. There’s been a lot of animosity between foriegn and Korean staff in my time here, but lately they really have been trying to build bridges, and I thought it best to repay those efforts.
But it turns out just saying goodbye gave me just enough closure for more complex emotions to bubble to the surface. As soon as I started down the stairs I felt a lump in my throat. I had planned to taxi home, pick up my bags and rush to the bus station. But I decided to walk home and be alone with my thoughts.
It’s a good thing I did, I ended up crying half the walk home, I’m glad I didn’t subject some poor taxi driver to that show. I kept thinking, this is the last time I will…
…walk home from work
…see these ginko trees
…cross this intersection
…walk UP the stairs of my building
…walk IN the door of my apartment, etc…
Speaking honestly, this has probably been the best year of my life (maybe closely tied with my first stay in Korea, at Soonchunhyang University.) I will miss many specific people and places, but that alone does not explain my feelings right now. I’m sure I will find better places than jeonju in my travels, and the most important people I plan to keep in contact with. It’s the overall lifestyle I will miss.
Many people my age have lived way from home for a long time, and while I love my mom, this was my first taste of real independence. I’ve tried a lot of new things, and branched out socially in ways I’ve only heretofore imagined. I think more than sadness, what feel right now is fear – fear that I will regress to an earlier time in my life.
The time between my graduation and working in Korea was not all bad, it sure had its own highlights. But overall I will remember that time as a purgatory, a time when I felt stuck and frustrated. My time living and working in jeonju has been so spectacularly better than that, it’s scary to feel like I’m going backward.
But I think I’ve worked through some of these feelings on my walk home. I looked in the mirror before leaving …one last time. I saw there an older, more capable me than when I first looked in that same mirror. A funny thing about working with kids, it helped remind me of the adult that I’ve become. When I came I still felt like a lost child, but now, though badly perfect, I look into my eyes she feel I can basically trust myself to make my own decisions about life.
So now I’m staring out the bus window, watching the green hills of Korea roll past …for the last time. And I can finally turn my head toward the future, the next step in my journey,which awaits me somewhere in Thailand.