Official. It's a word I've been throwing around for months now with a smile and a shrug. "Oh yeah, I'm going to spend a year in Korea. No big deal." When I stumbled on the idea that I could teach and travel, it seemed too wonderfully adventurous to be true. Get paid? To travel and teach?
And yet, yesterday I picked up my visa, the last step after six months of arduous paperwork.
Me, elated but terrified on the elevator ride down:
So what am I inclined to say now? It's official. I have my plane ticket, my visa, my wardrobe, and everything else I won't be able to find in Korea for a year (plus some pencils/stickers for my students). I have approximately ten days to cram my life into two suitcases, and shove as much knowledge of the Korean language as I can into my memory. I can already tell my first few months aren't going to be overly eloquent in the way of linguistic exchange.
Whether I feel ready or not, it's almost time to travel 6500 miles in fourteen hours, and immerse myself in a culture very, very different from my own.
I quit my job at Chipotle over a month ago now, and I am more than ready to get back to work. I feel like I've been stuck in an interminable summer vacation that has long since lost its shine. But as official as everything is, I still can't believe it's happening. I think traveling is a tricky beast, in that it doesn't feel real until you're there. I've been blessed in my life to travel to a fair amount of places. I still feel completely unprepared, even though I've been to South Korea (and the town I'll be staying in) before.
It comes in waves, this knowledge of how strange my life is about to become. Sometimes I feel elated about it. After all, I've always been the type to get antsy after a few years of living in the same place. I like change, crave it the way I crave autumn after summer. I'm excited to actually be using my degree as well. So many people have told me stories of having to settle for jobs they didn't really want, or careers that led them away from their passion and/or what they studied in college. I love English, both language and literature. I've had fun during the few experiences I've had teaching. I basically won the lottery of jobs, as far as I'm concerned.
Sometimes though, I feel terror, heavy and dark in my stomach. I barely know a few words of the language, the culture barrier is intimidating, and I like my friends. It takes years to make the kind of relationships I'm lucky enough to have, and I'm terrified that it'll take less than a year to ruin them. Also I don't like being alone.
As a Gryffindor, a Leo, and extrovert, I prefer to have people around, people I can connect to. As crowded as South Korea is, I'm sure I'll get lonely. Even if I'm prepared. Even if I'm having the best time of my life. Even if I make wonderful friends there (which I totally plan to do). I have made minor preparations for that inevitability with my DVD collection: Lilo and Stitch. It's a movie that makes me feel happy whenever I watch it, and (added bonus) it's a crier, so I won't feel guilty bursting into tears in the middle of it! I'll also have pictures of all the fine, lovely people in my life. And a stuffed animal (it'll fit in my suitcase if it's the last thing I do). Music is probably going to be what saves me, in the end. As long as I have the perfect song to start my day, life is generally good.
This post wasn't meant to sound so pessimistic. I'm excited to travel. I want my life to be one big adventure. I want to learn new things and meet new people. This will be good. This will be wonderful and amazing, and yes, perhaps frustrating at times. But it will be good.