Have you ever spent your entire life dreaming of something, only to wake up one day and realize you don't want it any more?
It started with a question I asked myself while I was walking the track behind City Hall. Americans will probably draw of images of a track at their high school or maybe a city park. This one isn't that large, more suited to walking than running. But it's nice with a lovely bunch of trees and birds. I will often go walking there before work. I'll do this until they start piping in the classical music.
I happen to love classical music. I even play the cello, but sometimes it feels like you can't escape the busyness. Sometimes I just want nothing. On days like that, I wrap my headphones around my MP3 player and stick it my pocket. Sometimes I'll carry a tenis ball, bouncing it as I walk. I think all the time -- ideas, ideas. And sometimes I get so much up inside my head I can't stand it. I need stillness.
Out of this stillness came the question. It just popped into my head. What am I going to do now? I stopped dead in my tracks, forcing an 아줌마 (adjuma) to power walk around me. Adjuma's are Koran women of a certain age. In Korean society they are all powerful. I've seen many an adjuma walk across the middle of a four lane road, halting traffic as though that's the way it should be. Adjumas hustle about, elbows cocked and loaded, ready to nail you in the side if, heaven forbid, you get in their way. A 할머니 (grandmother) sitting on a bench gasped at my impropriety.
And to make matters worse, I didn't even ask myself the right question. It should have been, "What comes next?"
I made a bid decision this spring. I decided to stay in Korea for another year. I decided to stay because I love my job. I decided to stay because I've sold just enough stories to think I might have a chance at going somewhere with my writing. I decided to stay because deep down I don't know if I really want to come back to America. For a short time sure, but in the long run? I don't know. I would like to meet someone and start a family. But I don't I want the part about living in one place for the rest of my life. My job-- it started out as a job and now looks to be my career-- gives me the opportunity to work in any number of countries.
Here's the other thing. I am by no means rich. Back home my paycheck would amount to 18,000 a year. Not a lot of money. Yet, I've been able to travel the world, I have a nice savings account even by American standards and I put about two grand away in pension a year.
The Korean pension scheme is very different. You pay in about 6% of your income a year. But it's only really 3% because your employer must pay the other half. When you retire you get a lump sum plus interest. When I finally do leave Korea, it'll be like retiring. I'll get a refund for what I paid in. A good fried of mine gasped when I told her about how much that would be She's worked the same job for 30 years. Her pension is little more than double mine. The difference is, it only took me four years to earn it.
I love my country. I do. Sometimes, I want nothing more than to go home. The problem is, America is so damned expensive. I wouldn't have believed this when I was living stateside. But I know it, now.
I'm evolving. My future plans are evolving. This is a lot harder than it sounds. I have to let go of things I thought I wanted. Things that I thought I came to Korea to get. I've had a plan since I was about sixteen years old. Things got in the way. I overcame them. Now, when nothing stands in my way, I find the plan is what I want anymore.
Do you have a similar story? Please share it. In the notes or email me.
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).