Living in a foreign country can have many feelings. There can be, in any conceivable array, a multitudinous collision of emotions: boredom, freedom, homesickness, love, lust, excitement, desire, longing, scorn, derision, insight, resonance, horror, humor, confusion, or wonder. Some days, anywhere or for anyone, are better than others. Some days are really transcendent.
Today I had a transcendent day.
Earlier in the week, I returned for a 2nd year at my small hagwon after a wonderfully relaxing and renewing month of reconnection with friends and family. I gave presents to all my coworkers and delighted in their excitement and joy to receive silly little gifts to show my appreciation for their helpfulness towards me in the previous year. 2011 was the hardest year of my life so far. Anyone who knows me knows why. But, it was also one of the most empowering years of my life too.
Here it is, 2013, a new year, starting fresh with good friends and great students. Friday came and went and I was back in my groove making kids laugh and having fun myself in the process. In one 3rd grade class we discussed if parents should always trust their children and if children should always take their parents advice. They said that parents don’t know anything, a typical adolescent response. I asked, “What if they said to look both ways before crossing the street?” They responded, “No, not good advice!” I then mimed what would happen if they didn’t look before crossing and a few of them literally fell out of their seats laughing. It felt great because these guys are a smart yet hard class to teach. We all had a fun hour together.
A successful school day behind me and so I went for a walkabout in my neighborhood as it was only a few degrees below freezing tonight as opposed to the frostbite inducing temps it had been the previous few days. I had a delicious dinner, found the Korean outlet adapters I needed, got a well-deserved hour massage, bought a new Wi-Fi router, some candles and of course a big bag of tangerines. But there was something in the air tonight. Everyone seemed so happy.
I saw a young vendor respectfully helping a tiny old lady in a fur vest and Hello Kitty pajama pants, a middle aged lady chopping random meat and smiling, calling out friendly greetings to passersby, beautiful Korean girls wrapped up in each others arms, cradled in their oversized scarves who gave me sidelong glances before darting their eyes away and giggling together. I saw steaming dishes of dumplings, fresh fruit piled to eye level, men carrying ruby red, palm sized strawberries in Styrofoam crates and breaking each other’s balls. I bought two perfectly seasoned egg stuffed corn breads for 1$. I walked and saw the same market I had been in so many times before in a new light.
I heard the same sounds and the same shoe clicks and the same bubbling pots and the same sad squid swimming listlessly in their aquariums of death. I saw the same bundled, wind-burned faces, the same discount shampoos scattered along the sidewalk in cardboard boxes, the same heated floor blankets, the same ubiquitous neon lights, but there was a distinct aura of joy mixed with contentment both inside and outside of me today. It left me wondering if what is inside of you will only naturally be manifested into the world around you wherever you are.
Maybe on those sour days when things are crummy, that’s the day you forget your change at the register or trip on the curb or see the world in the ugly light with which you are projecting. It seems that I meet more people nowadays that advocate this form of living positive and accentuating the good parts of your life. Sometimes it bothers me how they can purposefully ignore the rough spots, for true reality includes all kinds of emotions.
I am a self-confessed “hater,” which means I can hate on most any thing or any person I see. It’s not that I actually despise things or people; I just don’t like idiocy, hypocrisy or insipidness. However, upon self-reflection, and finding such things within your own sphere, (albeit in small doses) it’s time to try to clean that orb from the inside. This year I will attempt to acknowledge the good things in life, recognize and eliminate the negatives, and try to follow through in my only goal of life—to feel happy (thereby spreading happiness around, the trickle down theory of glee.) I know it’s impossible to feel blissful every moment of your life, but maybe it’s better to appear that way, focusing on the affirmative and perhaps existence will fool you into a good day.