Another Day: Yin and Yang


Sometimes, I over-think. I look too deeply into the little things and sweat all the small stuff instead of just being able to enjoy the beauty of the world and ignore the ugliness; my mind constantly makes me feel the perfect global balance of yin and yang. I see the old man eating alone in his nice suit, walking drearily along in his old shoes. Then I see a little baby, chewing on a toy, happily being pushed by its pretty young mother. I know the deliciously amazing beef that furnishes me with energy and delights my taste buds used to be a living, breathing cow with soft black eyes. I smell the nasty, decaying vomit and trash filled sewer, making me scrunch my face into a grimace, and then walk past the row of Sunday church flowers invigorating my nostrils and letting me breathe a deeply satisfying floral breath. I dance for hours in a smoky, pulsing club staring at immaculately dressed and stunningly beautiful women. They are the powerful kind of exquisiteness. They possess keys to most superficial men’s hearts and dangle them just off the edge of the cliff, leading many to their lustful, metaphorical deaths each night. I walk outside and there is a girl hunched over herself, hair dangling limply on the sidewalk, sitting on a curb ten minutes from throwing up and thirty minutes from passing out on the chaotic streets of Itaewon. I walk past a row of lovely little creatures—dogs and cats, locked inside cages. Their innocent hearts craving attention and desirous of affection, they wait; their gentle eyes watching, but anticipating nothing as they wait. Perhaps they sit outside every Saturday, watching us pass, obliviously worrying about our daily issues and silly stresses as the time ticks away before they are returned to the silver lined boxes they call home at the shelter. The passersby all feel that brief, brilliant glimpse of rescuing one forgotten animal and bringing it home to sleep at your feet and mutually understand, without speaking, true love. Then, in the late after midnight hours, a scraggly cat walks confidently past me in an alley, not noticing my presence, content in his cage-less, house-less freedom. Not all animals need or even want human owners. The cherry blossoms bloom for a few short weeks in April each year. They enliven the cold streets of fading winter and fill the air with a sweet, rejuvenating scent of new life. Then, they fall, millions of footsteps crushing them into fragrant remnants. I’m confronted by the universal duality everyday. We’re forced to make attitudinal choices. There are some who are able to filter the entire world into a bright, happy, smiling, free-for-all of blissful joy. They may know pain and unhappiness, but it won’t change the fact that tomorrow will be better than today. Others are crushed by the depression and bleakness of consciousness. I lie in the middle, my Libra balancing act, loving my luck and opportunities to experience my moments while entirely aware of the fact that sorrow and grief exist, and nothing lasts forever.yinYang


A Return Home to Return Home

Living in a foreign country can have many feelings. There can be, in any conceivable array, a multitudinous collision of emotions: such as, boredom, freedom, homesickness, love, lust, excitement, desire, longing, scorn, derision, insight, resonance, horror, humor, confusion, or wonder. Some days, as 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 and it bears no repeating. 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 helping a tiny old lady in a fur vest and Hello Kitty pajama pants in a respectful manner, 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 the 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.