Can we ever really go back? According to Heraclitus, a person can never step in the same river twice. No matter how cherished or how yearned for, once a time in our lives has passed, it has gone forever. Everything is in a state of constant flux, and we can only ever move forward. Perhaps this sounds self-evident. Sometimes, however, it can be a hard lesson to learn. In my case, it took direct and painful experience for me to begin to truly understand it.
Moving to Korea for the first time was a charmed experience. I arrived with a clear expectation that I would struggle with fee-lings of culture shock and dislocation. For weeks, I waited for these feelings to descend upon me. Instead, things fell into place in my new life here with disconcerting ease. My hagwon boss was kind and treated me fairly, my young students were fun and rewarding to teach, and my new roommates quickly started to feel like family. Some aspects of navigating life in a brand-new country where I didn't speak the language were certainly stressful and confusing. But these were minor frustrations, and overall, I felt as if someone had laid a plush and welcoming carpet in front of me, one that continued smoothly unrolling with every step I took.
I had come to Korea in search of adventure and insight into new ways of life. I wanted to find out whether teaching would be a satisfying career path for me. For several months, I had been thinking of teaching in Japan. Then one day, when I was looking at job ads in my local newspaper, I noticed an ad that had been placed by a Korean recrui-ter. I remember feeling taken aback. Korea? I had been so focused on Japan that I had never given any thought to teaching in Korea. But something nudged me to respond to this ad, and I went to meet the recruiter the following evening. By the end of the week, I had signed a contract to begin teaching six weeks later at an academy in Ilsan.
I knew almost nothing about Korea. After committing to moving to Korea, I began to do some research, and I was surprised to learn that it snowed here. I had spent seven years of my childhood living in Southeast Asia, and when I thought of Asia, I thought instantly of heat, humidity, and lush tropical foliage. I had never lived anywhere that it snowed, either in Southeast Asia or in New Zealand, and imagining another Asia, one that included cherry blossoms, bright autumn leaves, and flurrying snow, made Korea seem even more exotic to me than it had before.
So I moved to Korea, and the exotic gra-dually became familiar. I discovered that I loved teaching and living in Korea. After a year and a half, I accepted a university position in Seoul. Five years later, another move to a university in Cheonan followed. The year I had planned to spend teaching in Korea quietly turned into ten. Along the way, I taught a lot of great students and made a lot of close friends. My life in Korea grew into something so rich and fulfilling, it was difficult for me to imagine another life for myself beyond it.
However, during those ten years, I also fell in love. John was the cousin of my roommate in Seoul. I met him one winter when I was spending Christmas with my roommate's family in America. We spent only two days together, but we felt such a strong connection that we started emailing each other after I returned to Seoul, and within a few months, we had fallen deeply in love. I suspect that most of our family and friends thought we were crazy to embark on such an extreme long-distance relationship, but we made it work for five years. Even-tually, I moved to Texas so we could bring our lives together as husband and wife.
Moving to Texas was the right thing for my relationship with John. It felt incredible to finally live together after five years of measuring our time together in spans of weeks. But the pain of leaving my life in Korea continued to linger. I taught English at a com- < 저작권자 © 원대신문 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >