I’m currently back in Korea for a few weeks. I’m sure that many of my readers weren’t even aware that I had left Korea since my posts have been a lot less frequent lately. I actually went back to Denmark in late September and have been there through the fall. Lot’s of things have happened and I thought it was time that I gave you an update of what I’ve been up to.
The first month back in Denmark was hell. I missed my life in Korea and I couldn’t come to terms with not having a job. Yes, I’m privileged and technically I don’t have to work but I want to. I’m a highly educated and competent person who needs to feel useful. Going to the library every morning to read books in Korean did not quite meet that goal. On top of that I was still struggling with my grief and I was inches away from a full-blown depression. That was until I started a new part-time gig as a Korean teacher in late October.
That’s right, I teach Korean now. Against all expectations I was hired to teach two evening classes in elementary Korean, and I think it’s safe to say that this part-time job saved me from spiralling into the all too familiar depths of depression. Through the fall, I have enjoyed teaching these classes two nights per week and I’m happy to say that my signups have doubled from January. It feels so thrilling to share my passion for Korean with other people who wish to learn this intricate language.
November marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic passing of my beloved friend and soulmate, Geonha. I know I rarely mention his name on my blog but lately I’ve had this urge to scream it from the rooftops. This incredibly wonderful person was a part of my life for three years and he made my Korean journey (and life journey for that matter) into what it is. I had dreaded that day for several weeks but found that when it eventually rolled around, I was able to face it with an inner calm and serenity that I had not expected. I still cannot believe that it’s been a year. It seems at the same time to be a week and and an eternity ago.
Not an hour goes by where I don’t think of him and miss him desperately. I carry him with me wherever I go and I especially have him with me when I’m teaching Korean. I can hear his voice in my head whenever I make a mistake and while I’d like to think that he’d be proud of me for what I’m doing, I know that he would point out at least five things I was doing wrong or could do better. “Let’s level up!” as he used to tell me. I used to be annoyed by his incessant criticism but now I don’t know what I’d give to have it back.
By December, I had worked myself into a new routine of teaching and preparing classes and my mood started to lift. That month also included a welcome getaway to Brussels and many fun evenings with my best girls including a few old friends I’ve recently been lucky enough to reconnect with. I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to my girls for standing by me and supporting me in this mess that I’ve found myself nose-deep in at times. Talking to you and unloading has been tremendously helpful and I especially want to thank you for generously sharing your own problems as well. When dealing with grief or stressful events we tend to become myopic, thinking that we’re the only ones in the world that suffer. We forget that others, though maybe not struggling with the same problem as we are, are fighting their own battles as well. Thank you for listening, sharing, being with me in the awkwardness that deep grief is. I love you!
I arrived in Seoul five days ago, and as usual when I land without being able to contact Geonha immediately, I struggle with loneliness in the beginning. Especially during the holidays, which he and I used to spend together while I was living in Korea. His family are kind and supportive but there can never be any substitute for what I lost. Today, on Christmas Eve, I went to his resting place in Paju, in the northernmost part of South Korea. I had a hard time forcing myself out the door this morning, because whenever I go it just breaks my heart and soul into pieces. At the same time I cannot not go. Grief can be impossibly difficult at times. Finally, by 10 am I was out the door and on the train to Geumchon station from where I’d take a cab to the memorial park where he’s resting. From my apartment it usually takes about 1.5 hours but today it took almost two hours due to train delays and traffic.
When I finally got there I first went into the East wing of the hall to buy a small bouquet to attach to his shelf. Then I headed to the west wing where he’s resting and carefully attached the flowers and a small handwritten postit note which I secured with a couple of stickers. I thought to myself how oddly familiar this process seemed to have gotten in just a year. There’s never much to do except stand and cry, so that’s what I usually do and today was no exception. It always attracts a great deal of attention from Korean mourners to see a white girl crying alone in a memorial hall but who cares?
I’ve come a long way during this past year but I’m still very much work in progress. I find myself crying less (which I’m not sure how I feel about because crying offered a sense of connection) and I’m once again able to feel excited about things. I’m changed forever, though. I’m simply no longer the same person I was before this happened. Nor will I ever be again. My trust in the universe has yet to be repaired, if that’s even possible and as a consequence, spells of anxiety and panic attacks are now a part of my life. And that’s okay because that’s the way it is.
Despite all of this, I still seek out new challenges and adventures. I’m here in Korea all alone for a few weeks now, and scary as it is, I know in my heart that whereever I go and whatever I do, Geonha is always with me.
Thank you all for being patient with me. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and hope that you can be with the ones you love this holiday season!