2013 was a year of many changes. Looking back, I experienced a lot of things I couldn’t have dreamed of, and grew in ways I would never have imagined. I made a list of questions for myself in order to sort it all out.
What did I do? – I started the year still in Taiwan; fresh from my first semester of teaching. February saw me coming home for a short vacation. Summer brought my trip to Korea, summer camps, and the journey home. It also brought many painful good-byes to people I’d grown to love on the beautiful island. The end of summer arrived, heralding in a new era in my life. I moved in with my brother closer to school, and began my first semester at a real University. I joined the Korean Club, made a bunch of friends, Korean, Japanese, and American, found a church home, and fought my way through finals while the county lay under a sheet of ice.
What did I learn? – During my time in Taiwan, I learned that I could miss America, despite loving Asia with all my heart. I learned that I do best when I have a purpose; on my vacation home in February and now, still in Winter break, I find myself at a loss and unproductive, uncreative and unmotivated without something to work on. I found that courage comes in odd circumstances, fear in odder ones, and that both make for colorful memories. I learned how to take charge in unfamiliar surroundings, how to cope on my own in a foreign land, and how to get along with people when the going gets tough. I learned a lot about different personalities and how to love them and deal with them, I learned how to take criticism, how to give it lovingly, how to deal with culture clash in the workplace, and how to teach children. That was a big one. I learned how to live with a regular day job, getting up early, working overtime and between time, giving my best and smiling even on the bad days. I learned how to let go of cultural expectations and prejudices, how to accept all kinds of people and behaviors, and how to conduct myself when under scrutiny. Here, back home, I’ve begun learning how to cook regularly, how to plan meals and shopping, how to run a home, how to live independently, and how to overcome fears of the unknown. I’ve learned how to go out and make friends by being friendly. I’m trying to learn how to do things when I don’t want to, how to make myself exercise and stay healthy. I’m trying to learn how to take care of my body for the future, how to keep stress levels down, how to deal with failure and emotional distress. And even though there are many more things to learn, I can honestly say I’ve grown exponentially during the past year.
What specifically changed in my life? – I came home and moved, started going to school, and don’t have a job. Those are all new. I moved away from my best friend, but made new ones faster than I could have hoped. I found a church home, something I haven’t had in years. I am now in charge of my own behavior, my beliefs, and my choices. No more parents to filter what goes on and provide a steady backdrop of supervision. Just me now.
What dreams changed or were born? – I don’t know that I want to live in Korea forever now. At first, I did, but now I think I’d just like to spend a few years there, maybe five, and then move on. I’m not sure I want to raise children there. I still want to translate though. A new dream has been to work for or with LiNK – the North Korean refugee rescue organization. I also want to travel, WWOOFing, to the UK, Europe, and Scandinavia. That should be doable on my vacations whilst in Korea.
What was my biggest success? – I fluctuate between traveling to Korea alone, becoming a decent teacher in Taiwan, or doing well in my first semester at school. All three, then.
What was my biggest failure? – I think the thing I regret most is not learning more Chinese. It was THE best environment and situation for me to learn it, and I didn’t take advantage of it. I wish I had studied more, practiced more, and been able to test out of the beginning levels at school. Ah well.
How would I sum up 2013? – This could be the best year of my life, really. After the first semester, I felt at home in Taiwan and lived it up, I went to Korea, I moved out for real, started school, made amazing friends, and am well on my way to my dream life of teaching abroad. Honestly, I’ve had an amazing year, and I can only hope the next will be just as incredible.
How would you answer these questions?