Ever since I can remember I can recall hearing people say, "I'm going to travel the world to find myself." Or something similar to that. And for a very long time, I believed that whole-heartedly. That if I could only get out of where I had always been, I would finally be able to figure out who I am. I said it to my friends. I said it to my family. Hell, I think I said it to more than one innocent grocery shopper at North Scott Foods. But more importantly, I said it to myself. Repeatedly.
But what I have begun to discover over the last four months is this: a new place doesn't change who you are, a new scene doesn't make you a better (or worse) person, and a new zip code doesn't guarantee a new identity. If anything, I think these last few months have reminded me of the person I have been all along. I still truly hate waking up in the morning. Korea has not changed that particular personality trait of mine. I still require more than a couple drinks to gather up the courage to karaoke. I still find time to go to the movie theater alone (Sunday afternoons seem to work out the best). I still listen to truly terrible pop music when I am by myself, no matter how much I deny deny deny it to my friends. I still sing out loud to myself at work. I am still terribly anti-social for at least three waking hours of everyday (What can I say? I really enjoy being alone). I still have the wackiest of dreams. A few nights ago, I had a "litter of puppies" Dream #2. If you don't know, please don't ask.
It wasn't that long ago that I really believed traveling to a new place could change me, fix me, reinvent me, or simply start me up. And in several ways, perhaps it already has. But to me, the word "change" implies a move or evolution from one thing to the next, and I don't think that suits me currently. Instead, I look to the word growth. Remember Eric from "True Blood"? He was a bad vampire who temporarily lost his memory, during which time he became a very very good vampire. When he got his memory back, he said he wasn't the old version of himself or the new version. He was simply more. My time here so far has been just that: an opportunity for me to be more than I was at home.
So I would like to revise the statement of "Travel to find yourself" to "Travel to REMIND yourself." I come from a beautiful place filled with beautiful people, all of whom I can credit as building blocks in the person I have become. I didn't come to South Korea to escape from any of them and in many ways, I've brought them with me. In a way, I guess maybe I have found myself. I found my old-self. I'd lost her in a haze of post-collegiate, recession-era dust. Once I found her, I introduced her to this Korean-living-Caitlin and we've been having the best two-person party ever.
"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."