More often than not in my life, I over-analyze and over-complicate all my big decisions. Choosing a college felt like "Sophie's Choice". Going to England seemed like it could turn into "Taken" in a quick second and finally getting it together to come to Korea was like "Zero Dark Thirty"- just pull the trigger already. I'm THAT girl, the girl that avoids, dodges, and ignores until I absolutely can't any longer. So once again, I found myself with a big decision to make, and once again, I turned into a character in an Avril Lavigne song and made things really "Complicated."
The director of my Hagwon asked me to stay for a second year in Korea. He gave me a week to decide, which I then morphed into a month and a half long decision-making process in which I intimately scrutinized every single option I had in front of me. I probably annoyed the heck out of my foreign teacher co-workers, as I thought through everything out loud pretty much every waking moment for several weeks.
During those weeks, as I attempted to decide, so much happened in my little corner of Korea. The end of February is a very busy time for foreigners all over Korea, because this is the time of the year when most foreigners are coming and going to and from Korea. Many teaching contracts coincide with the Korean school calendar, in which a new academic year begins March 1. So as I was trying to decide to stay, most of the close friends I had made in Korea were packing their bags and preparing to return to the west.
So I tried to make the most of the last few weeks my friends would be in Gwangju with me. I travelled a bit around Korea. One Saturday, my Korean friend Tae-Sang invited me and my friends David and Pascale along on a day trip to Damyang. It is about an hour north of Gwangju and is the location of the most beautiful bamboo forest in Korea. We spent the day walking through the forest and then ended the evening by hiking up Mudeung Mountain and watching the sun set over Gwangju. It was perhaps my most memorable evening in Korea. The following weekend I visited Suncheon. Suncheon is a city famous for its bay area. It is one of the most preserved ecological sites in Korea, and a top site in the world for the rare birds it attracts. Along with my friends Hannah and Pascale, we walked around the bay area and also checkout at a traditional Korea folk village.
Most nights, we would find ourselves back at Kino, the little basement bar filled to the brim with western records. Our favorite bar owner in the city soon discovered that many of the teachers would be leaving soon, meaning tequila was on the house. One memorable evening, I was there until 6 in the morning as my friend played the guitar and six or seven of us sat around listening, soaking in one of the last Saturday nights we would have together.
But before I knew it, the end of February was here. It was time for my friends to leave and time for me to make a decision. As they were leaving, I saw on many of their faces how much Korea had meant to them, and how much they were going to miss it. And suddenly everything that I had made complicated and messy seemed really simple and easy. Did I like my life in Korea? Oh of course, I loved it. Had I met great friends already in these past eight months? Absolutely, friendships that I am positive will be life long. Did I enjoy my life at my hagwon? Some days, no, but most days, a solid yes. Pretty standard with any job you have. And when I thought about my life and what lies ahead of me, I think the path I am currently on seems to be serving me well. I had once again complicated a really simple issue. Do what you love, love where you are, and love the people you are with. All of those things I had, so why would I want to leave?
So the last few weeks have been bittersweet, and I will cling to that cliché word. They were bitter in the saddest sense, because I had to say goodbye to some terribly terrific people. Tears were shed, hugs were shared, and a chapter was closed. But meanwhile they were also the sweetest days in Korea. New teachers have arrived and brought with them a sense of novelty. In the training process of the newbies, a few of us have been able to rediscover those same feelings we experienced upon our arrival. There is that just-off-the-boat glitter in their eyes as they see everything for the first time; it is like when a kitten first discovers a mirror. It has no idea what is happening, it will probably bump its head a few times, and is convinced the mirror possesses some type of magical component. Eventually they will realize it is just their reflection- hopefully understanding that what they see is only a replication of how they look at it.
Full circle, I committed to another year in Korea, also becoming Head Foreign Teacher at my school. (I will be able to come back to Iowa for a brief visit this summer. ) But surrounded by all this change, one thing I know is certain: sometimes, the big decisions in life are truly very simple. Granted, in the moment we don't always see it that way, but once the decision was made, I can hardly believe I ever doubted it. There may be a few days in the next 15 months that I kick myself in the arse for staying another year, but I know for sure that more days than not, I will be exactly where I need to be.