Solo in Seoul
I’m working it out. I’m sorting through it. It being the gong show that is my life and wondering how I got this far without actually having a clue as to what the fuck I’m doing. I look around at the insanity of Korea and sometimes I want to explode from frustration. Other times I look around and acknowledge with a wry smile that this place, right now, is the perfect embodiment of how I am feeling about my life these days. Today is one of those days.
Today started out the way every Sunday should, with no alarm clocks going off and a slow swim up out of sleep that ended with me groggily looking at the clock and watching the hour of ten pass into the hour of eleven. It continued with me rolling into my biggest, most comfortable sweatshirt and climbing onto the bus that took me into Gangnam, into Seoul, where I sipped coffee and meandered through streets lined with carts selling everything from deep-fried squid to knock-off Dior, Prada and Chanel. I slipped into the subway and headed for a place I usually abhor, the heart of Itaewon. It is strange for me to be here, stranger still of my own free will. Itaewon, Korea, all of the above really. And I sit, sipping my iced vanilla latte, listening to the jarring mixture of Korean and English swirling around me. This area is thick with foreigners and oddly enough I feel even more out of place here, in this part of town, then I normally do...well...anywhere I go really. I am alone, also unusual for me here in Korea. Lately I have been feeling swallowed, consumed, divided into parts, none of which are my own for me to claim. The only thing I can call my own these days are my thoughts, and let me tell you, I am getting the shit end of the stick on this deal. Coming to Korea was supposed to be about my figuring out what the bigger picture was going to be for me, clarifying the things I already had a general idea of and discovering new places for me to be, see, grow. And I want to reassure all of you travel-would-be’s out there, this is most decidedly NOT how it’s going. Travel, in whatever way you choose to do it, is all about living life, one moment to the next. You never know what’s going to happen, where you might end up, whom you might meet. You are living moment to moment and if your not comfortable with that, then don’t do it. And coming from a control freak such as myself, that’s sound advice, because this way of living/thinking has been kicking my ass, especially because I ignorantly thought that I would be able to see the bigger picture if I went far enough away and looked back. Instead what I’ve found out is that the whole concept of the bigger picture is useless unless you know what the smaller picture looks like first, what piece of the puzzle you need to figure out next, what steps, baby or otherwise, you are going to try and take on. And by doing this, I think/hope to the sweet lord above, that one step follows the other follows the other and instead of seeing the bigger picture, you’re IN IT.
Not that you shouldn’t plan for the future. Not that you shouldn’t think ahead. But feeling good about short-term goals is a helluva lot better then having a nervous breakdown over the long term ones. And by working towards the short term ones, really working and focusing in on them, you can (hopefully) build onto the bigger ones and worry about the details a little later on.
I’m going to go now. I’m craving the buzz and pop of a street market; maybe I’ll wander down towards Insadong. Or I might peruse the streets of Apujeoung, the alleys and side roads swarming with rich Koreans mulling over designers purses, scarves, wallets and accessories. I’m craving a kiwi smoothie from this vendor in Namdaemun, who also happens to make the best sweet Korean pancakes I’ve ever had, cinnamon, brown sugar and sesame seeds folded into dough and grilled to perfection. I love these times, when I’m solo in Seoul. I love being in my relationship, and I love the new relationships I’ve made since coming here. But for me, there’s something to be said for time alone. I crave it, need it. I think I’m going to go have lunch with a friend of mine who lives in Itaewon (perhaps my subconscious reason for gravitating here) and then? Who knows? One step at a time right?