Sunday, August 18, 2013

Leaving Friends

If you've lived overseas--if you've moved at all--then you probably understand what I'm feeling right now. Any time you move far enough away to miss your friends and family, your heart splits--like the torn-off arm of a starfish. (I accidentally made a L'Engle reference. Oops.) If you're healthy--and lucky--you'll make enough new friends that your "torn off" social circle will regenerate--but that doesn't mean you'll stop missing those absent limbs.

Photo by Ed Bierman

I've made wonderful friends in the time I've been home. I had the opportunity to join an awesome writing group, and met people through book groups and old acquaintances as well. Now I'm moving away, though, and all those wonderful new friends are going to become lost arms.

Of course, I'll come home periodically. It's a long trip, but a decent ESL job generally pays enough for at least occasional visits to the homeland. We'll keep in touch on Facebook, too--Facebook is a lifeline when you're away from home. (If we were living 200 years ago, there's no way in hell I'd ever have left in the first place.) It's not the same, though. Quick meetings over coffee, or shared jokes online, can't replace all the meetings and game nights and parties I'll miss when I'm away. This is to say nothing of family--I'll miss them, of course, most of all.

But on the other hand, I get to see my "Korea friends." I don't just mean Koreans (though some of my Korean friends are as dear as sisters). I mean also the "foreigners" I met while working in Gimpo--teachers, mostly, who either stayed while I left, or wandered back again. We had a wonderful time exploring Seoul, and there's a special camaraderie among strangers in a strange land that can't really be replicated elsewhere.

One friend, in particular, is about to go back for her fifth year. We're already planning all the places we're going to go--we've been to Jeju-do and Osaka, and are hoping to make more successful trips before she finally moves back to Canada. I have a long list of places I want to go. Some are repeats (Jeju-do, Gangwha-do, Seoraksan). Others are tourist attractions (Herb Island, Namiseom). I'm looking forward to visiting amusement parks, testing out restaurants, and taking lots of pictures.

Preferably in silly hats.

I sort of grew up thinking that each person had one destined future, and that if you missed that destiny you would basically fail at life. I've been trying to get away from that. A lot of times you come to a crossroads, and there's no right path--you could take any of the three ways in front of you, or go back the way you came, and you'd be perfectly happy whichever way you chose. I was excited about Shanghai, and I tried to make it work... but even though I'm sorry it didn't, I'm excited about Seoul, too. I think this is going to be a good experience, and I'm definitely going to do my best to make it one.

Right now, though, I'm sitting in my room in my mother's house, listening to the frogs and crickets, enjoying the unseasonably cool and balmy air. I live in North Carolina, and it's far from a perfect place, but it will definitely always be home. I'm lucky enough to have another home I'm going back to--but I doubt there will ever be a time when I don't miss this one.

This was supposed to be a post about all the places I wanted to go when I got back to Korea. Sometimes things don't work out the way you plan them. (And that's okay.)


This post brought to you by the American Society for Maudlin Late-Night Meditations.