Most of us have moments where we are snapped into reality. I, though, apparently do not. My little brother asked me the other day if it had settled in yet that I was living in Korea, and after being here for 2 months, I told him very confidently that “No, it has not.”
I keep waiting for that key point where I’ll all of a sudden realize everything that’s happening, but it didn’t happen when my boyfriend and I watched the sunset go down by Seoul Tower from a cable car over the city. It didn’t happen when I woke up in a hotel that overlooked Itaewon. It didn’t happen when I was eating the best Thai food I’ve ever had in my entire life (although, that probably would have been the most likely moment, if I had to place a bet on when I’d really realize that THIS is my life). It didn’t happen when the plane landed or when the train stopped or when I climbed in the taxi to go home. Everything that has happened has been quick and somewhat seamless, and I supposed there hasn’t been time to really process what it means that I’m 5,606 miles away from my family.
Life feels a bit like a dream, and I’m okay with that. I have days where anxiety or OCD get the best of me, but for the most part, things are really good. Life is so remarkably different from what I ever believed it would be, and in that way I’m grateful. Some days, it feels like my whole life is going to be ruled and determined by the mental illness I have to battle, but most days, it feels like there’s a lot of hope and a lot more to look forward to than be afraid of.
I’ve really been doing what I can to live in every moment as if it is the best moment–to say yes to whatever opportunities for something new come my way. From food to travel to clothes to events–everything is a yes right now. And it’s been an absolute joy at each moment. I’ve spent weekends in the fanciest malls, complete with giant golden crowns, spiral staircases and Armani and Prada stores. I’ve tried Soju (and loved it) and hookah and spicy foods that I never imagined I would be able to handle because when it comes to food, I can’t say I’m the best with spicy. But the point of all of it isn’t that I loved everything (which I did) but that I tried it all.
There is this 3-story green tea shop filled with my favorite aesthetic: soft greens and wood panels absolutely everywhere. The walk into the shop was dreamy and soothing. We went there for dessert on Chuseok (which is like the Korean Thanksgiving), so it wasn’t too crowded, and it was the perfect way to celebrate. I ordered a very pretty green tea mango mojito and green tea soft serve ice cream, and my boyfriend got this green tea ice cream waffle (waffles are a very popular dessert here, in case you were curious about waffle access where I live). There was this green tea sauce that you poured over the ice cream to freeze it, and it made a hard shell around the soft serve in seconds, which I found to be quite lovely. There’s something about new types of food that make you feel really connected to a place. I think once I finally move back home, whenever that might be, the food will probably be what I miss the most, especially this little green tea shop because I think starting in on that dessert probably changed my life forever and inspired in me, believe it or not, a great love of green tea.
It’s a bit of a silly memory, compared to some of the things I’ve done, but it’s one of my favorites. It felt normal–a calm, quiet moment in this big city, in this new country and with my person. It felt very homey, and as much as the moments seem to be flying by and I can’t seem to settle down and really grasp what’s happening around me, it’s in moments like those where I feel like I can say, it’s all new here, but it’s all good. And in those moments I feel at home, and I suppose that’s the goal right now–making home where I’m at instead of trying to reach for something else or wait for the next thing. Today, I want to love here, and I think in this moment, and especially in those moments where I get the normalcy and the new all mixed together, I do love it.
Last weekend, I got to see one of my friends from college, and we took the subway all around Seoul–to Gangnam, Songpa, Itaewon–and we just went to Starbucks (a fancy Starbucks, mind you, because it was in Gangnam), Lotte World Mall, and this great pizza place. Like, we waited in line for pizza for like an hour–granted, we were in Itaewon on a Saturday afternoon, and if you don’t learn anything about that place besides this, just know that the lines at any restaurant worth eating at are ridiculous on the weekends. But it’s not like my friend and I did anything insanely new or crazy–we just went around and shopped a little bit, and it felt like the best day because it felt so normal to be doing all of those things in the country I live in.
I’ve often in my life attempted to create lots of novelty for myself–to try very new things and romanticize my life. But here, I don’t try to do that because it just happens naturally. The newness helps, yes, but I think I’ve adopted a new kind of love for my life that will transition to spaces far beyond just living in Korea. Even the little things seem so exciting, and I’m planning to hold on to that always.
There’s a lot to adjust to and plenty of anxiety to try and curb as I deal with so many new things, but the good of it (and specifically the green tea dessert) has been worth the challenge so far.