Happy new year. We’re halfway through the first month of the new year. It is winter in Chicago and that brings forth the inward energy for me. The energy that is reflective and quiet.
As I focus on 2019 and what it is, I simultaneously reflect on everything that has led to this. And what 2018 was. 2018 was a year. A year I am still exhaling from.
It started off by me jumping on a plane to Asia on December 31st at midnight after spending time in my hometown, St. Louis. The adventure took me to Taipei, Seoul, Suwon, Chiang Mai and Shanghai. And a couple of undefined places in Korea and Thailand where I was literally asking myself, “Where am I?!” These were moments free of internet service to tell me where I was. A year ago I hopped on a van in Chiang Mai very early in the morning, fell asleep, and woke up on a windy dirt road leading to a farm somewhere in Thailand with no electricity. I then stopped asking myself where I was and thought, “ahhh, it doesn’t matter where I am. Here is where I am. I am here.”
This adventurous start of 2018 was very intentional. I had been wanting to go back to Korea for years.
Despite this desire, over the years I found lots of ways to keep myself from it too, most notably my workaholic tendencies (also known as my old friend avoidance), employers who wouldn’t let me take enough time off for this trip (sometimes the worst bosses are really the best lessons) and my sweet little dog, Dolly Lama. And the comfortability of my every day life that included all of the routines I had subscribed to, whether willingly or unwillingly (usually a mix of both). Routine weeks. Routine weekends. The life of waking up, going to work, being frazzled during the day, being tired at night. Checking work emails all night. Checking work emails all the time. Repeating through Friday. Going to yoga. And brunch. Questioning if I was doing this whole life thing right. Daydreaming about travel to Asia and beyond. Daydreaming about all the things I wanted to do in life. Realizing I don’t do them. My American life. Doing normal American things. With not a lot of space for Asia, on the other side of the planet, to be in my life.
Space was needed to be made.
The two primary things that kept me planted in the US were work and my senior aged dog. That all changed in 2017. This was both a challenge and a relief. I spent much of 2017 caring for my little Dolly as her health declined. I was engulfed in grief. So engulfed. Grief and I have become good, close, committed friends. The process of losing a pet that was by my side for over ten years had a profound way of making me look at my own life. This changed the entire game. As this was all unfolding in 2017, I instinctively knew it was clearing the path for me to soar back to Korea.
When you don’t take the path for you, it will take you.
My last visit was in 2009. It was my second visit with my birth family. Some of those memories are clear, others are blurry. And I trust what I don’t remember is for good heart-protective reasons. Since that visit in 2009, I had much time to let the reality of this experience sink in. And lots happened in life over these nine years. I moved from my small hometown to a larger, more diverse city (Washington, DC) then back to the Midwest to Chicago. I wanted to take myself back to my roots so I jumped at this opportunity to start off 2018 by returning. The opportunity to be able to take time to go back brought me a deep relief.
Presently I am flooded with memories of last January as I skipped around Asia, with most of my time there spent in Suwon, Seoul and Chiang Mai. It was a whirlwind. I got sick five times in four cities in three weeks. Well, of course I did! I accepted it. I knew I had to go all out. And I knew anything inside of me that felt sick was ready to be free, and no longer inside my body and heart.
One year later, as my phone’s album reminded me of where I was a year ago (admiring the glow of the lights in Thailand), I am present to where I am. Present to what brought me to where I am right now and to what comes next. Photos represent some moments from one year ago that have been a foundation for what comes next.
I’m not in Asia to ring in the new year this year. I’ll be there again soon. I have a peace in knowing it doesn’t matter where I am because I am here. See you soon, Korea.