Our time here is very quickly drawing to a close despite my best efforts to pretend otherwise. Each time I’ve sat down intent on writing about and reflecting on all I’ve learned while living here, I am overcome with sadness and a deep desire for more time. I’ve known since we arrived that my time here would be limited and yet I am still having a very hard time accepting that these really are the final weeks.
This strikes me as amusing, to say the least. I sit here struggling to let go of my experience here, even as most, if not all, of what I’ve learned here can be summed up as learning the art of letting go. The past three years have been an exercise in nothing less.
From letting go of control and daily involvement in the studio back home, to letting go of the plans and expectations I had about birthing in the US, to letting go of close contact with my friends and community, the whole process of moving here was a long series of goodbyes and releasing of control and facing the unknown.
After arrival, my first big lesson in letting go was saying goodbye to my perfectly imperfect dog Fletcher.
Weeks later I was moving into motherhood and letting go, not only of all of my (completely wrong) ideas about motherhood, but also the very specific identity that I hadn’t realized meant so much to me. I struggled for a long time to see my new role as mother as an enhancement or addition to who I previously was, rather than a replacement of who I had been. As months passed and I began to have more time and space to reconnect with myself, I discovered that while I was still there, the experience had changed me deeply. This required further letting go of what was and concentrated effort to accept new realities. (An ongoing process)
Living as an expat among other expats provides ample opportunity to practice letting go. The shared experience of navigating a culture that is not your own makes for quick formation of intimate friendships that are, by nature, completely temporary. You make a friend, become close, and with little to no warning, they receive another assignment and are off to the next locale.
And, of course, the backdrop to all of these opportunities for growth has been Korea, a unique place with a unique culture that I had never experienced before coming here. There has been a lot of letting go of preconceived notions and ideas I had about Asia and Asian culture and society as well as a great deal of learning about and adopting new customs and social rituals as best I can as an outsider. Within this context, I’ve had to become very aware of the ways I am distinctly western and how this affects the way I see the world. In order to enjoy my time here, I’ve had to, at least temporarily, let go of the western way of doing most things. At times I’ve done so willingly, at times kicking and screaming.
And now I am struggling to let go of the life we’ve built here and all that I love about it. Korea has been good to me and overall I have been very comfortable and happy living here. (Plus, I really love our apartment! How will I ever live without floor-to-ceiling windows again?) The trick now is to cherish and be grateful for the experience, the memories, the lessons and let go of the desire for more.
I’m working on it.