Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I’ve heard this basic sentiment expressed in different ways on a few occasions since coming to Korea.  Teachers talking to other teachers about families back home, what people Steve and I know have supposedly said about us, et cetera.

So let’s talk about it.  What does that mean, anyway?  Being a throwaway employee for some nondescript company?  Donning your finest shade of gray?  Fighting the good fight against copy machines?  Whenever someone says “real” job, it always seems to imply that it should be at least 75% horrible.

Or for people like us, maybe it just means closer to home.  I don’t know.

But here’s the thing about “real” jobs in the U.S.  I had one before moving here.  It wasn’t 75% horrible either.  It was real fun actually.  But it was in an industry considered a luxury during hard times, so it also came with real layoffs to my coworkers and real threats of cuts to my hours.  The even sadder reality is that two years later, the office I loved dearly is now a coffee shop.

As for Steve, I don’t want to talk too much about a job that wasn’t my own.  But after years of living out of cars and airplanes, across three time zones, through layoffs and corporate restructuring of his own…well, you get the picture.  I have to stop for a second anyway.  The words ‘corporate restructuring’ just made me throw up in my mouth a little.

So during this time of American change, we opted out for a bit.  It couldn’t have come at a better time.  And in this complete 180 from where we were a couple years ago, I like to speak frankly and with pride about what we’ve chosen to do.  But without sounding all annoyingly braggy and, oh, my life is soooo wonderful.  No one wants to hear that.

That being said, it doesn’t get more real than this.

Living here is a daily exercise in doing things outside of your comfort zone.  At times, I swear it’s as far out of it as you can get.  I may as well be living on Mars.  I had to learn a new language and alphabet and started with spelling my name all over again like a 5-year-old.  I was a clean slate on everything from culture to food to the rules of living in my new home.  I learned nearly everything by making mistakes.

And once I got the hang of the basics, that didn’t mean life became too comfortable or boring or predictable.  See here.  Or here.  Hell, just the other day a group of old ladies tried to dive bomb a barbecue we were having with some friends.  One of them came right up to the pagoda and nestled her butt against mine.  So we just put on a little “Eye of the Tiger” at a volume slightly higher than enjoyable for a picnic, and they went on their merry way.  Old Korean women don’t like Rocky.  Who knew?  The point is, whether it’s funny or frustrating, there is always something to be discovered.

There’s this saying I heard just the other day about making a living versus making a life.  I’m making a living just like everyone else.  I look forward to my paycheck every month, I pay taxes and health insurance, I have a contract and a dress code.  I go to work at 9:00 a.m.  Sometimes I work a long day, and sometimes I don’t.

But I am definitely making a life.  It’s not just that I like my job, I like the whole experience.  I love my apartment, my neighbors, and the fact that I have to wear a helmet just to get to the grocery store.

I love that…generous 5-week vacation twice a year I forgot to mention.  You know what, I’ll stop there.  We’ll talk about that next time.