I’ve been very busy. My law school prep course is tight, and the people who are taking the same course are not the most contributing kind. I just finished submitting my 2nd paper of the course and it’s 1:43 am here. Phew. I feel like I am back in my college, writing papers until 3 am with app kind of books, papers, cups and clothes spreaded all over my room.
Recently I became a friend with Jay, who is in pretty much same situation with me. Jay’s passport is South Korean, but he went over to Arkansas at age 3 and spent his entire life in South. Then something happened and he had to come back, now serving his military duty like a good South Korean citizen. He is going through some of the phase I went through (or currently going through) so it has been a pleasure to talk with him. Maybe it’s because him talking about how all of his friends are in Arkansas, and how he misses the American South – good barbeques, cool beer at patio in the midst of warm, humid south air and laid-back people. I didn’t have a chance to property visit American South (okay, I visited Florida once but that’s not really South…no offense, Floridans), but I understand him. Likewise, I miss crazy snowstorms, how everything was either gray, black or white, the crisp cold winter air on my cheeks, reddening my skin, and kind Midwesterners, wrapped in their Gore-Tex Northface shell jackets and hats. And we are two Koreans in Korea.
Maybe it was because of this chat, but a thought suddenly occured to me – that I probably will never feel “complete” or “at ease” wherever I go.
When in Korea, I hate the fact how the whole society is homogenous, stigmatizes different voices, treat “foreigners” differently based on their nationality/skin color, thinks it is totally okay to sacrifice individual for the sake of group, and communicating vertically only. And how all the “foreign” foods that isn’t really expensive or that special suddenly becomes twice the original price and treated like some kind of luxury. And the total lack of middle ground market for clothing and pants: they are either all really short, really small, or really decorated over the top. In addition, most of the pants don’t fit me well here. I misses Japanese people’s respect of privacy and misses a lot of things about America. Of course, friends those are not in Korea, too.
When in the United States, I hate the fact how people have allergic reaction to any kind of government regulation (Grow up, people!), shipwreck med insurance system, D- grade infrastructure, evangelist politicians and total lack of public transportation. Then I start to miss a lot about certain things of Korea and Japan: those two countries superb public transportation and infrastructure (both countries has bullet train AND public transportation covering entire nation; US is like x10 bigger than those two. What are they thinking?!?!), awesome public med insurance and 24-hour operating service/stores. And free restaurant deliveries. I again start to miss home and a small number of friends in Korea. I’ll probably miss more once my school starts, since I managed to make a bit more friends in Seoul. And how you can “get around” some rules by connections and negotiations in Korea.
When in Japan, I hate how people don’t ever tell anything in a straightforward manner and unwilling to take any risk or responsiblity. Usually, there are no words equivalent of “flexiblity” (not in a literal sense, though). Bureaucracy there is so bad, and the decision making authorities are so unwilling to change, even if it is verge of survival. Sometimes they are way too obsessed on small details. And, kind of like Korea, it is so hard to be considered seriously if you are not one of them (fortunately, I suffered less of this because people around me were so great and I look Asian – Japanese – enough for most Japanese). Soon I start to miss how things are so much more straighforward and flexible in America and Korea.
Sure, I appreciate my unusual international experiences. I know that is my edge, and I know that’s what makes me as me. But think about it – most others feel pretty settled and fine in a certain place. Your friends are there and you lived there long enough. All the pieces that makes you are at one place, so whenever you want to go back or get some peace of mind, you can just go to that one place.
But what about someone like me? My entire childhood is spread around the world. I can’t simply drive several hours or get a weekend trip to revisit my past and remiscine good ol’ times. I don’t have my private jet. You can’t just plan to visit America from Korea over a weekend.
Whether I end up living in America, Korea, Japan, or somewhere else, one thing is sure: I will never feel complete or settled.
People say acceptance is the key to everything. I accept, I guess.
But it still saddens me – that I will never feel complete or settled for the rest of my life.