Home is where your story begins...
...And, though Home may also be where your story ends, it definitely isn't your whole story... At least not for me.
People say it's harder to come back home than it is to leave, and, in the four months I was there, I can say that this is completely true. Don't get me wrong... coming back home for more than five days (for the first time in nearly two years) was as heartwarming and wonderful as you'd think it would be. Everyone is happy to see you... they're happy to hug you, and to have a conversation that's not on a screen.
When you meet your friends after months of poorly timed text convos and missed FaceTime calls, they're all buying your drinks, and interested to hear your stories from the road. It's like you never skipped a beat.
Then, eventually, the novelty of you being back wears off... but, there you are... still back. Home is still home, and you're still you... except... you're not.
Unless you've done it, not many people can fully understand what it's like to touch down in a new, unfamiliar place... A place where you don't know anyone... where you don't fully understand the language, the currency, the transportation systems... and where the simplest tasks become a challenge.
You've learned to love foods you couldn't quite pronounce the names of, and played weird drinking games with strangers who turned in to friends. Sometimes your heart was so full, you felt like it could burst... and other times, it did... it absolutely shattered. You slept on floors, slept with bugs, and even slept in an aircon-less hut, in the middle of a random Thai island... where you fell in lust with a Spanish dive instructor... and you fell in love with life.
Unless you've done it, it's impossible to fully grasp the impact of all this... All of the beautiful souls you've met, the places you've seen, the things you've done, and the experiences that changed you.
After awhile, you stray away from telling these stories at all... because talking about "your favorite place in Thailand" or "that one time in Myanmar" just feels, well... pretentious.
I realize that I am so lucky to have had all of these experiences... and I know that not everyone can, will, or even wants to. I don't think I am better than anyone else, but there were times at home when I felt like I had to downplay the person I'd become... with old friends, new friends, and, sometimes, even family. (Excuse my French), but F that. I worked really hard to get to where I am, and, as much as my parents have supported me, the life I've led was not handed to me... I made it happen for myself.
I quickly realized that watering yourself down is THE most self-deprecating thing you can do...
Because when you have to be excessively modest, to belittle your accomplishments, and to downplay your dreams JUST so everyone else in the room can feel bigger, well, then you have left little to no room for your own future growth.
After completing two overseas work contracts, two months of living out of a backpack, nearly two years of non-stop travel, and three days of being home, I did the gut wrenching, but inevitable, thing that any long-term traveller eventually has to do. I got a job... and a few days later, I got another job. I was back in the service industry, and back to my old home antics... Working non-stop. Almost immediately, my personal growth came to a screeching halt.
One of my main reasons for returning home was to see family, but because I was constantly in a server apron taking orders, or behind a bar pouring drinks, that never really happened. And when I wasn't making people's drinks, I was consuming them... sometimes at alarming rates (because, well... days off were hard to come by... and when we had one, we went all in).
I wasn't growing, I wasn't changing. I was working myself in to the ground, but I wasn't working towards anything. I had hit a standstill, and I damn near started moving backwards.
Two months flew by, and by the end of June, I couldn't stop thinking about Seoul. I missed the city that never sits down. I missed teaching, my students, my sushi mom, and the incredible subway system. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I hadn't been ready to leave because I wasn't finished with this city yet... or, rather, the city wasn't finished with me. My purpose here hadn't been fulfilled, and I hadn't quite finished this chapter's transformation.
Coming back to Seoul just made sense.
It's somehow been nearly a month, and I am loving this city even more than I did the first time around. I've reconnected with some old friends, made some new friends, and even get to see some of my old students. My new neighborhood is awesome, my new kindy kids are adorable, AND I GET TO HAVE WEEKENDS! AND HOLIDAYS (which, you bartenders know is un.heard.of)!
Overall, I'm focused, happy, and, to put a long story short, I am truly living my best life.
For whatever reason, I thrive in the unfamiliar... but, this time around, Seoul isn't completely unfamiliar. I've figured out just enough to where the city isn't totally daunting. I'm comfortable here, and don't feel completely out of place... it feels a bit like coming home.
In a city where next to no one knows my name, I have an easier time remembering who I am... and more importantly, who I want to be...
...(And don't worry, they whole "Impending North Korean Nuclear War" thing is TOTALLY being blown out of proportion by the Western media. It's fine... I'm fine).