I’ve been thinking about expectations a lot lately, like what I expect of Korea and what my experiences will be there. Sometimes, a bit more often than not, I start to panic a little at the thought of living there, but I haven’t been too sure of why I feel this panic. I know that I am excited and it’s totally normal to be nervous because it’s such a big move, but there’s something more. With all the reading and researching and talking to people who have made this same move, I still feel… unprepared. I have all of these pictures and scenarios in my head of what it will be like and feel like and look like, but what I’m actually prepared for is to get there and think “wow, this isn’t what I expected at all.” But that’s how it always is with any new place you go. It’s like putting together this large cultural and geographical puzzle, trying to make each piece fit to create a clear picture. But until you get on that first plane out of the country and land somewhere far away and completely foreign, just to get on yet another plane for a few more hours and eventually land in an area even more foreign than the layover before, you realize that this is where you’ll be living for at least a year. This place? But this isn’t really how you pictured it at all. You couldn’t imagine what the city was like outside of the camera lens, realizing that although you had originally felt confident and prepared, you now have to basically start from scratch. Because many countries have so many contradictions in the landscapes and the people, when you try to make sense of it and fuse it all together you eventually come face to face with how life actually is over there and you feel… foolish. Or tricked.
So, I really have no expectations of how a place is going to be before I get there. I know that I’ll just end up surprised in the end, so I do what I can to prepare and then just go with the flow. But for now, while I’m in the preparation stage, my mind is naturally trying to fit all of the puzzle pieces together. When I start to panic I think of my small apartment in a crowded, smog-filled city crammed with tons of tiny Koreans and weird smells and motor bikes and little cars, tour busses, and buildings so tall and clustered that they block out the sun and all but small patches of the sky. Live chickens and other birds squawking, feathers flying, mixing with the steam and smells of the boiling pots containing today’s lunch. Walking down the street, so much noise, not enough clean air… and I think, why are you moving here? Why did you choose South Korea? What is it that has been pulling you there?
I went to Arizona to heal and to rediscover myself. I knew what I needed and I knew that somehow Arizona would bring that to me. It was the perfect place to be silent and let go. I would sit outside on my back porch wrapped in a blanket looking at the mountains and horse pasture, listening to the wind and having a conversation with God and the world. I could ask questions and feel the answers in my soul. A sureness and reassurance that the world loved me. That God loved me. That I loved myself. A reassurance that I hadn’t felt with my whole body in a long time. A breeze would blow across my blanket-covered body, and it felt as if it was on purpose. I swear that more than once I felt the whole world and God wrap me in its arms and keep me there. It was this completely amazing, powerful feeling. I felt loved by everyone there, and they felt my love, too. I went there to heal, and what came out was this huge outpouring of love. At first I had to make a conscious effort to send those vibes, but now when I look back I realize that even when I wasn’t consciously trying to send them, people still felt it. I felt like such a good person there. So much love, and it’s taken me until right now, months later, to realize that it was going on the whole time. Arizona saved me.
When I went out west I knew what I wanted to gain there. In general, I guess that the only expectation I have of a place is that it will touch me. Elizabeth Gilbert (surprise! another Elizabeth Gilbert reference) said it best. “I wanted to thoroughly explore one aspect of myself set against the backdrop of each country, in a place that has traditionally done that one thing very well.” I’m not saying that every single place I go on this Earth has to change my life in some amazing and profound way, but rather, moments will be created now and then that will stick with me forever only because I was in that one particular place. But the thing is… I have no idea what I expect of Korea. What do I hope to gain by moving to this particular country? There are the obvious (yet truthful) answers of wanting to live some place foreign, experience a new culture and have a steady job to rid myself of financial stress. These are important things that I am excited for.
But I guess I’m unclear of the next phase in my life.
That’s what it comes down to, the stem of my un-sureness. I don’t know what to expect next. Arizona was like closing a chapter and a new one is about to begin. My time here in Wisconsin is to rest and prepare, and right now I’m in this waiting segment.
It’s all pretty cool, really. Once you come to the source of your panic it’s easier to just… let go.