As I struggle to remember I need to write 2013 on the white boards and in letters, I want to take a moment to appreciate everything I’ve accomplished in 2012. I have grown immensely over the last year, and I know it is due in part to the constant reshuffling of my comfort zones. I have achieved so much outside of them that they can now be collectively called “The Lazy Zone.” Now I can’t even imagine not challenging myself to do something new, difficult, crazy, or terrifying every month. It’s become a way of thinking and lets me appreciate the experience of living instead of living to work, make money, and such. I don’t believe in the 50’s American way of life anymore, I can’t. There is so much more out in the world than going to school, getting a job, settling down, raising 2.5 kids, and saving for retirement. No where in that scenario does it include adventure and self-discovery, exploring other cultures and learning about how small and special this world actually is. I’m richer for the life I’m living than I ever could be with the stereotypical successful life that we’ve been spoon-fed since infancy.
I moved to a completely foreign country where even the alphabet looks nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before. And guess what, I still can’t read it, but that doesn’t stop me from living and working here. Even while being completely illiterate in Korean, I am a capable and resourceful enough person that it is rarely an issue. I’ve discovered what it’s like to be the minority and found it was easy to acclimate to. I’ve embraced where I live and have called it home for a year, including all the different cultural habits that can be annoying or frustrating. Everything together makes this experience memorable and worth while.
I went ice fishing in the freezing cold of January. I have centered myself at a Buddhist monastery. I have grown comfortable with the nakedness of public baths. I sweated the climb of an intact section of the Great Wall. I spent a weekend in Beijing by myself without a working phone or watch. I paid off a student loan. I faced my fear of heights by jumping off a building. I have been part of an international festival where the main purpose is playing in the mud, and my camera survived. I skyped with my cousin to be part of her first baby’s reveal party. I witnessed a summer festival at a Japanese temple. I saw a life-size Gundam in a city I’ve seen hundreds of times before in animation. I felt the calm and the awe of the Fushimi Inari shrine in the ancient capital of Japan. I weathered typhoons. I’ve tried a variety of new and strange foods. I lost fifteen pounds. I put myself out there for a month of vlogs and met some great people. I’ve rediscovered the art of multiple page, hand-written letters. I wrote the first chapter for two of my favorite original characters. I finally stepped up and applied for MFA programs in creative writing. I read 31 books in a year. I’ve become a respected and dependable teacher in my own right. I’ve had the fortune to teach the most wonderful group of children I could possibly imagine. I have seen what I am capable of, and I know what I can do.
Happily, I bid farewell to an unforgettably, awe-inspiring and uplifting 2012. I can honestly say I have not had a year since 2007 that could possibly compare with how I feel and what I’ve experienced. And when I take into account that was the year I studied abroad, it makes so much sense that I’m at my best when I’m being a nomad and traveling, exploring the world around me, and learning more about life.
I end with a wish that you leap into this new year with an ambition and drive to do the things you never believed you could do. Take heart and challenge yourself, then see where the year will lead you. Happy 2013.