When you wake up and just say “no”, but then something tells you to keep going.

After an amazing dinner with a friend at a restaurant that will probably be my new natural habitat (Really? An affordable avocado joint? Can you blame me?), I woke up and everything just said “no”.

No, I don’t think this is for me. I retreated to my lonely box across the world and I live on 12 different messages with people I may never be able to see again face to face. The only legitimate thrill I feel of each day. I’ve given up reaching out to those around meΒ  because getting left on read is a different kind of suck, especially when your secret prayer is to just eat pizza on your couch and have a meaningful conversation with another soul.

“But why do you always focus on the negative, Jessica?”, my mother yells into the phone. First of all, it’s Jess. I hate Jessica, and people who call me Jessica are accidentally stepping onto landmines. I’m being honest, not negative. I am isolated, and I am in a box. I do no one any favors by posting quirky whatsits in some faraway land for people in yoga pants in cul de sacs to consume.

There is a dark side to cute cafes and cheap facials. I crawl into my tiny little lonely box, with the gratefulness that at least God gave me a dog as a companion (because I don’t think I’d have made it this far in life otherwise). So, good news. I have a petite friend with expressive eyebrows. He’s a strange one but he loves me and I love him back, and that’s probably the greatest achievement I’ve faced here, since being proud of promotions have been officially deemed as being “entitled”.

So I wake up and it’s Friday. I actually quite like the physical aspects of my job, other than the fact that I’ll always be on the outside looking in. But I woke up this morning and something just said “No”. I don’t think I’m strong enough for the isolation. I’m just a human. And I can only live in my head for so long. Why did I come here? Why did I do this? Why did I throw away all the American milestones that everybody likes to scoff at these days that I’m not against?

I sat on a couch the other day blasted, and I wanted to disappear. It was like paint drying. There were a couple of people around me and the best way to describe it is “stale Cheetos on dirty linoleum”. The people were so self-important, and I was supposed to think they were artistic and visionaries of life in Pandemic World. But I sat on the couch virtually by myself, metaphorically watching paint dry, and I just knew this isn’t for me.

I stumbled home and almost fell and probably almost got hit by a car. Who remembers? There was not much concern. Don’t worry, you can’t pay me to be oogle at stale Cheetos with central nervous systems any longer. I hate drinking, especially here, and I hate how when I do it, I do it because of the lure that there will be human connection. Just a meaningful soul bonding conversation is all I ask for, God. I do not wish for romance, and I am enough of a realist that all the potential friends are probably leaving soon anyway. I think I was mistaken all along. I feel like an alien. I just want to spend nights in the lonely box wearing flannel. In my fantasy life, another human wants to sit there and get weird and watch a series or (please let this little dream come true) a documentary. Hunter may not understand what he sees but he is a good sport so he’ll do just fine.

I don’t really feel like I exist anymore, and I just show up to my job that I prayed for (the one I was called “entitled” for being proud of) and you know what? This thing happened yesterday. A miracle, if you will. I often have thoughts like “Am I a good enough teacher?” or “Will I ever get it right?”

And so yesterday was some kind of spring picnic, or it had good intentions to be despite Covid woo, but there were these giant bags for my co-teacher and I. It turns out that two of the mothers made these intricate little bento boxes, the biggest set I’ve ever seen and wrote a heartfelt post-it.

I can’t believe there are people in this world who are so kind and thoughtful, and it’s so strange how the biggest gestures of love come from near strangers. An old boyfriend didn’t think I was good enough for Shake Shack for being happy over a new job, but these women spent hours to show how proud they are to have us as teachers. One of my only redeeming qualities is that I genuinely love the children.

Feeding someone is such a loving thing to do: the time to get the ingredients, sort them out, make each little recipe, and add the little details with great precision to make it so beautiful, like a chicken head, a snail, or a giant rose. Human beings sat in their kitchen and did this for us, and I will be forever grateful.

Sometimes I worry that maybe I’m not a memorable teacher or that I’m not doing it right because I’m just kind of flubbing about, but there’s a wholesome feeling that shakes you to your core when little children value you so much and talk of you so highly that their mothers make you intricate feasts attached with little thoughtful post-its (I didn’t show the post-it as I wanted to keep the people anonymous in that regard).

I hired a Life Coach to try and be a better person and use my time in Korea to be who I really want to be to live the dream life I think everyone around me lives that I missed out on. And this little lunch really gives me hope. Thank you.

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15 thoughts on “When you wake up and just say “no”, but then something tells you to keep going.

  1. Jess, I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time finding your groove in Seoul. I hope the life coach helps you sort out what is important and how to get it. For me, I had to give up the externals, face myself, and gradually learn to love and accept myself and life as they were (warts, challenges, everything). Gradually my attitude shifted and so did my life. Or maybe you just need some friends to listen and accept you. I admire you in taking the big step to pursue teaching abroad, and being honest with your pain and vulnerability. Hugs, Brad

    1. guacandrollinseoul April 24, 2021 — 8:41 am

      Thank you so much. This means so much to me. Baby steps. I’m doing the best I can.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this true and heartfelt story.

    1. guacandrollinseoul April 24, 2021 — 8:39 am

      Thank you for the kind words.

  3. The sushi is so beautifu. I love the little snakes…

    1. guacandrollinseoul April 24, 2021 — 8:39 am

      I know! I’m obsessed with the little details on all the food!

      1. How long have you been in Korea and how did you get the job? My first three years out of college I taught in Australia and Ethiopia. I loved it.

      2. guacandrollinseoul April 24, 2021 — 1:36 pm

        I came here in May 2015. I came here through a recruiter. Vietnam is the ultimate plan.

      3. Wow. Six years is a long run. Good for you. Did you try for Vietnam six years ago or always plan on one, then the other?

      4. guacandrollinseoul May 5, 2021 — 5:46 pm

        I planned on Korea first but I do have plans to try out Vietnam sometime

  4. Courage, as we say in French. I’m sure that you’ll eventually feel a little less like an outsider looking in. It takes time but it’s not so bad to keep a bit of that perspective, especially as a writer. In the meantime, that lunch is a mood booster for sure! Random acts of kindness…

    1. guacandrollinseoul April 24, 2021 — 8:35 am

      I will keep this perspective. Thank you. πŸ™‚

    2. guacandrollinseoul April 24, 2021 — 8:38 am

      I like this perspective. Thank you. πŸ™‚

  5. Thanks for opening up about your struggles and ways to find little things like a packed bento to take energy from those again. This is so heartwarming. We all live on the kindness of others that we might comes across unexpectedly. Hope you feel included soon and not just be an outsider. Hugs! πŸ’œπŸ’œ

    1. guacandrollinseoul May 5, 2021 — 5:53 pm

      Hey wow thanks so much for sharing this. When you think about it, isn’t it always the little things in the end?

      I feel it’s the little things about others that make us love them all the more. The random Thursday afternoons doing nothing together that you end up missing the most.

      I’m getting help and trying to remain positive. Maybe one day I’ll be as special as someone’s random Thursday afternoon too.:)

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