February 17, 2018

I’ve been home about a month and a half now, and I haven’t written much. I haven’t updated this blog certainly. I’ve been meaning to write about what it’s like being back. I’ve been meaning to see a lot of people. Throw a welcome back party. I’ve been meaning to do a lot of things. But I haven’t. A lot of it was just waiting for it all to sink in. I hit the ground running getting myself setup for grad school, getting back in the flow of being a student again for the first time in 11 years, and looking for a job. I’ve managed to get into a substitute teaching pool, while I try to find more full time work elsewhere. I think once I’ve got a job locked down I will start thinking about some kind of welcome back shindig. The next step is finding a place to live.

“What’s it like being back?” is the ubiquitous ice breaker from others. And my constant response is “weird.” Especially those first few weeks. English was around me a lot in South Korea, but in specific settings. Whenever I was out in the public spaces of the wider world, not work or punk shows, everyone was speaking Korean. My skills in the language never got to the point where I could eavesdrop, so it was always easy to tune things out in restaurants or on the subway. If I heard English from across the room or car, it would instinctively grab my attention. Now that I’m back home, it’s hard to be in public spaces for long periods of time because my mind gets drawn to every conversation happening around me. I am acutely aware that the couple two tables over from me is breaking up. Or that the guy on his phone in the Starbucks is trying to reschedule a doctor’s appointment. It becomes a bit of an information overload.

Readjusting to the food has also been a bit...problematic. American food cooked American style doesn’t always sit right. But that’s just a minor issue. Things have changed. People here seem angier and the general state here is just much more aggressive. I mean, there’s Nazis again. Nazis. I can’t leave you people alone for five minutes can I?

I’m sometimes asked why I came back. I was happy there. Things here are so fucked up. Why would I want to come back? Simply put, I want to try to get on a lifepath of some sort. Even if shit doesn’t pan out how I want it to, it helps to have a plan. That plan includes grad school. And since my parents are moving to Tennessee over the summer, it was now or never on in-state tuition. So having been accepted to UIC for a Special Education Masters, here I am. Home. Which brings me to the next bit of weirdness.

My parents are packing already. I’m having to put things into storage soon so we can minimize the contents for when the house goes on sale in April. Pictures are coming down, rooms are being repainted to neutral tones so that prospective buyers can more easily picture their shit in our house.  It is very trying, to watch the house you grew up in slowly become no longer your home. I’m hoping to be out of there by the time the place goes on the market. I don’t like the idea of keeping everything perfect and being around when people poke around and cast judgment and analyze whether or not the place that was my home is good enough for them.

It’s not just about what’s weird about being back, it’s also about what I’ve left behind. I have more friends in Korea than I do here at home. I grew and developed myself out there. I grew confidence and swagger that I never had here. And with coming back comes a fear of reverting. Which, I guess I’m not too worried about. I’m still who I have become. But I could walk into shows or bars and know damn near everybody. Now, it’s a sea of strangers under a familiar sky. Where did all these new faces come from? I’ve never seen them before. Many of my friends have either moved or moved on. And I want to see more people. See old friends, make some new ones. But I’m not entirely in that headspace yet.

Technology makes talking to the girlfriend easier. But not being able to hold or touch is devastating.  I hate talking about my band in the past tense. Or my charity work, or the shows I put on. I can get that again, but it could be two years before I have time for that again, and will take months to build those connections in a new place. Which is an old place. And that’s the thing, I’m not sure if I’m back on familiar ground or exploring new territory. Of course, if my life experience has taught me anything it’s that most things are at the same time their opposites.

But I can say that classes are interesting. I can say that I’ve made the right choice. South Korea was at risk of becoming my own, personal Land of the Lotus Eaters, and time was starting to play merry hob. Going to Korea remains the best decision I’ve ever made, and leaving it, the hardest. It was not a trigger easily pulled, for damn sure. And while I remain confident that I did what I had to do, and while I remain optimistic about the future. I’ve got to ask myself, at least once a day, just what the hell I was thinking.