Sunday, 26 February 2012

Getting Over

Relationships are strange things. Like languages, they operate in similar ways, but the rules of one can never quite be completely applied to another. And just like a language, they are often inaccessible to outsiders. The two of you make your own words, intonation, puns and references, a culture of two. Once that ends, trying to explain it is like describing the colour blue to a blind person. Achingly close to being possible, but a piece will always be missing and all you can do is speak in emotional codes, poetic language that can only draw from far too personal experience to express. It's all a bit too close to the bone.

But at the same time relationships are the single most important thing in the world. Without them we would not continue on this roller coaster we call life. We would be alone and hopeless. If it's true that relationships are at the core of our existence, why do so many of us find them so difficult to talk about. Personally, I would no sooner talk about my past feelings for an ex than I would talk about my sex life.

So getting over a painful break up is a long and lonely process. Yes, there are friends along the way who provide a listening ear, but hearing myself whining on and on all I can think is ho pathetic I sound and how much they must be wishing I'd shut up about it. Of course this is not the case, but nonetheless I realize that emotions are personal and no two people ever feel them in the same way. So how can we expect another person to understand our pain. They can empathize, but never truly understand.

Anyway, what I came on here to say is that I recently got back in touch with an ex, the break up from whom was the most painful thing I've ever been through. A three-month relationship turned into a three-year healing processes. At various points during this time, as I'm sure many have done whilst going through the same thing, I would fantasize about how his life would be in the future, how he would inevitably stay the same and never reach the potential I thought I saw in him. Having had no contact with him for three years, I finally plucked up the courage to send him a message and re-friend him. The information on his Facebook page doesn't give away much about his life at the moment, or how it had been for the last few years, but the revelation comes in the fact that I don't care to know.

Does he have a girlfriend? Did he get his own place? Did he find a job he likes? I don't know, and I honestly do not care. Once a ghost, a ball and chain I would drag around behind me with a sinister mixture of despair and pride, he has faded into the background, a memory of a copy of a photograph. Someone I used to think I knew, and someone I now don't care to know. Like an old school friend you say hello to if you see them in the street, but never care to talk deeper than how's the weather.

And now I've written a blog about it, which betrays a possibility that I clearly am still thinking about him etc etc. But I'm really not. I only wish to let you know, if you're reading this, that if you've had your heart broken, time really does mend all wounds. Be patient with yourself, and one day you will wake up to find that you haven't thought about them for a very long time, and that the person you love most is you.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

In search of Home

Many, if not most, foreigners who come to Korea to teach English are running from something. Whether that is a crappy job, a difficult breakup, or something more serious, each of us are trying to escape from something and in search of something more, whether we know what that is or not.

I can't speak for others, and I hope they find what they are looking for, whatever it is. But I know that I've found what I was looking for, even though I didn't know when I came here what it was. I was in search of Home. Yes, I came over 5 and a half thousand miles only to find that everything I wanted and needed is right back where I came from.

Now that I have only 3 weeks to go before I return Home, I am looking forward to sitting in front of the fire drinking proper tea. To walking the dog in the fields I know so well whilst wearing wellington boots. To knowing exactly how much everything costs. To watching the news. To being able to communicate with everyone. To cooking for more people than just me. And that's what it comes down to: my family.

However much I have enjoyed being here in SoKo, and I have enjoyed it so much, it has never been what I was looking for because it has never been home. I haven't seen my mum and dad in almost a year. There is also no way I could ever successfully find love here, since, as I mentioned, pretty much every foreigner here is preoccupied by their own issues, and however culturally sensitive I may be, unfortunately I think it best for me to be with someone from a more similar background to my own.

That's not to say that SoKo has not been everything I've needed. A space to explore, to discover new ways of looking at things, of looking at myself. It has been a crucible for my flaws, big and small. Not saying I am by any means perfect now, but the soft, silly edges have certainly been toughened up and better defined. Although apparently my wont to make vague sweeping statements without going into specific details has not changed. Perhaps one day people will find it endearing.

Thank you, South Korea, for making me appreciate everything I have and everything I have to go back to: my Home.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Generation why?

Now, growing up I became slowly aware that other people's lives were not the same as mine. Some friends were Jewish, some had learning difficulties and birthmarks. Some friends had only one parent, or three or four, or none. Some friends' parents were no different from the older boys and girls I saw on street corners, to me anyway. And some friends' parents looked like my Nana and Grandad. Now, you can be the most 'normal', average, middle of the road person, dress unassumingly, and fly generally under the radar, and other kids you meet along the way will still find something about you that they can make fun of.

At some point in your life, you must have met someone with a really funny name you know, the kind you can't make up, and wonder what their parents were on when they decided to name their child Michael Hunt, then calling him Mike for short. And at some point you may even have been there before it was too late, and sounded a name out loud for a couple so they could hear just what their child would have to be called for the rest of their lives. (Yes, Megan Bacon, think about it for a second).

Why then, do some parents, very few I must add, but who have been in the media spotlight of late, not even seem to consider for one moment the kind of flack their precious little angel will get when they drop them off at the first day of secondary school, when little Jamie or Stephanie is 11, and they are in their early 70s? 'Is that your gran?'. Yes, it is selfish.

Now I'm all for selfishness. You come into this world as you leave it: alone. So looking out for number one must factor in somewhere. But when it comes to bringing children into the world, you've got to put your own needs aside and think about someone else completely. This is my argument in the ongoing debate over teen pregnancy. Think of the children! Obviously accidents happen, and you make the best decision at the time as to whether or not you can give that child everything it will need: food, shelter, warmth, love, security, emotional stability.

But surely menopause should be the one deciding factor, God, the universe or whatever you want to call it, telling you to stop, to let your body rest. Goodness knows women go through enough with their bodies, even if they never have kids. A few years of emotional turmoil for maybe another 50 years of even calm, not a bad trade off I'd say.

I am NOT saying that couples who are for whatever reason unable to conceive are supposed to take it as some sign that they don't deserve kids or something. If I was in that situation, chances are I'd go for the IVF. But when you've had your chance, and your body is doing the same thing all women's bodies do at a certain age, shutting down reproduction, surely to goodness you should take that into consideration. Evolution has made us so that we cannot reproduce our entire lives. Hell, despite social changes the optimum age biologically for a woman to have a baby is about 15. Why then do certain women feel the need to bring another person into the world only after the stakes have been raised so much higher?

If I became pregnant tomorrow I would feel ashamed for letting it happen before the best time, when I have enough money, a secure job, a long-term partner. But I understand also that people do the best in such situations, and happy children are made. Once a child is here, give it all the love in the world, lavish upon it everything you've got that it could possibly want. But if your body is no longer even capable of making a child naturally, and you're only 20 years if that away from natural death, why in the world would you think, hmmm, you know what I need, a baby of my own?!

When it comes to children I say hang selfishness. If you can't have them, try harder, get IVF, get a surrogate or adopt. If the universe or society won't let you do those things, volunteer at a nursery, become a teacher's assistant, be a babysitter. Buy a flipping budgie for goodness' sake. But please, don't bring a child into this world for the sole purpose that 'you need it'. It is the worst thing to impose upon a newborn baby. And for all our sake, in this densely populated worls that is slowly but surely being sucked dry of resources, don't turn around at the age of 59 and say 'I think I'd like to have another one, please'.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Answers on a postcard

When you meet the one, the person who can hurt you without touching you, or make your heart skip a beat with a single word. When you only feel whole when that person walks in, and the rest of the time you're unable to feel happy, or anything. When making love fills your heart with 'I love you's until you just have to say it out loud for fear you might suffocate under the weight of them. When the same song plays over and over in your head because the words describe exactly how you're feeling. When they hold you in their arms and you know you're home. When you whisper 'I love you' in the darkness and your heart is a waterfall as they say 'I love you too'. When you see the world in new colours and hear music in the wind just because they're holding your hand. When you catch your breath at the thought of them and weep to the universe in gratitude. When saying their name sets your tongue tingling. When you make a fool of yourself over them but know that it's worth it for how they make you feel. When the person with eyes like a forest after the rain looks into yours and says 'I can't do this anymore'. When you were already at such risk from them and they choose the moment you are most vulnerable to drop your heart into the void. When you still can't bring yourself to hate them, but you don't trust the universe to make them hurt as they've hurt you. What do you do?

Answers on the back of a postcard.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Boiling Frogs

Did you know, that if you put a frog into a pot of hot water, it will jump out? Yes, of course you do. But did you also know that if you put a frog into a pot of cold water and raised the temperature little by little, the frog will sit there quite happily while it is boiled alive. This is because while frogs can sense extreme changes in temperature, they are unable to sense small changes.

So many situations can boil you just like a frog. Jobs, relationships, and even friendships. Unfortunately I speak from experience, and fairly recent experience at that. For so long a friend of mine and I have been 'best friends'. We spent a lot of time together, made plans together, even went on small trips. Then a couple of occassions opened my eyes to the truth of the matter: I was not getting out of the friendship nearly as much as I was putting in. Not coming to my graduation being one, and comments from my family being another. It was like my second boyfriend all over again.

It's funny how one thing, one straw on the donkey's back, can cause an otherwise calm situation into a crumbling mess. But what else can you do? Carry on regardless?

I say call a spade a shovel and move on, for better or for worse. And next time get a really big thermometer to help.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Nothing less than the best

People often say the world is shrinking, and that the rat race is moving faster every day. Such competition to be the fastest, the strongest, the best, brings progress and moves us forward as a race. Doesn't it?

Less than two hundred years ago the world moved at a much slower pace. Horses and carts trundled down roads, people who couldn't afford them walked. Mail was carted, shipped, or couriered to its destination. Documents had to be written and copied by hand, and if you wanted to find information, you would open a book or simply ask someone. Today we have the computers and the internet for that. Fast trains transport us to cities for business meetings, and we're back home the same evening. Emails and text messages are received almost the instant they are sent. What's wrong with that?

My answer: it raises expectations. Not only are we reliant on technology which fails so often, thereby opening ourselves to disappointment when our 200Gb broadband is running 0.5 seconds slower than usual, but we raise our expectations of ourselves. Why haven't you finished that report? Why were you late? The possibilities that modern technologies have opened up no longer seem to be recognised as possibilities, they're now seen as standards which must be met. Where once you might have seemed old fashioned if you didn't have a telephone, now you're seen to be living in the dark ages if your bluetooth WAP mobile phone doesn't have a 500 megapixel digital camera built in that also makes the tea.

Social networking sites have raised the bar for global communications and 'keeping in touch'. Whereas I agree that they are useful for those of us blessed with 300 friends all of whom can't get enough of us, organise tons of parties and other events and post evey single photo we've ever taken to the enjoyment of others, for the rest of us, who have a few close friends and family, and then a number of acquaintances, such sites can be more of a hindrance than a help. Personally, I really don't care what the girl who used to sit three rows behind me in maths lessons had for her breakfast, or which movie my uncle's second cousin's dog groomer would be best in. But if I don't add or accept every person I ever went to school with, all their new friends and family, and their neighbours and postman, then I'm unsociable. There must be something wrong with me, because I don't want to talk to everyone under the sun. I want to talk to the people I care about most and who care about me, rather than pretend as though I give a crap about the fact that someone who's face I know from somewhere but can't quite put my finger on it is hungover from being so terribly drunk the night before.

To me, these sites are no better than a party you go to just to compare yourself to old friends, where you make promises to meet up, write, or at least send Christmas cards, and then forget as soon as you leave that you ever said such a thing. The trouble is, with the 'instant' world in which we live, things don't seem to last very long. We've become so obsessed with the next big thing, that we're in danger of never being fulfilled because the current big thing is always usurped by the sheer concept of the next. Will anything ever be good enough?

With this dependance on modern technology and the expectations is brings, comes raised expectations from ourselves as people. I feel that the expectation is: if the limit is how many bits per second your computer can process, what is your excuse for functioning any slower? Have we really moved on all that much from the 80s idyll of work hard, play hard, rest never? I am only one person, so if you wanted the report/file/booking 10 minutes ago, you should have asked me ten minutes ago!

It's not just in the work place that we are expected to excell. Through the media, namely popular women's magazines, and even in men's (though they're not expected to care as much), the 'ideal' of having everything is fed into our minds to make us feel bad about ourselves. Beautiful, well dressed, toned, successful people lament how tough their lives are, and how difficult is it sometimes to (buzzword) juggle every thing in their lives. On TV and in films, the happy ending is slowly killing our egos. It works on the same area of the brain targeted by the people who left out the egg from an instant cake mixture. It's the aspect of our personalities that tells us that we are in control of the world around us, that we control ous own destinies.

My deepest aplogies for this self-indulgent rant of a blog. Read what you will into it. The moral, if there is one, I suppose is to have high expectations for yourself, and accept that you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself if those expectations are not met. This can sometimes be the hardest thing, but always remember, you're only human, and it's ok to make mistakes. Only by trying your very best in everything can you truly accept who you are and what you achieve.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Road not Taken

One of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, wrote a graphic novel in which Destiny walks blindly through his garden, chained to his book where fates are written. He writes that every person walks through Destiny's garden, taking countless turns and changes in direction, yet when one looks back, there is only one path.

At this juncture in my life, as I wait out the long weeks until I go to Spain to learn to teach, I find myself looking back tortuously over my life so far. Twenty two years is nothing but a blip in the history of the world, and yet how many worlds have I inhabited, how many lives have I lived, and how many deaths have I died. It is agonising to think through the years and see highlighted those moments which, by my own doing or another's, shaped the person I am today, and the path I have so far trodden. Questions fill my head, rendering thought impossible, all coming down to the same two enduringly empty words: 'What if?'.

Now, I know what you're thinking: there's no point in dwelling on the past, you must look ahead if you are to move forward. I know well that to stay in one place for too long is to stagnate. A river must find its way to the ocean. And yet while I wait to embark on the next big adventure, to change the course of my life once again, thoughts of the past and what might have been haunt my waking hours. But one mustn't get too hung up on possibilities, especially when the people you've left behind (or who have left you behind) are still a presence in your life, albeit peripheral and slightly irritating. If you spend too much time wondering what might have been, you forget about what might be, what could be just around the corner.

But the truth is, what might be scares the hell out of me. There are certain things I can control, with hard work and a whole lot of faith, I can evolve my own destiny. Then there are things that just have to be dealt with as they come along. These life unknowns are not what worry me; I'm a pretty good person to have around in a crisis. No, it's something quite different that deepens the premature worry line on my forehead. I don't want to have any regrets when I face Death. I want to be able to look back and say: although I didn't know it at the time, I made the right decision. The only thing standing in the way of making the right choices for my own future happiness is myself, second guessing every step, every turn on the path. What scares me is that once a path is chosen, there is no going back, no second chance. Life's a stage and there are no rehearsals. How do I stop the times I went for it, only for things to blow up in my face, from stopping me in future times when I should go for it but fear getting hurt?

The thing is, although it will by no means lessen the line on my brow, I know the answer already, but am loathe to put it into practise by that mostly dormant Stockholm Syndrome in everyone's mind that keeps us in love with our pain. The answer is: do it anyway. I've said it before when talking about my career plans, which at this point involve leaving on a jet plane and being quite uncertain as to when I'll return: feel the fear and do it anyway. Why not the same for love, in all its forms? People hurt each other, but we still make friends, form bonds, fall in love. I suppose the key is not to burden the people you meet tomorrow with the pain caused by the people who hurt you yesterday. It's bad Karma and downright unfair.

And so I live in hope that in the very near future, I will be able, finally, to scrunch my residual fear and self doubt into a tight ball, and throw it over the proverbial cliff. Besides being so very ready to move on, there's no room for it in my suitcase.