1. I will be fluent in Korean by my birthday. FAILED.
This was a long shot. Part of creating #1 was to keep me motivated to learn the language and I was certainly motivated. On and off, I studied every day. I went to roughly three language exchanges per week. And I have made progress. I can say at the end of 2014 that I’m conversational in Korean. I can get regular daily tasks done (transactions at the grocery store, etc.) and ask about people’s weekends. I can talk to my students and help translate words. I can’t read newspapers or understand dramas without subtitles yet, but those are the goalposts for the next level.
In the meantime, I learned how to study a language without the aid of a classroom. (And I’m still learning! I’m looking forward to implementing Benny Lewis’ ideas for my next language learning adventure.) I learned how to keep myself motivated through the high and low seasons of my moods. Actually, there’s a part of me that can’t believe I managed to stick to this project for as long as I have– so that in itself is a victory. I learned how to communicate even where words failed me. I feel satisfied with what I got out of this intention.
2. I will visit at least five countries in Asia. FAILED.
I made the choice to fail #2. I actually had the opportunity, time, and money to visit five countries. Six countries if I wanted.
But I opted instead for deeper engagement in a handful countries. I think there was a part of me that became afraid of just checking things off a list instead of really being there, absorbing the country I was visiting.
The turning point was Golden Week in May when I briefly toyed with the idea of going to Japan but ended up going to Seoul with friends instead. Seoul is just one city, but all four of the days we spent there were full to capacity. And I still haven’t seen everything there is to see in Seoul. (I haven’t visited Hongdae, for instance.)
My failure was sealed when I decided to go to China twice. This was an economical decision but one that paid off when I fell in love with the place. I look forward to visiting China again in the future. Japan, as well. I only spent 3.5 days in Tokyo which was hardly enough for that metropolis. I need even more for the rest of the country.
3. I will finally go bungee jumping. FAILED.
Shortly after I wrote this, I realized I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t even try to go bungee jumping.
4. I will be famous. FAILED.
I lent my image to the Seattle Asian American Film Festival’s poster which was a ton of fun. I had written down once that my image would be used to sell something life-affirming and I’ve done that. I had other things in mind, however, so for this I feel like I need to go bigger and bolder.
I was also on Korean television from an immersion day I did with a local girls’ high school. [Starts at 7:10. Best viewed in Internet Explorer because that’s how South Korea rolls.]
So I was out and about and seen. But no, I wouldn’t consider this being famous. Famous would mean being recognized wherever I went and people talking about the things I was doing. I’m not there yet. There’s a part of me that still wants to do this and a part of me that’s asking, what is it going to cost me? What do I have to give up and who do I have to become to be famous? To be known? We’ll see.
5. I will collaborate and create a beautiful romantic relationship with someone amazing. PASSED.
It’s funny to make this list and see how little the failing or the passing mattered. I failed so much of this list and really only passed the one, but it’s the one that was the most heart-breaking. I do accept my success on this however. Nothing risked, nothing gained and I firmly believe that I gained from this experience.
I wrote #5 with the intent of meeting someone in South Korea but God/the universe/whatever had other plans. I actually met this amazing person in 2013, but it wasn’t until a week before I left the United States that I finally said yes, will you join me? Lucky me, he said yes too.
Being with him was beyond anything I ever expected. I really think he was a soul mate; not, you know, THE soul mate, but someone whose soul vibrated at the same frequency as mine, if for only a time. I had a lot of fun and then it was over. I left. I chose living in South Korea, learning Korean, traveling to China and Japan and fulfilling my dreams over staying with him. This is a decision that has been a source of both joy and pain and one that I do not regret. It was the right decision.
For some reason, I thought that with just a little over a week spent together it wouldn’t hurt me. I was so wrong. The fall out was awful. It was honest to God one of those episodes in life where you wonder how the sun comes up, how the children can keep laughing and you’re expected to keep going? Really? People actually survive this?!
And by God you do. We do. I learned so much. I had promised to love myself in 2014, and I had put that on hold because, well, I had him what did I need that other stuff for? I loved myself enough to get him and then I had to learn to love myself enough to let him go. In his absence, I became frightened of myself. My friends saved my life on this one. They taught me how to talk to myself with love, even if what I was saying was, “shut up!” Their love for me showed me how to love myself. They helped me find the strength to go in and hold the me-creature to my heart. The soul searching in the aftermath has been really good for me. It has clarified a lot of things and I’ve learned things that will ultimately make me a better, more whole, and more loving person. In 2015, I intend to practice what I’ve learned and be the best possible Cat for the entire world.
This year was amazing. It was challenging. It stripped me of everything I was. All my bearings, all the hallmarks of my life. This year took away my language, took away my support system of friends; gave me love and ripped it away from me. There was nowhere to hide from myself. I learned to point and gesture, to feel my way around cities, to give myself what I wanted, to listen to myself, to love truly, to be patient, to forgive, and to let go. I come out of it eager to take on the bigger challenges of 2015.