My trip to Japan afforded me a bit of breathing room before I had to say goodbye to all the lovely people who made my Korean adventure what it was.
Party-planning-wise, this was simple: we ate barbecued pork and beef at a place called Obanjang (오반장) where I was able to chat with each of my guests, thank them for coming and to acknowledge who they were for me. A friend of mine invited me to make a speech, so I did. (She later said, in the most British-affectionate way possible, that it was a very American speech. I may have been gushing and saccharine and oh so very loving.)
Then we headed to noraebang for my last chance to sing in Korea’s giant private singing rooms. We even had an interlude where I was able to play some ukulele. I was drunk and feeling hyper-conscious of what I was doing, but I was happy for the opportunity to share my singing and playing with some of the best people in my life.
A friend of mine posted this quote on facebook:
“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” —Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
It’s interesting to think about this quote in the context of Kiss Me Goodbye Seattle! and now Bid Me Farewell Ulsan! (Yes, I will continue with the ridiculously verbose goodbye party titles. It’s a train that can’t be stopped.)
I don’t know what I was expecting about what would happen after I left Seattle. It felt very much like the end of a novel, except one of the characters was still going on. Everything else seemed to fall away. In Korea, I couldn’t keep being the person at Kiss Me Goodbye Seattle! even though I wanted to. Things were still true for that Cat that couldn’t be true for the Cat in Korea anymore. So the losing happened. And it wasn’t all bad. The Cat at Bid Me Farewell Ulsan! was a bit more battered, strangely more whole, and ever more grateful for the amazing life that she got to lead.
I wasn’t happy in every moment in South Korea. I wasn’t unhappy either! I just really went through the full spectrum of emotions while I was there: bliss, sorrow, shame, anger, peace. I feel more accepting of my own humanity and other people’s for it.
South Korea gave me a lot of presents. It gave me a new language and so many new experiences. It taught me that I was more than ready for anything life threw at me and it leaves me, at the end of this year, free to pursue my biggest dreams.
I remain the same in one very key way: optimistic and open to the wild new future making its way towards me.
[This post was originally published on March 15, 2015. It has been backdated for the sake of tidier, chronological organization.]