New Country, Same Sabrina
I talked to my dad a little while ago.
He asked me if I had been writing. He also said someone made a comment to him about my lack of writing since coming to Korea. And just a moment ago, a stranger I met during a night in Seoul sent me a message to tell me he was my fan after reading some Instagram posts of mine. With those small pushes of encouragement came momentum. I figure now is as good of a time as any to start.
It’s true. I haven’t been writing. I’ve been trying. I have about five untitled documents in Google drive right now with half written blog posts in them just waiting for me to take another look, staring at me every time I open it, a reminder that looks a lot like failure.
I mean, I moved to a new country. You would think I’d have lots to say.
I can come up with all kinds of reasons why I haven’t. I’ve been busy, which is true. I’ve had a lot going on, also very true. But none of those really add up in the face of the truth:
I am fucking afraid.
I am only human, something I need to remind myself of often. I have insecurities. I have self-doubt and a lot of it. I often get disbelief when I express just how heavy those doubts are when I try to explain how much they weigh on me at times, like a heavy wet blanket I’m struggling to breathe under.
And then I get responses and replies from you who have read what I’ve written and you compliment me and you tell me all these really great and really motivational things and I am endlessly grateful. But it makes me wonder how the person I am in my head exists besides the person I present myself as and how they manage to co-exist at all. But they do, somehow.
My own doubts were taken to new heights when I moved to a new country and was thrown into this pool of people and desperately needed them to like me. I had never considered that aspect of it prior to coming here. You come to a new country and there’s a pool of twenty people or so who speak the same language as you and are interested in some of the same things as you. You really need them to invite you places or you’re going to have no friends and you’re going to sit at home and cry and you’re going to get homesick and you may run back to Newfoundland in a month’s time.
Realistically, that was never going to happen but it was my worst fear. I like to think I’m a decently likable human. I was going to make some friends. And while I told myself this, I was still racked with my own paranoia. The last thing I needed to add to the list of reasons why people wouldn’t like me is because I have a blog that seems to be a place where I like to dump my shit, oftentimes depressing.
So there, I said it. I haven’t been writing because I, like almost every other person on this planet, is afraid of what other people think.
I am un-inspiringly ordinary, it turns out.
I recognize what a crock of shit that is. I constantly preach speaking your truth. I constantly talk about living true to who you are. And I try. I try to uphold my own mottos. I try to live as true to myself as much as I can. But again, I am only human. I always feel the weight of my own insecurities, perhaps more than others. As someone who endeavors in creative pursuits, it’s an inevitable aspect of this life. The need to share, as fundamental to me as the air pumping through my lungs, goes hand in hand with the racking doubt, I suppose. I may as well resign myself to it.
But since coming to Korea, the pressure for approval was heavier than it had ever been. It’s taken me a bit of time to work through those feelings. It’s taken me time to feel comfortable enough in the midst of a bunch of strangers, who are really friends now, I suppose. But I’ve managed to pull back the blanket to a point where I can breathe. So here I am, sitting and writing and feeling like myself again. I’m three months in today. I suppose that’s my required adjustment period. Now I know, at least.
This feeling isn’t anything new to me. I’ve always been plagued by the sense that I don’t really fit in, like I don’t really belong. I’ve always kind of floated around it seemed, from friend group to friend group, having never felt any real sense of belonging in any of them. I have my core four or five friends but they have never really been friends with one another. They’re just people I meet along the way whom I really connect with and we keep in touch while I continue to weave in and out of circles and groups of people.
I’ve had one constant throughout my entire life. She’s my person and has been since kindergarten, but other than that, I’ve never exactly had a circle of friends. Even in high school, most of my really good friends came from different groups and I never really felt like I was a part of any of them, just an accepted visitor who may make appearances from time to time. I have no idea why that is but I’ve accounted it to being from such a small town that I’ve always had to outsource. That’s forced me to shape my personality in accordance with who I’m with at the time.
I did that for a long time during my first relationship. When I told my boyfriend at the time that his friends didn’t really like me or know me or something, he didn’t really understand. But then, looking back, I had molded myself pretty expertly for almost two years to fit into that relationship, quieting the parts of myself that are too loud and obnoxious and passionate and embarrassing in fear of embarrassing him.
There was one time after a night out with my new university friends, some pictures were posted on Facebook of me and my friend, barely legal, lying drunk on the ground in the middle of the road. I remember him sitting next to me and telling me he was embarrassed by them.
I was nineteen. Give me a break.
In retrospect, if he was embarrassed by me drunk and on my face, I have no idea what he was doing with me. If you know me at all, it wouldn’t seem surprising to find me in that condition from time to time. That relationship ended once I found myself free to be myself with a group of people who accepted that part of me with zero qualms.
And now here I am again, introducing myself into a new group of people, a few years older, a little wiser, but still feeling the dull wheels in my brain moving in that same familiar pattern. Trying to sand down my edges so I think I’m easier to be around. Trying to turn myself into an easier drinking version of myself.
There is an element of self-reflection that is important to being a decent human being. It’s necessary to take a look at yourself and wonder if you’re being a good person or not. But you have to hold on to yourself in the process or eventually you lose sight of who you are. You come out of an experience or a relationship and suddenly your reflection in the mirror is much different and you have no idea who you are anymore. That can be beneficial to you sometimes. We all have parts of ourselves that need work. We all need to grow and to change. But hold on to your quirks, your eccentricities, your passions. Don’t try to smooth out your edges so you become a duller version of yourself.
I’m guilty of it though. My edges are not soft. I run into walls and I’m clumsy. I’m loud. I overshare. I tell really personal stories five minutes after meeting me. I try to keep my mouth shut sometimes but it spills out of me because I have absolutely zero filter (thanks, mom). I’m emotional. I say I love you a lot. I talk about things that make people uncomfortable because those experiences are as definitive to my humanity as breathing. I’m overly passionate. My laugh is sometimes uncomfortably loud. And I’m hard on myself, like most of us.
But I’m also honest and open. Or at least I strive to be.
I started this blog because of how much I value sharing our experiences. I started it because I strongly believe in speaking your truth, whatever that truth may be. And because we deserve to live a life that is driven by self-exploration rather than self-doubt.
I have a web of stories to share that are sometimes heart-breaking but also universal. They are fundamental to who I am. And it’s the sharing of experiences that I believe connects us all in the end. It’s what weaves this intricate fabric of life. I don’t really believe anything comes from keeping them inside. And we owe it to ourselves to not quiet those parts of us that may make others uncomfortable. The purpose of this is to embrace who I am and to live as true to it as possible. That sentiment may resonate with some people, and with some people, it may not. Whatever. I’m letting it go. Live and let live.
So now that I’ve said my peace,
How is Korea?
The day leading up to coming here I cried at least a dozen times. Sitting in my bedroom alone feeling apprehensive and trying to pack – crying. Walking around my house trying to gather all my last minute things and seeing my family, sitting around watching tv, chilling like my impending doom wasn’t about to rain down upon me – crying. Driving to the bank with my mother – crying. Sitting in the bank with my mother – my mother crying. My Uncle calling me while sitting in the bank to wish me good luck – crying. Sitting in my bedroom again with everything almost packed and having all of my self-doubt resting on me like a mountain and being fairly positive I was going to fail at this endeavor and every other thing I would ever attempt again in my life – crying. Maybe those doubts are normal. Maybe I’m half insane. I’m not quite sure and I’m trying to stop questioning it.
But when we got to the airport in the smallest hours of the morning, this odd sense of calm washed over me. As my parents hugged me and my mother cried and they told me how proud of me they were, I didn’t fall into a pool of tears at their feet and beg to stay home. It seems that I spend a lot of time fretting over my own self-conceived inabilities but when it comes down to crunch time, I persevere.
Because I live in small town Newfoundland where these things happen, I spent my time waiting to board my flight speaking to my second-grade teacher whom I hadn’t seen in about ten years. It was a nice, I’ve come full circle kind of way to end it.
I got on board the plane and didn’t fall apart. Not once. Not at all. Not since that day before coming here. It’s been smooth sailing. I’ve had no moments where I just can’t do this and I need to come home. I owe a lot of that to the people here who went out of their way to make my transition easier (Amber, Shannon – if you’re reading, god love the two of you).
I’ve yet to be overwhelmed with living in this country and breathing new air and the language barrier and the culture shock. Instead, I sit in awe of it. The differences, the similarities, all of it. I am in complete awe of this world and my place in it. Just like I was as a child, feet sandy and wet, sitting on a rock in front of the ocean, completely marveling at this world and wondering how I was ever going to escape the little, isolated cove I lived in. I still feel like her. I still have the same shock and wonder for this life resting inside of me like I did all those years ago.
I struggle to put into words how amazing this experience is. I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing this, the one I go to every morning before work, where the morning weekday girl knows my order so I no longer have to struggle in Korean to say it. A song by Mandy Moore from “A Walk to Remember” is playing (I wrote that sentence three weeks ago and now I’m here editing and it’s playing again. I’m taking it as a sign). I have to go to work in an hour. And I am completely content, completely satisfied, completely at peace with every decision I have made in this life because they have all brought me to this place, this moment, this place in time where it all seems to meet.
I’ve always struggled with satisfaction. I thought, for quite some time, that I was doomed to a life of being completely unsatisfied. That I was never going to find anything that gave me any sense of purpose, or ease, or well, just plain old satisfaction. I had resigned myself to thinking my life was going to be like a Rolling Stones song. But now, it seems to be seeping from my pores. My life is a gigantic blank page, like the cheesy cliche Natasha Bedingfield song that the Hills ruined, it is completely unwritten. I love that. I live for it. I live for the uncertainty and the openness. I have no idea when I’ll come back home. It could be in a year. It could be in five. It could be ten. It could be never.
Life, especially the last year, has taught me that we have no guarantee of a future. So, I’m not really planning mine. After years of stressing over it, I’ve finally let it go. But I have always seemed to be temporary in nature. I always seem to be on the eve of another departure. I’ve always wondered if my life would ever be defined by the desire to stay instead of the desire to leave. But for now, I’m content. I am twenty four and completely satisfied. This is a good life.
There’s a quote from E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End that has stayed with me since reading it in University.
“She might yet be able to help him to the building of the rainbow bridge that should connect the prose in us with the passion. Without it we are meaningless fragments, half monks, half beasts, unnconnected arches that have never joined into a man. With it love is born. . .
That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer.”
That. That’s it. That’s all I’m looking for. That’s all I’m planning on.