After high school most of my friends went to the University of Santa Cruz. I wanted to be completely independent and explore the world further so I went to art school in Kansas City, Missouri. I had never been further east than Arizona and when I thought of the Midwest I thought of dangerous tornadoes like the ones from Twister. “Look how brave I am!” I thought. “I could get sucked up into one of these things but that’s the risk I take cuz I’m an artist and I’m reckless!” My opinion changed after my first bitter winter and after being harassed by one too many well-intentioned Christians who said they would pray for my soul when I told them I wasn’t religious. No offense to Midwesterners but the Midwest kinda sucks. I met some great friends and the writing program at my school literally changed my life but given the choice between living in the Midwest or eating a jar of pickles every day, (I hate pickles) I would probably choose the jar of pickles nine times out of ten.
While in college I took a summer class in Paris hosted by my Art History and Writing professor. My short one month trip to France spurred my love for travel. Every second in France was amazing. The history, art, and romance of France was never ending. It sounds like a horrible tourist summary you find in a brochure but sometimes clichés are the most sincere. Coming back to the Midwest after Paris was like eating at IHop instead of a classy restaurant with candlelight and a secret wine cellar—it’s more than doable but you know you would choose the other if you had the money or the means.
While I was in college the economy and the whole world seemed to collapse. After graduation I found myself moving back home with my parents with no job prospects. I spent five months looking for a job with no luck so I took a job at a local pizza parlor. Working at that pizza parlor was like someone had gone out of their way to find the bane that would completely destroy my soul. Home, which had always been a place of comfort, had now become a place of angst and frustration. I couldn’t focus on my art and I couldn’t make enough money working at a shitty pizza parlor to move out. I seriously considered joining the army. My first choice was actually the navy because even if I had to take orders all day at least I would be on a boat, traveling the world. I told my parents my great idea and they basically told me I was out of my fucking mind. “You’re sensitive and rebellious. Your ears are pierced and you like your hair long. You wouldn’t last one second in the army before going crazy.” So I took my research on getting into the navy more seriously just as a “Fuck you” to my parents for telling me what I could and couldn’t do. After I got done being pissed off and feeling rejected I calmed down and I remembered talking to my counselor in college about teaching abroad. I researched the best ESL certificate programs and a year later I was getting ready to move to Korea.
The two months before I left for Korea was like getting ready to jump into a cold mountain lake. I knew where the lake was and I knew it would still be there when I finally worked up enough courage to jump so I kept putting it off in my mind. I knew I would have to go sometime but it was always in some mysterious future that never got closer. It didn’t register that I was actually going to Korea until the week I started packing. Packing never took very long for me. Tell me where I’m going and for how long and I would have my bag packed in ten minutes. That’s assuming I could find everything in the chaos of my room. The first day I packed for Korea it took me ten minutes. Then I found things I forgot I had and knew I needed so I packed again. Then when I realized it would be impossible to bring four fifty-pound suitcases with me I threw everything out and started over. I couldn’t decide between my favorite movies or books, shirts, and pants. Then I realized I wouldn’t be able to bring my guitar and it was almost like being told I couldn’t bring my family dog with me. Playing the guitar had become my favorite hobby just before leaving and I was excited to try and woo the hell out of some Korean girls. I finally finished packing the night before my trip. At 6a.m. I would be leaving for SFO airport. It wasn’t until I was in the security line saying goodbye to my parents that I realized I was actually leaving for Korea. I was finally jumping and I have no plastic sword to defend me and no professor who could translate for me. I didn’t look back at my parents because I wanted them to see how strong I was so they could be proud of me. But when I got to my gate and sat down the only I could think was, “What the fuck am I doing?”