Sunday, September 16, 2007

Honesty is the best policy.

Blogging is a little tricky. Even when we write with the mask off, without the anonymity that the internet could afford by posting pictures and reporting truths as best we know them, effective composition is not a simple or straightforward process. Especially if you want someone else to read what you have written.

I began the blog just before my 26th birthday, right after notifying Bill that I would not be returning to teach at Roosevelt for 2007-2008 because I was moving to Korea to teach ESL. My first post (which is not really effective as a blog introduction) demonstrates the transitional nature of this last year for me. I had just made several major life decisions all at once and did not really knowing what the purpose of writing here was, but knew that I needed to write it. I will admit that it was not very readable initially for that reason.

I feel that over the last few months it has comfortably settled into the category of adventure and travel journaling. I must have initially wanted it to be such, since I titled it (oh so cleverly and puntastically), Going Places. Of course, the adventures, and the writing about them, inspire some frequent and healthy bouts of self indulgent reflection--but I only burden you, my readers, with such pontifications, once in a while. Like today.

I aim to please, delight, amuse, inspire--if only just a little bit. Most of my blog readers, as far as I know at this point, are my family/friends back home, a few fellow bloggers from Korea and beyond, and people looking for advice/insights into teaching ESL in Korea (or nude beach pics from Martha's Vineyard... but that is a different issue entirely). Good rhetor that I am, I do consider my real audience when I write. And I really appreciate those of you who have commented on my blog to that effect or sent me e-mails about your own adventures.

However, after my parents called me a barfly in jest after reading my last post, I read back over my blog as a whole and realized that my intended audience and this project of blogging is much more ambitious than the current reality.

I have affected a persona not entirely of who I am, but of who I'd like to be--in some respects. I may be labeled brave, or adventurous, or called a free-spirit, or even (as I have labeled myself in the subtitling) a wanderer by people who frequent my writings on this site. However, the reality is that I'm a neurotically cautious and obsessive over-planner tortured by the intoxicating need for risk-taking and adventure. I used to spend a lot of time worrying/reading/thinking about things over which I had no control and it made me depressed and anxious. After years of therapy, now I just call that "research" and limit it to things for which I can plausibly invent some reason to care.

For example, a part of the story I didn't tell from last night went like this, including the running interior monologue for your amusement:

"What are you drinking?" Uh-oh. Is this Alex fellow going to offer to buy me another one?

"Kaluha and milk." Yep. Tone in check, I sound cool and sophisticated--just like I planned.

"That's sweet. Have you ever had a mudslide?" Um... yeah it was the only way I could drink alcohol when I first tried it because it didn't taste anything like booze. And yes, I was six months from my 21st birthday when I had my first real drink (not sipping someone else's). God, I'm a such a dork.

"Yeah. They're good. Like a milkshake!" See? Dork.

He laughs. I think he might be tipsy. "What are you doing in Korea?"

"Teaching." His look of shock is played up for effect, but may have a hint of true surprise.

"Not many teachers who go out and party." Little of what he says and does seems genuine and this bores me a little. And irritates me because I'm being hit on by a drunk GI, and it feels exactly like the meat market scene at bars at home. Including the generalizations about teachers. Sad thing is that Alex might even be dorky cute if he weren't trying so hard to be cool.

Then I realize that I am also trying to be (or to seem) cooler than I actually am. Bars have a funny way of doing that to you. "I don't, really. Party. Just a couple drinks. Dancing. Fun on the weekends." And exchanges like this make me want to go back home and read the rest of my book.

He asked me for my number. I have too big a heart. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and my digits, even though I'm not really interested.

Later on, sitting on a couch with Roy while Shelly played her last game of Foosball, high from dancing at Club Frog and feeling much more comfortable and relaxed at Thunderbird Lounge than at Bubble Bar, I reflected on my evening's insanity. I call it that, but really it was rather PG-13 rated--mostly for my use of the word "fuck" and for Club Frog's bizarreness. There was no sex, no violence, no drugs, and (for me anyhow) not even that much alcohol. I forget the words, but I said something ridiculously nerdy and afterschool special about how I don't often go out and just save up all my "wild and crazy" for evenings like this.

"Yeah. I can tell you're the wild and crazy type."

"Shelly!" I call out in a mocking, whiny student voice. "Roy just sarcastically implied that I am not, in fact, wild or crazy."

Shelly and Roy laughed, but it's true. I'm tame. And shy. Korea is forcing me out of my bubble, but I refuse to "fake" who I am, like I noticed some expats doing. I guess I'm comfortable enough in my own skin to be a dork, which is good, even if it means other people notice.

But that's the kind of insecure second guessing I usually leave out of the stories of my adventures because, gosh darn it, I want to be fun and whimsical and cool--in my own weird way.

Funny thing is that the upbeat, adventurous persona concocted for blog writing purposes, who certain acquaintances of mine from other points in my life might suspect is entirely fiction, is a part of me--one of the best parts of me, I'd like to think. And the more I compose here, the more I become the better parts of me. The wacky adventurer. The eternal optimist. The thoughtful reader. The independent thinker. I'm more confident than I was six months ago when this project began and writing here had at least as much to do with it as all the other stuff I've done in the meantime, like work at the hotline, get over a failed relationship, and move to another country.

I'd just like to say thanks to those of you who support my writing by bothering to read it. Here's to you becoming the best parts of yourselves. I like to think that a good life is one where we choose to be the person we want to be most of the time; if so, I'm definitely living the good life lately!


  1. Considering that I spent most of my 13 months hiding out in Banyawol, I've been thoroughly impressed by your willingness to put yourself out there, to go to bars alone and meet people. I also think you should hang out with that cute bartender at Loss Time. I kind of regret never doing that.

    Also, I wrote something a while back over at BlogSupergroup when the tipic was fear, and you might find it relevant. click here!

  2. I know the true you and don't think for a minute that you're going "hog wild" over in Korea.

    As a fellow blogger I know all too well about writing for an audience. Sometimes I wonder if it's writing for "them" or writing for "me".

    I love when I can let go and write for me but I must admit I do love the validation of an audience and yes, comments. I try not to place the value of my writing to the amount of comments I receive. I've gotten over that. Heck, at one point for the longest time I didn't allow commenting!

  3. ha wow this entry hits close to home. i don't know if it's just me but don't you feel a bit narcissistic writing for an audience? i dunno, i always feel like i'm being selfish and whatnot because i love the attention aka comments. btw, why are sheets and towels and everything in costco here so damn expensive. unbelievable

  4. Jane,

    Great post over on the ol' BSG. Fear is such a funny thing; self-perception surrounding fear is more so. When someone else does things that we ourselves fear doing, we call them brave, even if it wasn't something they feared. I'm learning to judge myself according to my own standards.

    Does the Loss Time guy speak English? I keep wanting to go into some of the local places but my fear at my own lack of Korean skills is holding me back right now...


    My parents were joking, but it's funny to think about how someone might interpret such a post. I'm glad you let people comment now.

    And yeah, it sucks when you put so much thought and energy into a post and no one responds. But I know that sometimes we don't have words for our responses. I've read things on blogs that deeply touched me that I felt I could not comment upon, though I try to now that I am blogging.


    Yeah, I've been working on my grad school papers. Rosenblatt's theory of text is that its meaning doesn't exist without the transaction between it and a reader. I've always tried to teach my student writers about the vital importance of audience. I think it is far more irritating when people write without the foggiest notion that someone else has to read their stuff. It is, for the most part, the opposite of narcissism--this obsession with what someone else's mind does with our words...

    Welcome to Korea.

  5. I don't know if he speaks English other than "Hello" - although after I went to Loss Time w/ Mr. Yu, every time the bartender saw me he would wave and greet me in either English or Korean. He seems like a pretty nice guy. Drives a big silver SUV that you might see around Loss Time periodically.

  6. The internal struggle is something that we all deal with in one way or another. To acknowledge it is not a bad thing (and in you blog, the right amount seems to fill you out as a "more real person").

    Some of us know the very dorky, nuerotic, super obssesive side of you but that is NOT the whole you.

    Being able to take yourself and force yourself into situations where you are uncomfortable in order to grow is a great sign of self perscpetion. The motivation and follow through can be scarry but also extremely rewarding and it sounds like you are becoming more of the person YOU want to be and that is FANTASTIC!

    So chipper up and be genuine, it will make other people come out of their shells. A genuine person is a rare thing.


  7. A bit of what you said here made me think of a conversation I had with some fellow trainees shortly after arriving in Guinea. All three of us expressed surprise at how many people had told us we were "brave" for doing Peace Corps, yet none of us felt this action to be particularly courageous. (How's this for dorky - I'm sitting here wondering whether "brave" and "courageous" are true synonyms, or whether there are slight but important differences between them. Also, what should have been the correct punctuation for my previous sentence?)

  8. Chris & Eli,

    Thank you both so much for your comments. (Eli, I'm imagining your face as you ponder the grammar question and it makes me laugh out loud--it's been far too long since we've seen each other!).


    I don't think I've seen him, though I keep checking the windows for a hot guy. We did go to the Shabu Shabu place and the waiter was at least as yummy as the food!



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