... I realized today that when I say I miss Korea, I don't only mean the country itself or even the cultural peculiarities of the land of kimchi, mountains, and fan death. I don't mean that I miss my job at TFLHS, which I missed sharply this year. Of course, I also miss the people I associate with my life in Korea, even though many of them no longer actually live there (or live in another city), but that's not even entirely what I mean.
I think sometimes that when I say I miss Korea, I really miss who I was while I was living in Korea.
I'm not saying I'm a dramatically different person in America--I'm largely the same. However, I behave differently and respond to my environment differently. I even think differently sometimes. In Korea, I felt like I was more adventurous, more interesting, and more inspired. I felt shiny. Powerful.
Living in another country has a certain freedom to it. There is the freedom of not belonging, and it being just fine and dandy to not fully belong. Here, when I feel like I don't belong, it's more painful and lonely. There is the freedom from conventions. Adhering to neither Korean culture nor American culture fully was expected of me, and therefore I could pick and choose quite comfortably.
Also, I was challenged most days in a way that excited and inspired me. I always had something I wanted to write about. I saw lots of things I wanted to photograph. I experimented with foods and local travel more than I'm inclined to do in the area I grew up. I tried new classes and sports and hobbies for the heck of it.
I know, I know. I could do those things here, too. After all, these qualities are not in Korea, but in me. I just feel like I'd have to work harder to be inspired in that way. I have to look for the exotic and interesting in the mundane and everyday grind.
The depression I was in for much of this last year has colored my impression of my ability to explore and be inspired in America. Now that I'm out of it, past the culture shock, and happy with my life again, I'm starting to feel like I want to do the work I know is necessary to live this way. Living in my home country just feels a bit encumbered sometimes is all.