Excerpts from my journal; Early August 2017

August 1

Happy August. Happy, happy, blessed, long-awaited August. The beginning of Fall, the life breath I needed to get back on track. This morning I meditated. This morning I got up and wrote 350 words. This morning I felt peaceful and ready to write again.

I measure the success of my life by how willing I am to write, and whether I actually do so. I can be eager about it or feel like I’d rather pull my hair out, but if I actually sit down and write my novel, I’m in a good place.

Until last night though, I hadn’t even wanted to think about anything even remotely novel adjacent. I was okay blogging. I was okay thinking about blogging. But thinking about my novel was just depressing. I didn’t feel like working on it. I didn’t like it anymore. I’m still out of love with it, but I’m in love with the idea of using it as practice. Practice revising, practice editing, practice working on something I don’t love. Good practice. I’m giving myself more grace as well to wait it out. I wanted to have it published this year. That won’t happen. Maybe not next year either. Maybe never for this book. And that’s okay. If I can revise and edit a whole novel, I’ll count that lucky.

Honestly, summer camp has been a huge mental hassle for the past three months. In May I started seriously planning for it, and with the end of school approaching at that time it was hectic and stressful, not even knowing what I needed to do.

In June, with the end of school upon us, I was busy trying to get everything done I could do, figure out the trip to NZ, and also finish up the semester well. It was intensely crazy and stressful.

Then in July I had my vacation, which was amazing and a much-needed break, but what with getting sick and figuring stuff out, and the impending loom of the imminent summer camp with the lack of days to plan, that was just the worst. I went down a deep dark rabbit hole of self-hatred, confusion, and guilt.

So, now that we’re a week in, and it’s gone well, and I don’t have to worry about anyone blaming me for not working hard, I can finally get back to the place I was in April. A soft, happy place of peace and writing and meditating and focus. At least a goal.

Today it all goes away. Today I get my nails done, eat Subway, work out and get back on track.

August 2

Today has gone well. Yesterday went well. I went out to get my nails done with friends, bought two pairs of indoor sandals on sale, bought snacks and moar hazelnoot coffee, and got the novel study schedule down pat. As pat as it can be. I never know exactly how long a book will take me to read. I can read a three hundred page-ish book in two-ish hours, but that’s a lot of ishes. But I have an order and I have the steps, so as long as it takes me it takes me.

I’m excited about it. I hope it will help. I know that analyzing novels is an excellent way to get better at the craft, but never having done it before, I don’t know how excellent it could be.

It seems like this year is a year of experimentation. Experimenting by traveling with the brother to a totally new place. Experimenting dating more than once. Experimenting with my hair and makeup. Experimenting with writing, editing, and studying. Experimenting having a really good guy friend and working on a new project with someone else. This is all very good. I need to expand more. I’m still working on not living like I still live with my parents. 

The past few days I’ve hit an all-time energy low around 2pm. The hottest part of the day indeed. All my energy just goes right out my feet and slips soggily onto the floor.

August 4

Today is the last day. That makes it the best day we’ve had so far. I’m hiding in my room, because while I could go down and run around checking on everything all the time, in the end, this is the teacher’s’ job. I don’t need to get involved. I did my bit, now I’m done. I just have to lead the stupid presentation. It’s not like I’m nervous about presenting, it’s not like I’m even a little bad at it (I’m amazing at it), it’s not like I wish someone else would do it. I just want it to be over. That’s all. I want to stop being in charge and take a damn breath. I want to go home and eat chips and watch TV and read my book and breathhhhhh. 

Last night I had a shock of memory looking a picture. It wasn’t my picture, but the angle and the subject were so similar it triggered it.

I remembered the spare room where I always stayed in my granny’s house. She had kept her kids’ rooms the same, so I was sleeping in my Aunt’s room. It was all white and pink, with a rickety metal bed with a white coverlet that was such a pain to make I had to have my mom help every time.

My brother stayed in our dad’s old room, paneled wood and so 70s. He had a gun rack, and old board games and an electrical wiring kit for kids. Even back then he knew what he wanted to do, I guess.

August 8

It’s been a few days since I wrote last. Huh. I guess those days were good.

Saturday, the 5th, I met up with friends and we went shopping. That was fun! We had to wait like an hour and a half for food, which was not so fun, but I bought some cute stuff and the food was excellent. Last cheat before eating healthy. More on that in a minute.

Monday was the best day though. I did play some games, but I also set goals, got my calendar set up, cleaned up, cooked, made an awesome health plan, exercised, and basically got my life back on track. It was like making New Year’s Resolutions. I decided how I want to feel for this semester. I want to feel focused. I want to feel forward moving. I want to feel ready to go home by the end of it. I want to feel flexible and expansive, allowing changes to come into my life with grace.

It’s been good. I got back to writing and even wrote physically on note cards for the first time in a very long time.

I also started the life coach book study! Finally. I don’t know why it was such a block in my head to do that. Maybe since it’s been so long since I did any studying, and my mind has such bad memories of school. But it was fine! And even fun! I’m glad I discovered bullet journaling. I can make my notes pretty and it helps me take more time with them.

Today was full of meetings. No joke, we had a meeting every period, pretty much, until 3:15. By that time, I had no energy and no strength, so I just faffed around until 4. The meetings are mostly unnecessary. The useful stuff took around an hour or two altogether, not the five we spent. Too much gubbins.

But I’m happy. This year will be easier by far. This year I’m not going to be in charge of any events, and so won’t have to think about anything but teaching. I want to try to get better at that. At the planning and activities and such. I’m already really good at the leading and style of it.

Here’s to meditating every day. Here’s to prayer and getting back on track and fulfilling dreams. Here’s to the rest of my life!

August 9

Here we go. Another round of meetings. Hopefully not all day this time. I would like to get some school work done, thanks.

I’ve meditated three days in a row now. I forget how much it helps keep my overall state of wellbeing calm.

I’m not sure about the shirt I’m wearing today. It’s more complicated than usual. I like big baggy shirts or flowy comfortable ones. This one has full sleeves, is nipped at the waist and has a loose peplum. All serving to make me feel more self-conscious than I usually do. It’s a good exercise in not caring what I wear. The color is nice though, and my hair turned out amazing.

It’s daunting to look at the previous teacher’s stack of binders and materials. I’ll need to go through it slowly, but I can’t even get started until I know I have a few good hours to do it. I hate doing projects in bits.

Most of my creative classroom organizing work will come after school starts. I don’t know why, but that’s typically what happens. I think I have to get through the moment of beginning, and then things will calm down into the routine for the rest of the year. But right now is too full of anticipation to relax in. I need another month.

a poem: snakes on the deck

Sometimes I’m tempted to get angry that I have to stand here and teach English. I want to rage and rail and list my complaints neatly in ordered, alphabetized lines.
But I don’t let myself ever get angry. Not really truly deeply angry. I chose this life. I think I have no right to get angry that I chose it.
Choose something else, is the obvious answer. And yet I don’t. So fear is there. And laziness. The status quo. Inertia. A body at one job remains at one job unless acted upon by unemployment or very great determination. Workers first law.
I rage in silence at myself in the end. Why are you standing there teaching English? Layabout.

(Part 2, sometime later)

I am angry now. I have pulled up a great column
Of anger in my chest and am heaving it out, coil by coil,
Like a great slippery snake
Like a heavy rope on a ship
To coil and coil without end.
The deck is full of the slips and strains of it.
I am angry.
Angry that I feel beholden to something
I should not.
This life is toxic. It is destroying my body.
Why have I not left.
Why do I feel this guilt.
Why has this place given me such guilt that I can’t even walk away when it no longer serves me nor helps me nor is even safe for me.
Were I at home I wouldn’t hesitate.
No, just here.
I am rotting.
A carcass for carrion birds to find and harvest.
I will leave the shell behind and journey home.
The soul bright and untainted.
The long, long journey back to it.

-a.e

a poem: bare

(Written in Korea, midwinter)

I usually walk with headphones
To block out the world
But wearing earmuffs makes it hard
Anyway today I walked in silence
Muffled a bit all the same
But I heard the coldest sound on earth
Dead leaves
Leftovers of Autumn
Blowing in the wind across stone
Skittering
Beetle-like
But more romantic than beetles.
I saw the trees reaching naked into the sky,
Bare bones black bark
Bleary leering as I walked
Against the wind, earmuffed, masked, scarfed, coated,
A pad of heat against my back
Barely enough for biting weather
Barely enough for biting illness
Barely covering

-a.e

Excerpts from my journal; Mid June 2017

June 14

7 is my unlucky number. It’s unlucky because every morning I wake up around 5:30 or 6am, and so when I go to bed and set my alarms, I tend to see “Alarm set for 7 hours and xx minutes.” And I used to have a mini panic every time. I’m getting less than 8 hours of sleep tonight! my mind would yell. I’m going to be soo tired tomorrow I won’t be able to function, and my skin will get worse, and my health will deteriorate, and my mind won’t work properly, and I won’t be able to be creative tomorrow night!…and so on. I firmly and utterly believed that I needed at least 8 hours of sleep to be okay. Even if the time was 7 hours and 59 minutes, that wasn’t okay. Because I knew that I would spend at least half an hour actually falling asleep, and then I had blown it. But going to bed before or at 9 just wasn’t okay either. Aside from being too grandmotherly (and I already have that image, thanks), it would mean I only had 4 hours of time every evening. Between showering, eating dinner, and the other mindless tasks I need to do every night, that would not be enough time to do all the relaxing and working on of projects that I wanted. I’ve always had a weird relationship with time.

My internet stopped working on Monday night. It’s a bummer. I did a bunch of things to it and tried to fix it myself for two days, but at some point you just have to adult up and call the dang service man. Well, in this case I made my Korean friend call in case the English person asked me questions I didn’t know. But it got done. Now I just have to go home and wait awkwardly until the service man comes, then wait awkwardly while he fixes it, and maybe awkwardly answer his questions. Awkwardly. Boo.

I do love Korea though, because they sent me a text with the guy’s name, number, and picture so I don’t get a creeper. Considerate.

I have become the school editor. Today I had 3 things sent to me by coworkers to be edited. Looked over. Even my boss’s boss has sent me things to be checked before they get posted or sent out. I am the editor. The Editor. I feel like I could legitimately get that on a mug now.

Today is Wednesday. Meeting day. Which means the last part of my work day is always a nasty cold sore on the mouth of the day. Ugh. Usually it’s fine, but always painful. Always just a lot of meaningless dribble.

June 15

The first week I was in Korea, I didn’t have a coffee maker. I bought and drank the cold coffees from the convenience store downstairs, but it was a sad and lackluster replacement. There’s nothing like hot, strong, fresh coffee to wake you up.

I wanted fresh coffee desperately before I got a machine. I had to be creative to get it. I had a saucepan, and paper towels, and a thermos. I made filters from the paper towels, set it in the thermos, added the grounds, then spooned boiling water from the saucepan over it. Hand dripped coffee, bam. It was amazing. But time-consuming. I did that for way longer than I should have. I feel like it might have been a week, or it might have felt like a week.

I ended up ordering a machine, so that delayed the process even more. Eventually, the tiny, red, four-cup maker came, and he’s been my morning friend for two years. Bless him.

Last night the internet got fixed. Kind of. It worked for about an hour and then kaput. I got angry, laid down and read a book for a while, then went out and unplugged it and plugged it back in. It worked. Then this morning it was out again. So I got angry, made coffee, then went out and unplugged it and plugged it back in. It’s working now. It might just become part of my routine. What a pain.

I use a curler on my bangs now. I’d seen girls in dramas use them. Their front hair curled up, looking ridiculous, as they did their makeup or headed to work. Yes, work. It reminds me of the old ladies who would go about with curlers in their hair. I even see some of the high school students at school doing it. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s supposed to be cute? Like, oh, you’ve seen into my getting ready moments. Oh, you see me trying to be pretty. 

Today it seems like many things happened in a very short space of time. But now I can’t actually think of what they were. Just a feeling then.

June 16

My body is for carrying my head around. So let’s not get carried away on vanity.

This morning I was on watch duty in the elementary hallway. Teachers take turns making sure kids don’t destroy themselves or each other. As I was watching, a first-grade girl walked up the stairs reading a book. She was walking really slowly and paused as she stopped by the shelf to change her shoes. She read with one hand while she awkwardly pulled her shoes off with her feet, then, still reading one-handed, she sat down on the floor and slipped on her indoor shoes.

That instance made me want to write a story about her. Imagine who she’ll grow up to be. Imagine how great of a person if she continues to keep up her love of reading. But there’s the potential for mischief too. She’s a little strange. A little odd. It could help her or hinder her. I know. I was always a little off too. Always on the outside. Always.

Yesterday as I was walking home I noticed something new. While waiting at the crosswalk, I don’t usually look up. People notice other people looking up, so they look with them. Most people look at the ground or straight ahead. But I looked up because I was tired. I have stood at that crosswalk a hundred times by now. I noticed then for the first time the tower. There’s a big metal pole that I’ve passed many, many times. It’s much thicker than an ordinary streetlight or telephone pole, but it was always part of the background. As I looked up, I noticed that it was standing alone, and was very tall. My first thought was that it was an alarm, for air raids or bad weather. But there were no speakers. Three-quarters of the way up was a small platform with a ledge you could walk around and a small railing. Whirligigs were placed at intervals all around. The same thing at the very top, with another smaller projection with some unseeable instrument at the top. I assume the tower is for weather. The whirligigs and possibly the rain collector testify to that. It must relay information to the nearest weather station. I looked up and down the street and didn’t see any others.

I tell this story because it was amazing to me to notice something for the first time that I’ve walked by for almost two years. Strange what the mind overlooks. Strange what becomes just part of the background. A lesson, to always look up.

June 18

Yesterday I was out all day. I don’t do that very often. I went shopping with my friends, ate lunch, then watched Wonder Woman. It was…wonderful. Haha ugh.

I did love it though. As a movie, it was just great. Better than good, but not amazing. But as empowerment, it was epic. Gal Gadot is my new hero. She should be the ideal woman. Beautiful, kind, strong, muscled, fighter.

One of my other friends had said she loved the movie so much because it was a contrast to other female superheroes. Many other movies portray women superheroes as men without…uh…man parts. They act exactly the same. But Wonder Woman acted like a woman. They didn’t steal her femininity to make her strong. I agree. They showed a mother’s love, a daughter’s independence, womanly tears, and compassion. They gave her those things without making her weak. It was beautiful. And they didn’t emasculate the men around her either. That was important.

Yeah, I loved that movie. It made me aspire to be her, and that’s what superhero movies are about. They should make us want to be like the hero. Men should look up to Captain America because he is good and just and strong. Women should look up to Wonder Woman for the same reasons. She is good and just and strong. 

Let’s keep our heroes.

Today I have my last D&D session before I go on vacation. Most of my party will be leaving Korea for good, so we’re doing a special Battle Royale tonight. 

 

June 19

I have strep throat again. I had it about a month ago, and I guess I didn’t kick it. I left it a while before I went to the doctor, so maybe that was why. This time I went as soon as I found out, today.

I didn’t go to my usual doctor though. A friend found an ENT closer to home, and specialists in Korea are cheaper. Win win. The reason they’re cheaper is that it’s usually a very tiny practice with one elderly doctor and a couple of nurses.

This time, I went in, handed over my ID card to get signed in, and was seen about two minutes later. I sat down in a very strange chair. It was kind of like a dentist’s chair, but I didn’t get laid back. There were a variety of instruments next to the chair, also like a dentist’s, that I wish I could have seen closer.

The doctor came out, and elderly he was indeed. He asked me if I spoke Korean, and I said no. I do, enough, but it’s always easier to just speak English in a doctor’s. I’m not up to the phlegm chapter of “Learn Korean Vocabulary.” He asked me what my symptoms were, and painstakingly typed them in English into his program. Then he took a look and said, “Ah. Your tonsils are infected.” Yep. Knew that. So then he told me to say ‘ahhhhh’ and the nurse handed him a metal spray bottle attached by a hose to the console next to me. Uh huh. Okay. What? He sprayed my throat, swabbed it with a metal pole, then sprayed something else after. It tasted like medicine. In a word, awful.

I grimaced as he told me I would need antibiotics. Thanks, that’s what I’m here for.

Then came the strangest part. The nurse told me to come with her, and she led me to a tiny cubicle off to the side. There was a contraption set up I had to sit down in front of. Now, if you grew up with asthma like I did, you’ll probably know what a breathing machine is. If not, pay attention. There is a long plastic hose attached to the main part of the machine. This hose extends and is attached to a head that you typically hold and breathe in and out of. You dispense the liquid medicine underneath and the machine vaporizes it so you can inhale the medicine.

I say typically, because this one was suspended in a plastic sheet to be hands free. So she started it up, the vapor started to come out, and she told me to…in broken English…come close and open my mouth and say ahh. That’s all. She didn’t tell me to breathe specifically but that’s what humans do so I did. I sat leaning forward, about eight inches away from the opening, breathing in the general direction of the vapor. I could taste it, so I know it was working, but really? I couldn’t hold it? It couldn’t be rigged so I didn’t have to lean forward awkwardly for a minute?

The minute passed, and I was done for real. I got my prescription, took it down the hall and got my meds. Done in ten minutes. And the best part? The entire thing cost about 7,000W, less than seven USD. Now to see how fast this works. And if I can open my eyes tomorrow without a headache. Culture day is coming up…

June 20

When you’re a small child teacher, I’d say kindergarten to second, every time there’s an event, you end up with the same dilemma. Students are supposed to do the work themselves. It makes it more meaningful and that’s the whole point of the event. But children can’t make things and decide things, so the teacher inevitably does everything. It’s just easier. I hung the flags and put up the photobooth because it was easier than figuring out how to tell my students to do it well. Plus with the tonsillitis or whatever I have, talking is too hard.