So-called “finding myself,” losing it, and making my way back again

The thought of picking up your life and moving to a foreign country can sound idealistic. It’s something many people have probably daydreamed about at some point yet rarely considered with any serious thought. Understandably so, it’s extremely difficult to leave a life behind. Because few have lived the experience themselves, it’s easy to believe these grand adventures one embarks on are where you find a greater sense self, and return feeling renewed and enlightened.  Well I’m here to give it to you straight.

Sometimes you don’t immediately find a greater sense of self at all. Sometimes you get somewhere and it’s hard and you find yourself exhausted just trying to stay motivated.

This has been one of the most doubt-ridden years of my life. Following a cushy first two months in Korea, after a close friend said goodbye when she boarded a plane for home, I suddenly felt alone in this huge city. I had made a handful of good friends but nothing near that close bond that brought enormous comfort in the beginning.

The month following I felt inconsolably lost. I was frustrated knowing this was not my usual nature and was clueless as to how to gain it back. I didn’t feel like myself and it was as if I was losing who I was as a person. I was going through the motions but void of my natural vigor and cheer.

I even saw a therapist. They have English speaking ones here in Seoul because of the large foreign community. I felt like my circumstances were not enough to make me feel the way I did. Why was this happening? I wanted to fix myself. I had to force myself to go because it was so expensive, but after a few sessions I stopped, because gradually my dismal fog began to lift, so I felt I could hopefully turn this around on my own.

I didn’t even feel compelled to write about my dreary times when I was in the midst of it. I’ve since felt much better, though not 100%, but during those months it all felt sort of bland and insignificant.

While sharing all this I worry that I’ll offend some of the close friends I’ve made here, people that I’ve come to cherish my friendships with and have shared in the joyous memories I’ve made in Korea. (Yes I have had some fun and met wonderful people!)

Since I began sharing my journey when I first moved away I have always felt a strong compulsion to report nothing short of the truth, no matter how ugly it is. Looking back I’m so glad that I shared how much of a culture shock it was for me living in my village in Spain, because I quickly grew to love every bit of it, so it was remarkable to see how something seemingly impossible can trasnform into the best thing that ever happened to you.


Some of that fun I was talking about… 😉


I’d rather be brutally honest than create some beautiful lie to save face or foster envy. I’ll always be an open book.

So last year you might as well say that I discovered the meaning of life. That’s how good I felt, and I decided I never wanted to let it go. Then comes Korea.

I know that some of my friends back home are like, wow she’s really going for her dreams, she must be so happy and satisfied, joyous for life. Well, I’m not. I live a pretty regular life, it’s like I moved to a giant koreatown in the US except I can’t go home. You can’t just move somewhere else and expect to recreate your past lives in a new city, it doesn’t work that way.

Seoul is, hmm… How can I spin this so you won’t think less of me, or peg me as ungrateful, and frame this period of my life as what it should be, an ultimately beautiful experience? Um. I can’t. Seoul is, meh, whatever. I don’t love it. I could leave it. And I hate the weather. Just ask me about the winter. Well I don’t think I saw sun for 3 straight months. It’s April and I’m beginning to think spring here is a myth. Once the sun finally emerged I felt an instant lift in my spirits again. “Yesss,” I thought to myself. “Another step towards normal me.”

I recently spoke to this same close friend of mine who is now also going through a similar experience of self doubt and questioning. It came about that maybe you can’t have it all two years in a row, maybe we’re asking the universe for too much. We asked ourselves: is it possible we fancy ourselves more worthy than we are? Are our aspirations simply unattainable? Are we trying to push our happiness thresholds to a point that we haven’t yet earned or doesn’t even exist? Possible, yes. Do I believe this, no!

I don’t think there’s one person in this world who doesn’t deserve it all. Everyone deserves to be happy. Life is to be enjoyed, to be used up whole-heartedly, and rung out to it’s frayed, dry ends.

I refuse to settle for the notion that there are periods when life cruises in a perpetual spiritless and lackluster state. There is light to be found, dammit, and I just have to find it. I am aware this sounds self-important but this is the attitude to which I subscribe. I have times when I stumble and think, maybe I suck after all. Nevertheless, I dust my negative thoughts off and get back on that spirited horse. Judge my considerable amount of self-worth as you may.

I’ve realized, more so as I’m writing this out, that you can’t just consciously hold on to this perfect state of being forever. Life waxes and wanes. There’s this quote that’s always stuck with me, and after just looking it up I can now tell you that it’s from Vanilla Sky, Brian tells David,

“Without the bitter, baby, the sweet ain’t as sweet. The sweet is never as sweet without the sour. And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”

I’ve always thought that I feel more than most people, when I’m happy I’m really happy, and I think it’s because I’ve experienced deep pain. We need the trying times so that joyous ones feel that much sweeter. It’s the natural balance. (So really, now that I’m thinking about it, after such a wonderful year, I should’ve seen all this coming!) I thought I’d found the trick to a good life so I sought to never let it go, and through this experience it’s occurred to me that, that peaceful place in my mind, is not something that’s found and to be kept, it’s a forever kind of journey… So it’s okay, I know I’ll get it back.

I have to say while I do have moments of self-doubt and uncertainty, where I want to hop a plane and go hug my mommy, I still occasionally have some polar opposite ones as well, moments of clarity, knowing that I’m still doing what I want to be doing, (not what I think I “should” be doing) and pursuing my love for foreign cultures, travel, and personal exploration.

I’m living for myself, which is something I’m not even sure I grasped the concept of before I left California. I’m sure I would have still grown in other ways had I stayed, but it’s a different challenge out here. It might sound strange but I love the small struggles of living in a foreign country, it’s fun and satisfying. I am more secure in who I am and more certain about the kind of life I want to live than I’ve ever been. Despite my ups and downs, I still feel closer to the kind of person I want to be than I did when I left.

At the end of the day I was brave enough to try. And that alone is success enough for me.

(Here’s some more fun pictures from my winter break… and yes, for times like these- and even for the fact that living in Seoul has allowed me greater advantage to travel Asia I am immensely grateful. And of course for all my learning experiences in Seoul as well, my fortune and opportunities because I am living here are not lost on me. I am still at the end of the day extremely humbled by my circumstances and thankful for everything that has helped me get here.)


20141230_155749   IMG_1780


Keep on keepin’ on that road!

2 thoughts on “So-called “finding myself,” losing it, and making my way back again

  1. Rachel,
    I found you from your “thank you” on my photo on Trover. I am soon to be moving to China, so reading your entries have been of interest to me. I am wondering some of the very same things you have been or had struggled with. I hope the move overseas will be all I imagine it to be….and more.

    • Wow thank you for the comment! I never think anyone who doesn’t know me even reads my blog at all! And, I’m sure your move will be great. I’ve heard China is amazing. I contemplated doing a year there. I think I’ve had a particularly tough year compared to most people living in Seoul. Everyone else seems to love it and so many people end up staying a second, third, and fourth year, sometimes more! There are a ton of amazing things to do, see, and EAT in Seoul! Plus Koreans, once you get to know them, are really nice. This year hasn’t been a total loss, I’ve enjoyed much of it, it’s just been harder than most, and that’s okay, I’m better for it. Thanks again for reading Kristine, best of luck in your adventures!

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