It's 8 months into my contract which means the talk of renewing has started. Someone will email the ministry of education and if they're lucky, get a date of when the deadline for renewal applications is. Usually, like most important events in Korea we aren't given much notice. Our coteacher might hand us the form a day before the deadline, themselves receiving it on the day as well. The application itself isn't much. Just a sheet of paper indicating whether or not you'd like to change schools or address. Annoyingly, it is pretty much binding no matter what happens during the last four months of your contract.
When I found out that the Daegu office was calling for applications by next week, I found myself thinking about what my decision would be every hour of the day. By Tuesday, I was 80% sure I'd renew. A friend was bequeathing me her motorcycle, and another would be moving closer to me. Other reasons for staying would be a nice $200/month raise and a better apartment. But by the strongest argument for renewing my contract would always be the job itself: Easy work with chill supervisors, tons of free time and holidays. That's a great deal compared to much of what I see back home. Namely, unemployment. As I thought about this, and all the perks of living in the country, and of all the money I saved this year, I imagined how a third year would feel.
More than a few times I've said that I feel like I'm already semi-retired at this job. I'd say this like it was a good thing, even as a boast. But now, “comfortable” doesn't sound the same way. After two years of it, comfort doesn't describe what you're in pursuit of anymore. What you're really experiencing is complacency. Life isn't about taking the easy route and patting yourself on the back. Not if you're 23. There are no charms left to this country if there ever were to begin with. I don't know what I'm going to do next, I just know I have to get out. Hell, just look at the past 6 months of posts on this blog. Barely anything at all.
By Friday I was weighing all the cons of staying another year. I'd start paying taxes. In all likely hood, my string of good luck as far as dating would run out. And I would have to subject myself to Korean cuisine for an entire year. But all of these objections became moot once I realized what it actually was that was calling me to stay: Fear. Fear of going back to the real world. Fear of being told I wasn't the most qualified candidate for the position. Most of all, fear of the unknown.
If you're my age, with any hint of skill or ambition at all, there is nothing in Korea for you. Ask any lifer. Not a single expat that has lived in Korea more than two years resembles anything remotely close to “happy”. The best you're going to find here is purgatory. Pause your career to escape bill collectors or whatever bad life choices you made to live in the one of the least happiest, least outsider-friendly, and least gender equal OECD countries in the world. Purgatory is a generous word for it.
Steel is forged in fire, and this job has made me all but soft. Another year and I'd be rotten. What's next for me is still up in the air, though come March, I will be back in Queens. By May, I'll be accredited to teach Physics. I hope to be teaching at an international school in August.
As far as this blog goes, I really want nothing more to do with Korea, so I will be writing about the more interesting things I think about, hopefully with much more frequency. My ex-girlfriend's rape fantasies for example, might be one topic. But right now I just want to dance, cause making the decision not to stay another year was the most empowering thing I felt all year. Like taking a golden dump into the human centipede of the Korean Public School system.
Stay tight, stay bright <3