Vast Visions

a year abroad in south korea


The Lie

This is one of the most sincere things I have ever written about myself. I am at a point in my life where I feel comfortable about sharing it, and for my closest friends this will be the first time you hear it. It’s a  story I was afraid to tell, but I hope it can serve a purpose now. This is the last post I will be writing.


In life, there are times when the floor drops from beneath you.

Four years ago I asked if I could leave drawing class early to go to a doctor’s appointment. My instructor at the time asked me if everything was OK, to which I reassured, “Of course, I’m fine, it’s probably not a big deal.”

One hour later I was diagnosed with Takayasu’s Arteritis.

My mother and father were in the room, and I was shivering on the table, wearing a hideous hypoallergenic bag over my body. The specialist we had been sent to see, a cardiac surgeon, told us that there was no mistaking the diagnosis – it was a “textbook” case. And in such a tremendous moment in the lives of my parents and I, he was darkly fascinated.

“I’ve actually never seen a live case before, it’s so rare,” he said. Meanwhile, my father looked into his hands. My mother gripped the armrests of the chair as if she was about to shake it. I was furious. How could this young, hotshot surgeon do this to my parents? “Tell them it’s not a big deal,” I begged in my mind. “Please, just tell them that I can handle it. They don’t understand. Honestly…neither do I.”

I was nineteen years old and a freshman in college. Nothing felt wrong. I was just starting to find my footing, make new friends, and understand what living independently was like. It would all be wiped away.

I had to immediately start treatment and make time to take more tests. We were recommended a cardiologist, a rheumatologist, and secondary hematologist on the spot; rationed a handful of business cards and a dab of pity on top. I remember sitting in the car with my parents after the appointment, all three of us just stuck there in the parking lot, the snow falling steadily around us.

My mom got home and researched online feverishly. My father stood silently behind and watched her search. She looked into the disease, the online support groups, the best specialists. While she was reassured by the internet, I refused to look. To me it seemed a Pandora’s Box that I didn’t want to open. All I knew was that I was going to have to face whatever was about to come my way.

I can’t begin to describe the physical and psychological battle that ensued.  In order to slow the progression of this rare type of heart disease, I was prescribed a very high dose of steroids for about a year. The medication caused Cushing’s Syndrome, which had a toxic effect on my body. My face became completely rounded and I got acne. My back developed a painful hump. I gained 15 pounds. Into my legs, thighs and abdomen were carved huge, ugly stretch marks that would never heal. My hair thinned and fell out. I was tired and in pain. My body was falling apart day by day.

Because of how different I looked, I hid myself away at school. Every time someone stared at me on the bus, I was ashamed. Every time I ran into one of the new friends I made, I disappeared within myself. I ate quickly and alone in the corner of the cafeteria, afraid to look past my tray. I remember passing through entire days just looking at the cement of the sidewalk, avoiding questioning glances. One of the worst things was waking up every morning and facing the mirror with the hollow hope that it was all a bad dream.

Nightmares wove in and out of my conscious mind. I woke up from the anesthesia during a surgical test and watched the doctors finish their procedure on me. I passed by my reflection and could not recognize my own face in the mirror. Soon I forgot what I used to look like altogether. My identity slipped further away the more I looked into the face that wasn’t mine, the more I walked around in a body that I had never known. When I could be alone, I sobbed until my chest hurt and I couldn’t breathe. I cried enough for a lifetime.

What hurt me the most, though, was what this was doing to the people I loved most in life. I couldn’t prevent my mother from waking up in the middle of the night in terror, and I couldn’t stop my father from feeling guilty. When I asked my younger sister, “Does my face look that bad today?” I couldn’t stop her heart from sinking.

With all of this happening I made the choice to stay in school, and though it was one of the worst semesters I had completed grade-wise, it set the standard for how I was going to continue living. Just like that, the year I was 19 vanished, but I wasn’t going to let anything else be taken from me.

So I did the strongest thing I could do: I smiled.

I tore my gaze away from the sidewalk. I took deep breaths, looked straight ahead and walked without shame. With my swollen, ugly face I went to concerts. I made fun of myself in front of my friends. I devoted myself to studying. I showed my parents that I had enough strength for all of us. I eventually came off the harsh medication and for many months I focused on recovering. Slowly, my mom worried a little less, my father started telling jokes again, and in my sister’s expressive eyes I saw the reflection of happiness return.

Years later, I am here in Korea.

And I am here because of a lie.


My pen hovered over that part of the application for a while.

“Known Illnesses/Diseases?”


With pages and pages of paperwork spread out on the surface of the desk, my pen cast a thin shadow over those two little questions. Finally, the shadow twitched, and I wrote something that I am not proud of.

I made up my mind to teach in Korea shortly after my teacher and good friend recommended it during my junior year of college. I was immediately interested in the idea, researching the various programs, offers, and companies all offering a way for me to live and work abroad. It took a while for my parents to accept how determined I was to live abroad for a year, but with my health at a stable point and the doctor’s approval, they didn’t want to hold me back.

It was a long and arduous process getting all the paperwork together. Notarizations, those damned apostilles, my FBI Background Check finally intact after getting rejected and returned; precious documents all stapled together with the anxiety that I would get found out and sent back before I even started. My fears stemmed from accounts of people getting rejected from the program for health issues as trivial as migraines. While researching I was also made aware of Korea’s social prejudice against those who are not in perfect health. With a complicated-sounding condition lumped into the category of heart disease, it would have been impossibly difficult to convince a recruiter that I was as healthy and functional as everyone else.

So I passed over the hurdles cautiously, one by one – the application, the paperwork, the TEFL courses, the interviews. On top of the normal anxiety of living abroad for a year, I was constantly afraid I would get pulled out of the program during orientation. Before leaving, I prepared with my doctor a note that described the nature of my condition and that it wouldn’t affect my job performance, just in case I needed a bargaining chip to stay. I was also aware that I would need to undergo a health check, but there was no certainty over what kinds of tests they would run or what they would look for.

Another problem I ran into was getting the medication I needed overseas. I was using a medication that needed to be refrigerated, and I had no idea how I was going to keep it cool. I managed to take a few months worth of it onto the plane with a prescription note and clearance, but when I got to the airport in Korea I was scared that someone would misunderstand, pull me aside and charge me for something. I bought some ice at a convenience store in the airport with my new Korean money and replaced it in the pack. I crammed onto the bus with other confused EPIK-ers, not knowing where I was headed or how long it would take before I could buy more ice.

All during orientation I bought cups of ice, frozen popsicles, and cans of energy drinks from the CU to keep the medication cool. Then, close to the end of orientation, the day of the health check arrived.

I was stricken when one of my friends came back and told me what the health check entailed: I had to take a chest x-ray. This was the same test that had been used to diagnose me back when it all started, so I was mentally preparing to pack up my bags and go back home then and there.

But, by some miracle, I passed the health exam.

After that, I got placed at a great school with amazing teachers, in a nicely-sized apartment just a few steps away. I made it.

One incredible (and healthy!) year later, this faulty little heart of mine is still pouring out gratitude.


I haven’t written this to tell you it’s OK to lie on a job application.

I have written this to tell you that there is nothing holding you back in this world.

Go to a country you’ve only seen in pictures and breathe in its air. Squint against the sunrise of an unfamiliar horizon. Chase after something. Teach. Learn.


I will never find the identity I lost four years ago, but in its stead is a new one; one that I have made with my two hands, that others have strengthened with their kindness and support and love. It is the identity of a woman who is confident, bright, recklessly optimistic, and so, so happy.

In a way, through spending this year abroad I wanted to test myself; to prove that I could do it. In a way, I wanted to escape all semblance of the life that told me “You can’t.” Even if it was only for a year, I wanted to put far behind me the memories of struggle and self-defeat.

I wanted to be unstoppable…and I was.

To everyone who has read my blog this year, thank you. It’s been a dream that’s ended much too soon. Thank you for your comments and encouragement. Thank you for listening. As I start my new life in Chicago (law school, after all!), I will no longer write here, but this blog will always be here to those who want to relive this crazy amazing year with me, all over again.

My sketchbook didn’t exactly get filled this year, but my heart did.

I guess I’m addicted to fresh starts after all.



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Seoul Search: Part I


So I’m back in Daegu after a lengthy Chuseok (Thanksgiving) break. I had a few days off of school so I decided to pay a visit to Seoul, the city destination that everyone knows in Korea.

Seoul is the capital city of Korea, heavily populated with foreigners and English/Engrish signs. Restaurants, shops, theaters, etc. are stacked on top of each other, and what’s there one day is gone the next. The sparkling newness of the storefronts stay for a while and then disappear just as the paint dries. Such is the pace of life here – “Dynamic Korea” as they call it. Directions based on landmarks are most often hit or miss because of the rapid pace of change here, so finding the hostel I was staying at in Hongdae was a little bit of a challenge. Luckily the subways are easy to get a handle on, and although you have to transfer a lot of times, you can get to a very specific location without really having to hike anywhere.

Travelling with someone who had already been to Seoul already was a real stroke of luck, because I got to check out all the cool niche places that have the best craft beer in Korea. From Watermelon Wheat to a honey IPA, sitting outside in a super casual setting and having a few cold ones in the middle of the bustling day was my kind of tourism.

One of my favorite activities in Seoul was going to see the Studio Ghibli and Alphonse Mucha exhibits at the Seoul Arts Center. The art scene is really packing a punch here, as the museum spaces are expansive, gorgeously designed buildings that let in a lot of light and allow many visitors in. One thing that bothered me was the sheer volume of people there – it was amazing to see a culture so in-tune with the progress of art, but this made looking at the art grating on the nerves to say the least. There is a line that snakes through the entirety of the exhibit and people slowly shuffle along the walls viewing work. There is no open art viewing here – everyone snakes around the gallery as a homogeneous unit and view art at a set pace (which is agonizingly slow). Very different from art viewing in New York, which allows for a lot more free movement around the gallery spaces. I found myself deviating from the line and skipping around a bit to avoid spending over 3 hours on one exhibit. On view were several beautiful prints, paintings and lithographs by Alphonse Mucha, one of my favorite artists representing the Art Noveau movement. The pieces were on a larger scale than I had ever imagined; almost life-sized figures adorned with flowers and arabesque-ing locks of hair. There was also a good deal of photography in the gallery that gave a sense of historical context to the work, and the pieces were grouped according to specific phases and themes in Mucha’s career. While I was there I also spent a good amount of time viewing the animation slides of the Studio Ghibli films. It was amazing to see the actual sketches and plans from movies like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. Some more interesting panels were the ones that outlined a sequence of panning, where several sheets of paper were simply taped together and the idea of the scene was hashed out. I’m glad that I got to see the exhibits before they were taken down, and I hope to go back to Seoul again soon to see what new art it has to offer.

Seoul, especially Hongdae and Itaewon, had some really great eats too. I had burritos at a place called Vatos, a Korean-Mexican fusion restaurant where we had to be put on a waiting list for two hours (!). Popular amongst expats and Koreans alike, that queso and burrito were heaven sent. The watermelon wheat beer I had was a little too sweet for my liking but I’m glad I tried it nonetheless. Other good eats were a pork spine stew, cooked on a mini stove in front of you, full of veggies and fall off the bone meaty goodness. It was super hot temperature-wise but very filling. For breakfast one day we dipped into a fried rice restaurant and some mozzarella cheese, bacon, and sweet and sour sauce later I contentedly rolled out of there with a food baby and enough energy to carry me through the rest of the day.

The shopping area of Myeongdong is beautiful, modern, and energetic. The clean lines of the Uniqlo and the hipness of H&M pave the way through main roads teeming with fashionable young Koreans, clack-clacking away with their high heels and armfuls of shopping bags. When the lights go on, the neon glow drowns out the night sky and you’re left with a thrilling electric daylight to continue shopping with until you bust a heel.  If I wasn’t so low on money waiting on my first paycheck I would have definitely bought something, but alas, window shopping was all I was fated to do this time around. Myeongdong, I’m coming back for you~~

And lastly, the nightlife was awesome. I wish I wasn’t so tired, but I got to experience the sounds of a pretty rad two man band at an indie-rock inspired bar called FF. I got an autograph and everything when the show was over. Free drinks and a chill atmosphere were aplenty.  We wanted to go clubbing, as several weird/cool venues were around (“Gorilla”??) but by 2am we were way too tired to go on. Definitely need to visit again and scope out some good clubs next time.

The picture above, I believe, captures the vibe of Seoul. The new, slowly encircling the old, until one day (maybe soon) that wave will crash and wipe the old away. If there was a “way of life” for Seoul it would be this: the quest for modernity isn’t for the sake of improvement alone – it’s obsessive. That, and you better watch where you cross the street because the threat of being run over is very real.

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Kindness in Korea

Hi all, I hope things are going well. I wanted to write a post today about how completely floored I am that a people as kind as Koreans exist.

You remember that post I wrote about that constant scowl I carry to ward off strangers? Well, that seemed to have vanished on its own. From greeting all of the teachers every morning to saying “hi!” to every student that enthusiastically calls my name in the hallways, the amount of time I now spend smiling has already outweighed the whole amount I did last year. Seriously.

You remember my ahjumma story, right? Well the kindness hasn’t stopped there, and it’s still only been a few weeks. Today I came back from the bank, where an extremely helpful bank teller has been helping me with the difficulties of banking as a foreigner. He doesn’t speak English too well, I don’t speak Korean too well, but somehow we’ve met in between.  I had a problem withdrawing money today so talking in broken Korean, miming at times, he patiently listened, furrowed his brows, sometimes laughed, and eventually figured out what I needed. At banks here, they give you water or coffee as you wait, and he got up abruptly to get me some when I told him I didn’t have lunch yet. We talked a little about chuseok plans and at the end of the trip he said to come back again soon, to which I replied 당연하죠! (of course! ^^)

One day my class had a field trip to the downtown area of Daegu where we painted book shelf/stand things. It was a little too big to fit in a backpack so I carried mine home in my arms. On the subway, I chose to stand because all the seats were full, and suddenly an old woman snatched it out of my hand! WHAT? But then I remembered that sometimes this happens – a seated stranger will sometimes offer to carry your things if you end up standing on the subway. Nice, huh? I bowed and thanked her, when behind me an elderly man asked me, “where are you from?” I replied in Korean and had a short conversation. When a seat opened up, I offered it to another elderly person standing up, and the good feels practically filled the entire subway car. I made sure to thank the old woman who helped me carry the book stand and she smiled for daysss. And as I got off on my stop, I got a “very beautipul” from the elderly man  ;__: <3

I’ve also ventured to have small conversations with local shopkeepers, who are always super impressed by my rudimentary Korean XD I will say that people here really appreciate when you try to communicate with them, if even in English. And it isn’t just confined to words, even a smile or a bow can communicate so much. I will say that my time here so far hasn’t been easy, and sometimes the staring eyes of people on the sidewalk get me, but thinking about successful cultural exchanges like these have helped me a lot. In all, I am grateful that I’ve been welcomed here by such kind people to teach, and I want to try my best for them, even if it means giving up a seat or smiling through a rough day. So far it’s yielded amazing results.

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Tuned Out

Ahh, middle school. Such an awkward phase, where we come up with gimmicks to make ourselves cool. We are at the stage of forming an identity – one that will carry us though the travails of puberty. Some are drawn to the “class clown” identity. For me, I remember having a single strand of hair on one side of my face because I thought it was hella cool. I also said “ya’ll” a lot. Anyway…after my first day of teaching middle schoolers I am keenly reminded of the phase, but this time I’m on the other side of the podium.

So I actually surprised myself when I taught today. I tend to get anxious delivering presentations to my peers but I was really at ease in the classroom. I projected well, didn’t stumble over words, planned well, and generally enjoyed my time teaching today. That being said, the first class of the day that I taught was pretty rough.

The first class was small, which made me relieved. However, it worked against me. It was a class of about 10 boys and only 3 girls. The girls were distant and didn’t engage in the class. Two boys were really outspoken, but in the “class clown” kind of way. Three of the boys were in the back of the room being big shots and throwing around each others’ pencilcases. The other five were talking in Korean about LoL. Meanwhile, I’m delivering an easy lesson about expressing opinions by introducing myself via “two truths and a lie”. Once in a while I caught their interest but they were all basically “tuned out.”

Truthfully, I would be too. When you don’t understand 80% of what the instructor is saying, it gets tiring. That being said, I used the simplest terms and slowest speech I could. They are simply not ready for a class led entirely in English.

My second class was a little better than the first despite some technical difficulties in the beginning. I had a list of riddles which were invaluable for my classes because I breezed through the powerpoint every time when I was sure I was going to spend too long on it. Backup activities are Godsends. My co-teacher for this class was on the quieter side, kinda lurking around and ethereally present…is she here? Not here? Thankfully it didn’t make too much of a difference.

Third class was the best. This group was the high-level English class. They were obedient, engaged, and willing to participate. It was a nicer atmosphere to work in. The co-teacher chimed in once in a while which was also nice. One girl came up to me at the end of class and told me that I was a “very kind and good teacher” which was gratifying and so, so cute :3

My last class of the day was pretty good, the co-teacher for this class was the most vocal throughout the lesson which sped things along. There wasn’t any hand-holding as far as waiting for the co-teacher to translate, but somehow after she said the directions in English everyone suddenly understood? Ok cool?

At one point during the day, one of my co-teachers was like “Why middle school? You should be teaching little kids, elementary…” as if apologizing for the behavior of middle schoolers. I am actually still glad it’s middle schoolers. Singing and dancing isn’t really my thang. And I feel like these students still need to get to know me as a teacher. Hopefully we can have some fun and learn a lot in my classes. I want to make English something that they like, not something that they are forced to do. It will take some time but with some more engaging activities I think things will get better. Can I keep all of my students from being tuned out? Maybe not, but I want to at least make it helpful for the ones that are tuned in.

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The Ahjumma Made Me Stay

When my co-teacher opened the door to my apartment, I don’t know what I was expecting. Here, around the corner of the middle school that I work at, in a small building three floors up. When she opened the door, I thought that I really had the worst luck in the world.

I was greeted by a horrible mildew smell and absolute filth. The place seemed like it had been used by four people and then ditched for five years. The floors were caked with dust. The sheets smelled bad. The kitchen was covered in an ungodly amount of food residue and spilled sugar. Laundry room reeked. The place was awful.

After this first look, all I could do was drop off my luggage and head off to the school to meet my superiors for the first time. But I made a mistake that would make matters worse – I locked the inside door. When I came back from the school visit, my co-teacher and I were bewildered that the second key on the ring didn’t work. All of my money and possessions were in that hellhole, locked up. We called the landlady but she was out. I had to go back to the school while my co-teacher called a locksmith.

Half an hour later at the apartment, the locksmith hobbles over and picks the lock.  The landlady, back from her excursion, also came to see the spectacle. From what I could understand, she asked the locksmith how much it would cost to change the lock but she determined that it was too expensive… I picked up some money and off to Homeplus we went.

Just when I thought I had the lousiest luck that day, things turned around. While shopping, my co-teacher and I ran into two students from school. One was quite bold with her English, a bit tomboy-ish and the other was a little more reserved. They talked to my co-teacher and she told me that they wanted to help me shop. One started pushing the cart and I asked them about what foods I should get. It was so cute ^^ They also wanted to help carry all the things to my apartment. My co-teacher bought them ice cream and we went back to the apartment.

When we got there, my door was already open…inside was the landlady ahjumma cleaning the apartment because she felt bad. I said goodbye to the students as my co-teacher took them home, and I immediately started cleaning with the ahjumma. She has a strong Daegu accent and can’t speak a word of English but I managed to use a few Korean expressions with her and converse as we cleaned and scrubbed side by side. Despite the language barrier, we appreciated each other’s company. I insisted multiple times in Korean that “I’ll do it” but she didn’t want to leave T___T She stayed until around 11pm.

The next day after class and a solo trip to Homeplus, she was there again, this time washing the sheets. While it was going we sat on the floor and watched TV together. It was surprising when she started singing along to one of the Trot songs playing, my heart melted a little.  I told her she has a pretty voice LOL I really stretched my Korean abilities to its absolute limits in the few days I’ve been here. I don’t know how anyone could manage without knowing any Korean at all. When she was leaving I offered her Peppero but she politely refused and pointed to her teeth. I’ll have to think of something better to give her.

Right now I’m still cleaning my apartment, the kitchen is taking two days at this rate but at least I’ll know that things are clean. The girl who lived there before me, if I meet her, she better run the other way because the filth she left behind was straight up illegal.  With every blackened paper towel I hate her more, but hopefully when my apartment starts smelling nicer I”ll forget about my murder plans.

So why didn’t I simply move or request a new apartment? Because I want to make this work. I don’t need a fancy apartment or new appliances, I just need a place to come back to. It may be tough to live there but it’s gotten better. And, of course, my landlady is awesome :)

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Friends with Strangers – Orientation

On arriving at Incheon Airport, after going through immigration and picking up way, way too much luggage, I find myself looking around for other lost (foreign) souls with equally as much luggage. We are all going to be in Korea for a year, no way we could stuff our belongings into just one bag. The comforts of home require space and a herculean effort to lift, roll and drag around the things that will be our lives for a long time. It’s worth the effort.

Before passing out on the bus to Jeonju, I look outside and see an expanse of sea and greenery cut by clean steel. I remember thinking that I really am 7,000 miles from home. But in a cool, awesome,”woah, what the hell” kind of way.

One of the first obstacles I faced was talking to others in an effort to make connections – you need a lot of them to get a good network going on this side of the globe. However, I am largely unaccustomed to seeming friendly to strangers. In an environment like New York, you don’t just chat up the guy next to you: “Hi, nice weather, right? I really like your jacket by the way. Are you from around here?” Smiling out of place makes you look homicidal. The dude smiling through the subway stops is definitely up to something. Don’t make eye contact. Don’t look lost. Head up, clenched jaw, maybe even throw in a mean look. Give off the impression that no one should mess with you. Now…ease up on all that because you need to make friends.

How did I go about unlearning all of that?

I talked to everyone, indiscriminately.

Here, trust is a game of minute exchanges and a few good answers. Ok, I don’t really know you. But hey, we’re both in a foreign country. Let’s be friends. That easy.

Thus, orientation progressed for nine days. It felt like a suspended reality of Korea because we were surrounded by English speakers in a collegiate setting, eating bibimbap and drinking Coca Cola.

Overall, orientation at Jeonju was a lot of fun, but I couldn’t help but feel like it was too “college-y.” Relatively soon, people developed cliques and a “choice group” which I thought was laughable. You’re in a new country with tons of new people who speak English and you still only want to associate with one group? For shame…

The social opportunities after the day’s lectures finished were drinking. Sometimes eating. Maybe singing. But mostly drinking. There were several places to hit along the main street of the university, but some people went downtown by taxi to get food and drinks.  A “cool cultural thing” that I came across is drinking outside a convenience store. The 7-11s around school were teeming with EPIK teachers, nametags and all, brazenly downing soju and makgeolli. Of course, some people stayed in and slept off jetlag, but the more adventurous ones stepped back inside the dorm at 11:58pm. (I think some people got locked out too, haha.)

So, sightseeing, orienteering, rapid friend-making, strangely good cafeteria food-eating and then WHAM you get an envelope and a map with your future on it. Mass confusion, bummed that you’ll be far away from your bros, and then swiftly picked up by your co-teachers. Meeting one’s co-teacher was an awkward “ceremony” of EPIK people lined off at the front of a stage, looking into the audience of co-teachers as they filed down one by one to “pick up their foreigner.”

A 5 min. car ride and a shit apartment later, here I am at my school typing out this post as I deskwarm for the rest of the week. That’s it for orientation, my apartment story will be my next post. Until then.

(As I’m typing at my desk I’m laughing because someone asked in Korean what they should do for lunch, and one guy shouted “KOGIKOGIKOGIKOGI” [meatmeatmeatmeat] LOL)

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Thoughts Before Departure

People love creating metaphors about life, especially involving books. Those metaphors are really misleading.

I’ve been referring to my upcoming sojourn in Korea as “a new chapter” in my life. With that comes the expectation of a blank page, a clean slate.  A lot of expectation, actually. And I’ve fallen through this rabbithole before.

In my attic I have a stack of about five dust-covered sketchbooks and notebooks.  They’re not packed cover-to-cover with sketches and writings; they are nearly new, only four pages used before they were discarded. I have a habit of starting a sketchbook or journal and never finishing it. Half erased sketches, jaggedly torn out pages, blackened lines of poetry. I’ve become addicted to the idea of “new chapters” and “fresh starts.” But who isn’t enamored with the idea of multiple second chances, or the opportunity to steal closer to perfection?

In life, we don’t often get neat beginnings or clean-cut endings. As far as relationships go, there is seldom a definitive “closing the chapter” with anyone. For me, it has been more of a re-shelving for years later. At times, I read one awful sentence and burned the whole book. Sometimes the book just fell out my hands so many times that I was tired of picking it back up.

The problems arise when one takes a conveniently placed book metaphor and applies it too liberally. In life, most of the time you can’t just “close the book” when you want, “keep reading” when you feel like, or take a break from a difficult “passage.” Life is unbearably messy, disorganized and unpredictable. Unlined. Unbound. Hell, sometimes there isn’t even a place to write at all.

The trick is to consider the whole book as you start the next page. With as much dissatisfaction as I might harbor for my current situation or a difficult past, I have to make it all work; vow to make the next sketch something that I will be proud of. And maybe one day I can look at the shaky lines and smile at the struggle that has made me who I am.

Of course, I type this as I open up a brand new sketchbook that I tell myself I’ll use in Korea. Let’s hope I see this one through, for better or worse.