Today we have been abroad for 6 months. That’s 25 weeks. Which is 175 days. We are half way done with our time teaching in South Korea. I looked back on my blog and cannot believe how fast our time has gone here, I was barely writing about our three month mark.
And now Happy New Year! It’s like a fresh start in a lot of ways. A great time to refocus priorities, make some new year goals, and plan for the upcoming months. As most years, for me, the beginning of a year signifies a time to make personal changes to become a better person. To do this I am looking back on 2015 and noting the experiences that have helped me progress.
Reflecting back on January 2015, I was teaching 1st grade in Utah and now a year later, miles away teaching English in South Korea. Although there are several differences, I have gained similar insights from both experiences.
1. Appreciate, Appreciate, and Appreciate Some More
You know the saying, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone? I am here to testify the truthfulness of this. I knew living away from home, family, friends, and certain comforts for a year would be difficult but I didn’t realize it would be this difficult.
I am so grateful for this because I have realized how easy, let me repeat, it is sooo easy to take things for granted. And I know, yeah, yeah we’ve heard it before – it’s the small things, don’t take life for granted, blah, blah, blah. But honestly these sayings exist for a reason. I could rant and list every possible reason why you should be appreciative but it’s something you have to realize on your own. I had to be taken out of my comfort zone, miles away, for a long amount of time to understand appreciation. It is different for all of us.
2. Live in the Moment
All we have is now. I have agreed with this concept for many, many years. It’s so important to me, I got the word “now” tattooed a few years back.
There have been days I wished it was two months into the future, always looking forward to something. I’ve stared at calendars and made every possible countdown to get out of the moment. Do you know what happened? I blinked and was scratching off my countdown and thinking where did the last two months go? What have I done in the last week? Am I really living in the moment? When I truly enjoy the moment I let all five senses soak up what is happening around me. I am more calm and content. My brain isn’t trying to remember something from the past or plan something for the future.
3. A Positive Mind is a Positive Life
I have experienced some definite moments of culture differences, not just in South Korea but also in Utah. It can be draining. It is difficult to be misunderstood or perceived differently. There are two ways we can respond in any situation –negatively or positively.
I’ll never forget our first day in Korea. We so badly wanted to go to the beach in Busan. It was July, really hot and humid. We had no internet, phone, or map but were determined to find the ocean. We jumped onto the subway and wandered. We ended up walking hours in the industrial area, not traveling far enough to reach Busan. My feet hurt, had sweat in every crevasse possible, and felt hungry. This was the perfect time to go back to the hotel, be angry, and hate everything. We laughed about it and have a comical memory of our first day here because we chose to react this way.
I have hundreds of other examples but it doesn’t matter. What is important is how you personally want to feel. I know I prefer to be happy and would much rather laugh than scowl and have anger burn inside me – and I can bet you feel similar. So I challenge you – and myself because I’m guilty of not always being positive – to really try to react to things with a smile or a laugh and respond positively.
4. People Matter
Of all the places I’ve been, for work, school, or vacation, I have found myself reflecting on one thing the most: the people I met. Every person has a different story and I truly believe we can learn from each story, if we allow it. Listen to people! It is such an important quality all of us can improve on. The more we listen the more we can learn.
Take time for people. Make the phone call, send the email, plan the lunch date. But most importantly say what you want. Don’t wait for that “perfect moment”, because the best moment you’ll get is the moment you are in. I’ve held back way too much in the past and it’s an honest regret. I feel like I didn’t get as close to people as I could have. Communication is what builds relationships so stop holding back and say what you want to say!
5. Be You
These past few years I have really learned being completely myself is the best for me. Some will love it, some will judge it, some will hate it, and some will not understand it. I have built my confidence up by finding who I truly am and it has never felt so good. I am able to handle new situations, new people, new ideas and opinions in a completely new way. I am forming my thoughts off my own experiences and background. “Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.” –Unknown
I am so excited to take on this year, discover new insights, and take on the next adventures. Do some reflection on your past year and share what you’ve learned, let’s grow and improve together!