“I really like you,” he said.

He really likes me. That’s what he said.

He said I was beautiful.

He said I was smart and interesting.

He said he wanted to get to know me better.

He said he wanted to see me again.

And I told him I wanted to live in Asia.  And he told me he didn’t want to live in Asia.

So, that’s it.

Great listener, sweet, accommodating, chivalrous, interesting and passionate guy that I don’t want to see anymore.  He was also tall.

But I have dreams to ride the subways and bullet trains, eat food from stalls and food carts, visit the beach, sing karaoke, walk the little alley ways, shop at the street fairs, visit the temples, drink fancy teas and lattes in the eclectic coffee shops, and feel the strangeness of a world apart from ordinary.

It’s like out a movie: drying clothes on the balcony or roof on a line, walking everywhere on paved roads and sidewalks, quietness on the mountainside, clean and clear taste of green tea, the furniture and design of the homes, seeing a rural house of wood in the old design, and a crane on the river.

I miss my adventure.  I miss the excitement of the first six months in an utterly foreign environment that has the same blue sky.

So, do I want to give up the one goal I could accomplish?  Do I let my dream die to not be alone?

Or am I willing to be alone now to not give up on my dream?

I used to want to be with someone no matter how I had to change. I believed in compromise and adjustments.  But I was alone anyway.  Romantic relationships didn’t last.  The person I truly am was not loved.  I wasn’t even considered seriously.

But now, I want to hold onto myself.  I want to value my feelings, hopes, successes, failures, beliefs, and self-respect.  Joan Didion wrote, “However long we post- pone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously un-comfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.”

And so, in the end, we are all alone in ourselves.  I have to sleep by myself at night.

A Period of Grief

I remember, after a religious conversion, seeing the sky.  It was blue.

It was as if the world had suddenly burst into vibrant color.  I was Dorothy and I found myself in Oz when previously I had only known sepia Kansas.

I took this as evidence of the correctness of my new religion.  Years later, upon reflection, I realize that I had found something more powerful, although more vague and mysterious: hope.

My life prior had been fully greedy, violent, resigned, and  indifferent.  My life changed at this time and I gained some freedom. That freedom gave birth to a fragile hope.  And the world bloomed in color as it became more beautiful than I had ever known it could be.

The world was the same, of course,  but I had new eyes.

But the dark world of my past came back to haunt me.  This time it was more menacing, powerful,  and hellish than I had ever felt before.  It was a long time of grief.

Again, the reality we interact within and share remained as it is and I was the change that threw my life into chaos.  Whether stolen, forgotten, or abandoned, the result was the same; my hope was gone.

The bright blue sky, same wherever it is visible-no matter where you are-was fading to some pale gray tinged derivative.  I would still try to find that perfect sky from five years ago: tropical beaches, small boats on the ocean, fields with distant horizons.

But my hopeless was gray.  The weather was brutal winters.  The kind that bite deep into your bones.  Or it was dingy, soaking rain with no umbrella.  Or oppressive heat that sizzles and bakes away energy and time.

The places around me were full of ugliness and cruelty.  Or indifference to me, as I became isolated from life.

I saw joy and love others’ experienced from life as if separated by a thick panel of glass. It was clear. My vision didn’t seem distorted.  And the scene was somewhat familiar.  But even if it had been strange, it would have been radiant still, beautiful still.

My life on the other side of the glass was dark.  Trapped in this small cage, I couldn’t find any way out.And as days, then months, passed, my energy started evaporating.  Trying was harder as hope died.  As it was dying, fear crept in.  After fear made a home named anxiety in my heart, resignation settled in.

Isolated, in pain, hopeless, despairing-that is how I existed.  And the days and months added up to years.  As I moved geographically, my despair and grief packed up and moved along with me.  I was chased across the world, through time zones and countries, by a dark shadow only I felt.

Myself was dead.  Somehow, while I was drowning in intense pain, who I was became less than a memory.  It was as if she had never existed.

The conscious moments were I chose the wrong instead of the right had led me somewhere inescapable.  My mistakes that created despair that radiated outward to everyone in connection to me.  I was only sobbing, messy, dirty, and disgusting.

And because hope had already died, anxiety taken rooted, and resignation crowned, this hell was the only reality possible.   That glass wasn’t one-sided.  Those who looked back at me felt as helpless as I knew I was.  No one could help, many tried, the only ones who survived were the ones who gave free gifts of love over and over to an unchanging, unrescued prisoner.

This grief is called depression.

This was the darkest depression I had ever felt in my short life that had already many times been tainted by darkness.

Something Broken

My heart might be broken.

I cry sometimes.   I have been sad for a long time.  More than a year, more than two or three.  For a very long time, I have been very sad.

So there are times when kindness I witness or experience causes me to cry.  Friendly words, strangers’ smiles, and much needed hugs from acquaintances all bring tears to my eyes that spill down the cheeks of my face and drop off of my jawline.

Wondering why unwarranted kindness makes me cry.  The most beautiful thing: generous love, kindness to strangers, undeserved and unreserved affection – the world made better by people giving their best to someone else merely crossing their path by chance.

And it hurts me enough to make me cry.  It aches.  Worst than bruises or a swollen head, this kindness -this thing called love – makes some crack in me that gushes out pain and the symptom is a torrent of tears.

Maybe I have a stone heart.  It would make sense.  I don’t have hope, don’t want a reason to keep breathing for more than a few tomorrows.  I want to give up on futures, let go of hope.  Let go of myself because I can’t stand the hurt I endured by refusing to let go until now.

If kindness reaches in, it will make cracks in this stone heart of mine.  But even with a stone heart, I can still feel the pain.  Wondering why there is this queer pain, perhaps there is still a heart of flesh and blood underneath.   Maybe my heart’s hardness is just an exterior of stone.  And if kindness comes inside and the stone is broken apart, my heart will begin to pump hope and love into my life once more.

Difficulty and Growth

Life is hard.  I feel like I have woken up from a long nap.

It’s like I am slowly realizing the dream I was living in has ended.  “Time to wake-up!”  Now I have a lot of growing to do if I want to become a person I love.  Instead of the last few years of just surviving, I need to focus on thriving.

It’s scary.  I feel confronted by difficulties.  It is very scary.  I am always worried about messing up, getting in over my head, or how the consequences will hurt my heart.  And it seems like everything, even good growth, hurts my heart.

Maybe I should think of it like stretching muscles before starting a work-out.  It might not feel great, but it is getting me ready to do something much more demanding.  And it’s a necessary step.

Maybe I should try not to think about it too much.

Waves of Despair

My heart hurts.  I am grieving.  It feels like waves of sadness will never stop bashing me down.  It feels like I can’t breathe.  It feels like I am waiting to drown.

I feel waves of despair.

Sometimes I just want the pain to end.

Re-examining the Past

I probably should spend some time looking at the past …

Seeing what has changed since then.

Seeing what hasn’t changed since then.

Seeing the themes of my life played out over time.

And perhaps seeing solutions too.

While reading this, I was stuck by the line: “Did I pick this?”

I see there the same question I ask myself now.

I see a rejection of responsibility.  I see dissatisfaction with consequences.  I see pain and heartache.

I see indecision and I see lack of confidence.

I see myself.

Crying for the First Time in a Long Time

I used to cry almost every single day.  And by “cry” I mean uncontrollably weep until my voice left and breathing was only possible with gasps.

But I haven’t cried much in the last few weeks.

I did cry, after watching the happy couple finally start to date in the K-drama I love Lee Tae Ri.

Seeing young, innocent, hopeful love beginning invoked my own heartache and released my tears.

I was like that once.

And it is all over.

I can never return to the one I loved or the person I was when I fell in love.

First love has ended.  My innocence has truly died.

Panicky Packing

Okay, at least I have started packing a few days before my international flight. My possible permanent international flight or at least, the flight that is moving all I foreseen needing in America with me out of South Korea.

But I am baking. Cookies. Because I had the ingredients for a recipe from scratch, a cookie mix from home, and an oven. Sigh. Yeah, I am baking instead of stuffing clothes into boxes or suitcases.

And I am depressed. Not just because I lived my life with my heart unaligned to the true north of joy. Not because I let someone pick me apart and dash me to pieces. But also because I am really leaving my home. The first and only home I made on my own. No family, no roommates. Only temporary pet guests.

Everything of my life from the last two years is coming before my eyes again. So many memories. So many hopes. So many disappointments. So many dreams. So many joys.

I am American for sure. I have way too much stuff. I have so many things to recycle, throw away, or give away.

Good bye home. Hello homelessness.

What will my life include in the future?

At times like these, I don’t always want to walk forward into the new future that awaits me.

Opening up to Love

I have been pretty badly heart-broken.

I can ignore it.  I can trivialize it.  I can even forget it for a while.

But I still have a broken heart.

A heart that doesn’t trust love.  Or people who say they love.  A heart that doesn’t believe in kindness, honesty, selflessness, comfort, or healing.

But today I was waiting around in the classroom and picked up a book called “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul”.  Not a book I would typically read because I don’t go for those kinds of sappy, amateur stories and I am a decade removed from teenage.  But I had time to kill and it was lying on a table needing to be re-shelved so in between the table and shelf I flipped it open.  And read a single story.  A story of a girl and her grandmother.  A story of feeling alone, isolated, and full of loss.  The girl tells her classmates about her grandmother and also about her death.  And after telling herself it was foolish to open her heart and be honest, she receives anonymous support.  A gift of lilacs like the ones she saw with her grandmother and words of encouragement.

And I am encouraged too.  People do sometimes care.  We can be rewarded with love when we open up our hearts to others.  And we do have to open up ourselves and be honest – to not be alone and miserable.

Of course, we all want to be loved.