This article was originally published on 29 June, 2012 by Prodigal Magazine. Image by Alex Trevor Devine.
Years ago, I heard a sermon based around Dr Seuss’ book, Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It was in a chapel service at my Christian college, far from home. You can imagine the optimism and invincibility that flowed through my veins.
Man, those were the good old days.
I remember graduating with a yearning for what was coming next. After being thoroughly burned out at the end of my undergrad, it was finally time to move on to higher peaks. Little did I know, those peaks were much further in the distance than I had anticipated. And they weren’t in front of me, either.
If only I had known that earlier, before all this trouble.
I spent a year after school looking around for the next path. I was single, unattached, and free to roam as I saw fit. I had a date with destiny. I looked across the country and across the globe for a new horizon to explore. I found many opportunities and weighed the pros and cons of each…
[I’m going to skip through the boring parts of this story and just get to the climax]
…and I ended up here in Seoul, South Korea. I began a job as a kindergarten teacher in a tourist area in the Soul of Asia. Sounds perfect, right? After many months of pondering the future, I was finally on the move! Dr Seuss would be proud:
“You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So…get on your way!”
It turns out, destiny didn’t get the memo.
I have learned two important truths in my time here: 1) This culture isn’t a good fit for me, and 2) I suck at teaching little kids. There’s just no denying it. But more than these, my father is growing ill and I picked the wrong time to fly around the globe.
Being stuck across the world in a place you don’t like at a hard job while someone you love is getting sick produces some intense emotions, let me tell you. But I have learned a great deal from them. Remember when I said those high peaks weren’t in front of me? It wasn’t until I found failure in Korea that I realised something.
Those peaks were behind me all along.
I am finally ready to come home. It would have been nice to find that out before I signed a year-long contract that will cost me over a thousand dollars to break. But hey, life wouldn’t be an adventure if we didn’t get lost sometimes, right?
“Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.”
The past few months have been very difficult, but they have brought me along in the maturing process. A friend once told me that, by coming to Korea, I have set a precedent for the rest of my life. This is the kind of experience you look back on years later.
But for now, I’m tired of looking back. I want to look ahead. And by doing so I’ve set my eyes to the Chicago area – the place from whence I came. After seven months away, it is time to come home. Isn’t it funny that as I am coming back, I’m also moving forward?
Maybe the whole point of this was just to help me appreciate home.
I believe in a loving Creator who interacts with and guides our lives. You can count me in that purpose-driven life category (man, what an awful cliché that has become). I truly feel that He brought me to Korea. And that is why this experience has made me angry at times. I’ve shouted at Him and questioned an awful lot lately. “Why did you bring me here?”
“What the [expletive] are you doing, God?”
Well, I know one thing: Eating kimchi and rice for several months has made deep dish pizza and Portillo’s hot dogs sound like heaven. After spending so much time in a city of grey, I can’t wait to see Lake Michigan again.
Is that what you are doing, God? I can’t tell if you’ve pulled a cruel joke or given a brilliant lecture. Either way, I know one thing: As the time to walk on that plane draws near, I again feel optimistic and invincible. Except this time, I’ve got some brains to go with it.
And maybe, just maybe, that is enough to make this whole trip worth the trouble.
Have you ever gone on a trip that was the wrong direction? What did it teach you?