속을 보여주는 속담

(Here’s a beautiful instrumental piece that has nothing whatsoever to do with Korean.  Enjoy!)

I remember how I was four months ago and I tell myself that progress, while frustratingly slow, is being made.  And I’m not talking about Korean.  

A couple weeks ago, I made a decision that I thought would help me get back on my feet and, while I think it is helping in some sense, I also feel myself relapsing for reasons I didn’t anticipate.  Getting though each day seems like a tremendous accomplishment. 

It’s scary to admit that I’m going through something I arrogantly thought would never happen to me.  It’s scary to admit that I need help.  It’s scary to realize that I am, first and foremost, battling with myself.  It’s going to take time to sort this all out and it’s scary to even think about how to take the first step.

The biggest thing I’ve accomplished in the past few months is accepting that I’m not okay and reaching out to people for help.  These days, I’ve become pretty open about my struggles with clinical depression and anxiety disorder.  I’m taking active steps to help myself.  As a result, I’m sleeping better, going out and talking with people more, attending talks, waking up at a reasonable hour, and not spending 16+ hours in bed as I once used to.  But I still struggle with emotions that are difficult to write about here.

Anxiety, especially, still runs rampant in my daily life.  Naturally, I wanted to erase everything that triggered fight-or-flight, panic-attack-like symptoms in me – that meant not reading academic papers, not going to talks, not getting various academic forms signed, and cutting off communication from everything related to lab work.  Even a simple text message from my labmates evoked a physical reaction from me.  On two separate occasions, I went over ten days without checking my email because I just didn’t want to see or read anything from my program or related to school.

In a sudden moment of clarity, I realized what I was doing.

손바닥으로 하늘을 가리려한다.

Literally:  “Covering the sky with the palm of my hand.”  That is, I have been trying to deny the existence of the sky, by merely covering my eyes.  In reality, the sky is always there and I’m the pretending it doesn’t because I don’t want to face it or accept it.  I am ignoring the obvious.

It’s like those emails.  Because I didn’t want to deal with them, I never checked my email and it was as if they didn’t exist.  But in reality, they were sitting neglected in my inbox, growing in number every day.  Knowing that made me feel worse.  When I finally faced my inbox, it was so much more awful than it would have been had I just checked my email regularly.

In a deeper sense, I think this proverb reveals something about my life as a whole.  Something that I’m afraid to acknowledge about myself.  But that’s a battle to be fought on another day.

I talked once about Korean triggering my anxiety through negative associations with my academic life – it still does.  It makes me sad and frustrated because I can’t listen to the Busker Busker CD my friend gifted me with without my hands shaking and feeling sick to my stomach.  I feel like all the 욕심 I had for improving my Korean competency has been sucked dry.  But!  I’m experimenting with trying different Korean media – like I started reading more webcomics instead of novels, because I realized I didn’t have as much of a negative reaction to it.  Newer Korean bands and vocalists that I listen to don’t affect me as much either.  Overall, I’ve lost appeal for Korean dramas but, then again, I tentatively started 응답하라 1994 the other day and thought it was delightful.

So… I have confidence that I can go back to loving this language.  I don’t think I can ever permanently erase it from my life; I just need to remember the things I loved about it in the first place and not let the rest of my life get in the way of something I was once passionate about.

Sigh.  Tell me I’m not the only one suffering from a quarter-life crisis?  Best wishes to all of you battling your twenties.

힘을 주는 속담

In the course of this month, I came to the sobering realization that 1) I’m unhappy and 2) I don’t know how to fix it.  My academic life took a sharp and painful turn in mid-February and things have been really up-and-down since.  Despite the infrequent posts on this blog, Korean has been a constant source of comfort, not to mention sanity, for me in the past month.  Not a single day goes by without my doing something related to Korean.

This is one of my favorite Korean proverbs, and one that I think about often these days.

하늘이 무너져도 솟아날 구멍이 있다.

Literally: “Even if the sky falls, there will be a hole from which you can escape.”  As Korean Wiki Project puts it, “There is still hope in even the most desperate of situations.”

(I suppose the English equivalent would be “Every cloud has a silver lining” but the Korean version is so much more poignant to me.  ‘Silver lining’ implies that something good comes out of every bad situation; I don’t know how true this is in reality, and certainly, I doubt anyone would start off feeling this way.  The Korean version just sounds so right to me.)

Anyway, I think about this proverb almost every single day and tell myself:  As long as I am a healthy, driven human being, I can pick myself back up from every fall.  Nothing is the end of the world.  I can start over.

I can’t say I’m 100% okay at this point, but I’m slowly learning to let go of unnecessary worries and stress.  Hopefully things will look up soon.

(P.S. I missed you all.  I promise haven’t disappeared entirely off the interwebs.  In the interim, I somehow managed to gain a few new readers, so a special warm welcome to them.)