My family thinks I’m fucking crazy. The words they use to my face, because they love me, are “brave” and “ballsy”, but I know full well the conversations they’re having behind my back probably sound a little more like how I talk to myself. Every few years, I approach them with another little bundle of chaos in the form of my latest scheme and then sit back and watch as they purse their lips, raise their eyebrows slightly, shake their heads, and say something to the effect of, “Well, if that’s what you think you should do….”
It isn’t. It’s never what I think I should do. It’s always something I know, logically, I should absolutely not do. But sometimes I just want the things that I want, even when it seems like I’m not really supposed to have them. And like a dog trained to bad habits by too many feedings from the dinner table, things have worked out for me enough times that I haven’t learned to act better.
I mentioned on an Instagram post yesterday that I think I’m about to bid on a house. A house that’s in the States. Via the internet. From Korea. And what’s worse is that, given the current exchange rate and the 16 percent extra fees, I can only barely manage to scrape together an offer 10k over the starting bid, which is way too low for what’s on offer. There is basically no point in me doing this. Worst case scenario, I just wasted a lot of time and a little bit of money making a pointless bid on a house that was a dream drifting on the wind to begin with. Best case scenario, I just spent all my savings to buy a house over the internet. A house I’ve never seen in a state I’ve never visited.
You don’t have to tell me. I already know. I’m 37 years old and not particularly stupid. Despite all appearances, there is a lot of thought and weighing of pros and cons that goes into my harebrained schemes. I don’t take the long shots because I think I’m likely to make them. I take them because I can’t stand the thought of a life without them. Because I don’t know what I would do with a life that was only made up of what seems obviously possible. I’m fully aware that I only get one go-round, here. But that thought doesn’t make me want to be more careful. It makes me terrified of letting fear and circumstance hem me in. It makes me want to take every chance I get to grab fistfuls of life with both hands and not let go.
Let’s be clear: forgoing an act of God, I’m not gonna get this house. I’m still not even sure I’m gonna go through the absolute circus it would take to get a bid in from another country. I’m still waiting for my gut to settle on the issue one way or another. I’ve got a little over a week before I have to decide. But at this point, it’s not really about this house anymore. I’ve been poring over real estate listings for close to two years now, but it has all just felt so murky and hypothetical. Up until this point, it was mostly a feverish self-soothing activity to prove to myself, on the evenings when I was really starting to panic, that at the very least I could manage to get a roof over my head, even if that roof didn’t also include indoor plumbing. But this week, something shifted, and I started to see the outlines of a life — a life after Korea, after everything that has happened here.
Working in the bakery, I’ve met a lot of folks who have a foot in both worlds, just like me. Whether they were Korean and had lived in the States or were from the States and were living here, the fact that I run one of the few American-style bakeries in the city drew them into my orbit. I’ve had a lot of chats over the past few years with people who were, like me now, preparing to make a transition from one side to the other or trying, at least, to make up their minds about whether or not they should. My advice has always been that the best way to do it, if you can, is to wait until you feel like you’re running toward something instead of away from something.
I’ve got a lot back home that I’m running toward, but to be perfectly honest, until recently, this whole shenanigan has definitely felt more like an escape plot. All of the specific reasons for that will, I’m sure, become clear to you all in time. For now, I just have to focus on getting out first. But with this house and all of the potential I saw for a life there, the balance has shifted somewhat, and this week, I don’t feel so much like an escapee. I feel more like a person who is starting something new. And I think, ultimately, that’s what the long shot gives you: a sliver of hope that you can have more than you should really dare to ask for, and the chance to see possibilities instead of probabilities. And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
Here. Have a recipe for raspberry chocolate cake.
Freelance writer and editor. American in Seoul. I write about Korean food. I blog about all food. Last year I wrote a monthly column about traveling to different places around the country to explore Korean ingredients and cuisine. This ignited my interest in local foods and cooking, which I blog about regularly now. I also blog restaurant and cafe recommendations, recipes and some background and history about Korean food.