Have I ever been happy? I have felt happiness a bunch of times yes, every time I spend time with friends, every time I finish something I put my mind to I do feel happiness, but have I ever felt real happiness, the kind of happiness that last longer than a few hours? The answer is no, no I don’t remember ever feeling truly, fully happy. I can even think back to when I realised this, at the ripe age of 18 years old. It was the last year of my high school years and I remember the feeling of being lost and confused. I had spent 3 years trying to study and become a programmer only to realise that I haven’t learned a single thing, nor could I even understand the basics of programming. At this point everything felt hopeless, I had no idea what to do with my future and I felt completely lost in life, so of course I did what most people would do in that situation, I turned to the people close to me for help. In my case this would be my Mom and my Step-dad, but I soon realised these were not the right people to ask for help and guidance.

I asked my Mom and told her I felt lost and didn’t know what to do anymore, she replied with a very motherly “You should follow your heart and your dreams”. This is a very good answer indeed, if I only still had hopes and dreams. I turned to my Step-dad, but given we don’t see eye to eye on most things, I got the response that I should start working in construction because that is what he did when he was 16. Now I have tried to help around the house when something is needed, and I have tried the handyman occupation only to realise that it is not for me. Sometimes you just have that feeling that, “No.. this is not for me, this isn’t working out”, which is something I felt every time I tried to do anything of those sorts.

So I turned to the school counsellor for guidance. I explained to her that I felt lost, I felt like I had lost 3 years of my life not learning anything at school. Her response, “don’t think about what the school hasn’t done for you, but rather what you should do from here”. Fair enough I thought to myself, you have a point, but you sort of missed the part where I told you that I am lost and don’t know what to do in life. I still didn’t know what path I wanted to take.

I eventually started looking for work, trying to find something I could do without any real experience nor education, which led to work in customer support. While it is a very ungrateful job most of the time I did learn one of the most valuable things ever, which was the mindset and skill of “Fake it will you make it”. I learned how to fake being happy. Now you might think to yourself, why? Why do that and instead not just try to be happy? Sometimes it is easier just to fake it, not showing how you actually feel and just let everyone around you believe that you are feeling well and happy, rather than opening up.

Something I did notice from this is though that people thought I had the answers to everything now that I seemed “happy”. People would always talk to me and share their feelings and ask me how to deal with it, not realising I am not the perfect person that has the answers to their problems since I am dealing with exactly the same thing. I have never been much of a talker though. Growing up I sort of learned very quickly that I was more of a listener, since my Step-dad would always take over every single conversation that was being held and always add in what he thought was right and pretty much end every conversation by doing so.This meant that I quickly began to think that I really didn’t have a voice that meant anything to anyone so instead I kept quiet and just listened.

I went from one job to another, trying to find a place where I maybe could find some peace of mind and actually maybe be fully happy, and eventually I got a job at my friends company. The company was in still in very early development which meant that at that moment it wasn’t that big, but it was definitely growing so it was a great chance to be part of something amazing. During my 4 years in the company I have seen it grow from something small to something massive, but even during all of this success I didn’t once feel happy. Rather I felt that I was now just trapped in a hamster wheel, I would wake up, go to work, go home and sleep and then repeat until the weekend, where my friends would ask me to come hang out with them only for me to decline, claiming I was too tired or too busy even though all I would do was stare at a computer screen all weekend. I was sick of it, but didn’t know how to get out of the wheel, because by doing it for such a long time, the momentum had built up enough speed on the wheel that I couldn’t find a way out no matter how much I wanted to. This is where my biggest change in life would soon come in, and also, my biggest misunderstanding.

During these times, k-pop were on the rise with groups such as Blackpink and BTS taking over the world music scene, which made me open up my eyes to Korea. Previously I had only eaten Korean food, watched a few dramas and movies without thinking about it too much, but now I was getting more and more into the food, the culture and the lifestyle on the Korean people. I wanted to know more, I wanted to learn more which lead me to want to learn Korean. This is where it all started, I downloaded apps such as HelloTalk and Tandem trying to connect with the world, studying Korean by myself on my free time using MP3’s, PDF-files and Youtube to learn more and more. I got to know quiet a few people through these apps, most of them girls (weirdly enough I might add, apparently guys didn’t want to talk to other guys), only to realise that guys use these apps like a sort of free Tinder, hoping to find their foreign girlfriend. There I was trying to learn a language which seemed to shock quiet a few of them and I managed to make online friends as a result. But then, of course, there was one exception. One girl that stood out from the rest. She had it all, looks, brain and attitude, but alas, she was way out of my league. I didn’t mind it though since well, I was there to learn Korean, I wasn’t there to meet anyone anyway, but boy…

Here are where my troubles began. Things were going well with everything, although my Korean definitely wasn’t getting any better, I really couldn’t say a lot or even hold a conversation in Korean without actually using Papago translator just to make a correct sentence or understand what people wrote me. And then, out of nowhere, the girl told me she was getting a job but she had no confidence at all getting it. Being the person I am I hyped her up, telling herself to believe in herself and that she definitely could do it. See, I do not believe in myself and always put myself beneath everyone else, but this isn’t something I tell other people, I always tell them to trust themselves and never put themselves down. If they only knew… I got a message back later saying she got the job and how thrilled she was and how happy she was that I encouraged her because if I hadn’t she weren’t sure she would’ve got the job at all. And here is where the most ironic thing of all started, she said she started to like me. Her! Someone I felt to be so much better than me. Someone way out of my league, liked me? I thought it must be a joke, certainly. No one could like me. I don’t even I like myself, but there she was, the angel that liked me for being me. Or rather, the person I was telling myself that I was. And the cruellest thing? This gave me hope. Hope that I could be happy, pretending.

I decided that I was done with the current lifestyle I had, I needed a break, I needed a change. My boss told me that when it comes to studying, as long as someone tells him 6 months in advance then he has to allow it. Foolish of him to tell me that, because the next day I told him that I want to take 1 year off from work, move to Korea and study Korean. Well, the answer was obvious, he couldn’t say no. And so the work began, I started searching for schools to study at and how to finance this whole journey. Both worked out fairly smoothly, I had enough money to survive and could also take a study loan just to be extra sure not to run out of money halfway throughout my trip. I have never felt more sure about anything in my life before, it was announced at the company that “David, the senior technician would be going to Korea for 1 year to study”. The question I kept getting asked was “Aren’t you nervous? Aren’t you scared?” and the answer was always.. No. I never felt the slight bit nervous or scared, it all just… made sense to me. I had never been so certain of anything in my life. I was going to go to Korea, meet the girl I had been talking to for a while now, I would learn Korean, I would just get to enjoy life and a new environment. It all just… made sense to me. Even when arriving in Korea it still felt right. This is where it all started anew though, what I thought would be a fairy tail turned out to be not all I had imagined. I finally got to see her, the angel of which I had only dreamt about, was this real? Was this really happening? See, the funny thing with life is, it never works out the way we think it will right? She dumped me 2 weeks after I came to Korea. Turns out I wasn’t the man she thought I was. I don’t know if you have felt this feeling before but I wasn’t sad.. I wasn’t angry I just felt… Empty. Like a black hole in my body had sucked out all of my emotions and crushed my soul at the same time. I had never felt so lost in my life, it was even worse than when I was 18 and not knowing what to do with my future. Of course I tried to fix it, but it was too late, what had been done was already done, we were over. I now had a full year of learning Korean but so what? That was one of the reasons I wanted to learn Korean to one day impress her with a conversation in only Korean. That dream was now over, but I thought “Hey I still have my friends here, right? I can still try to talk to them in Korean, it isn’t over just yet”.

I have met some wonderful people during my time at Sogang University, thinking I would only spend time with Koreans, but it turned out that the only people I could trust and relate to were foreigners such as myself in the same situation. The only problem with that is that, well our time in Korea is limited and eventually we all go back home to our own countries which is what happened time and time again. I would meet someone I finally liked and enjoyed spending time with and then they would go back after each semester, whilst my Korean friends would just slowly disappear from my life, either it being that they were all too busy to hang out or just that our friendship didn’t last. My Italian friend that I made that helped me during a lot of the rough times of my time in Korea said “Chin up buddy. You should try dating again, you will see that you will find someone that will make your life better and also find your motivation again”. The dating scene has definitely made me a different person. I have heard the stories about how it is to be a girl in these situations, yet on the other side of the spectrum it isn’t easy to be a guy either. I’ve lost count of the amount of dates I have had where it is either I like her but she doesn’t like me, or that she likes me but I don’t like her, or just the endless amount of girls where the conversation ends swiftly after we switch from the apps to other applications such as KakaoTalk or Instagram. It can be disheartening to have things not go how you had thought or hoped, and often can lead me to think “…Am I the problem here?”

These last couple of months have definitely not been healthy when it comes to mental health, the lock-down, everything I love closing down (school and gyms), things that keeps me from losing it mentally. I have come to realise two big reasons as to why I don’t feel happy though which I would like to share with you. My first problem is that I compare myself to everyone else, people around me and just other people I see who I don’t know but seems to have life in order. This is something I always tell others to never do, never compare yourself to other people because the only one you can compare yourself to is your past self and improve yourself from there. I know this… Yet I can’t stop comparing myself to others, especially these days when me and my mind are on even worse terms. I keep doubting myself in every single way and situation, and every time I see something where people seem to be happy or have their life in order I think to myself “… How? How are you happy? What is your secret? What did I ever do wrong to not be able to feel happiness?”.

My second problem is not allowing myself to have flaws. I don’t mind others making mistakes, it’s part of life, you can’t learn anything if you never fail. It’s part of us growing as a person, yet I can not stand it when I make mistakes no matter how small they are. I demand 100% perfection from myself no matter what I do, this is a problem I have always had. I hate screwing up, even though its perfectly human do do so, and I hate making mistakes.

So how do I fix these problems? I know how I could do it, yet why don’t I? Because I am tired. Mentally tired, physically tired of always having to fight my mind and myself. People say life is a battle against the world, yet I feel like it is a battle against myself every single day. Every time I seem to be do something right something bad happens and I take 2 steps back. 1 step forward and then 2 steps back, this is what my life has come to. I will never stop being a motivator to my friends and family, because you know what? I never, ever want someone to feel like I do. Not even my worst enemies. It is not fun being a prisoner in your own mind, doubting yourself and your own worth every minute that you are awake. Each day is a new battle, and I have no idea how all of this will end, but until we get there I will continue fighting and so should you. Never be afraid to talk to someone, sometimes we just need to open up and let someone listen. You never know, maybe they have the answer that you were looking for, and if they leave you when you expose your vulnerability then they weren’t people to spend your time and energy on in the first place anyway. 2020 has been a shitty year in many aspects but let’s not give up now, we will come out of this stronger than before.

follow David at @Pandaforhire and stay tuned for more posts.