“Hey how are you?” “How are you doing?”
The worlds most difficult question to answer isn’t it? Because are we supposed to tell them the truth that lately, life has been pretty tough and that you are not feeling well, or are we supposed to show them that fake smile we always give them and say “Fine, how about you?” because we don’t want to bother them with our problems. I don’t know where the stigma of actually showing your feelings and sharing your problems came from, but what I do know is that it isn’t healthy at all. Sometimes we need to open up and just let it out without the fear of people leaving you because you opened yourself up to someone. My time in Korea has definitely shown me the highs and lows of life and what it can offer, I have felt absolute bliss and joy so many times, and I have also been down the darkest paths wondering if there is a light at the end of the tunnel or if I should just lay down here to rot away. Whilst on the outside I may seem like a perfectly fine person, a lot of my family and friends believe I am having the time of my life even, mentally I have never been to the depths of darkness quiet like this before. I question the worth of life almost every single day, “is the struggle really worth it?” and “will there be a light after this endless darkness” keep echoing through my mind. People might think “Oh but David, it’s just because of the Corona virus, once that is over everything will be back to normal”. Whilst there is some truth to it, that is a very minor truth, since this has been how I’ve felt even before the Corona Pandemic started. Especially during my last 6 months here, I would say there have been way more dark moments than bright, and it doesn’t help that they keep adding upon each other.
These days I am missing Sweden, and my life that I had, but not because of what people think it might’ve been. All I did was shelter myself from myself and the outside world, which helped me keep my sanity in check, and now as I am sort of stuck here with nothing going on I am just trapped within my own mind going through the same hell every single woken minute and hour.
Then you get the question “Hey, how are you doing?” and your heart stops for a moment. “Should I tell him, should I let him know how I am actually doing?”.. No. I don’t want to bother him. I will instead share relatable and slightly edgy memes on Instagram in order to show my pain yet at the same time mask it with some laughter, even though 5 minutes later we are back to the questions “… But is it worth it? This life”. The answer is hard to find, because everything has a limit and you don’t know where that line is until you’ve found it and crossed it. But then, it’s too late.
They say that he who waits for something good, never waits too long. But how long does one exactly have to wait for something good to finally happened I wonder. We can’t expect it to fall down in our laps either, this much I know, we have to search for it ourselves. Even if that means climbing razor sharp mountains and walk through molten magma and thorny bushes to get there. The grass may not always be greener on the other side, but it does give everything a different perspective, a different view. Maybe it is needed in order to find what it is what we are looking for in life, maybe it’s been behind us all this time without us knowing, and once we’ve crossed the road, we can look back and finally see it with our own eyes.
Now, some time later looking back on this text I can definitely say, that my mind was in a bad place. But I remember everything as clear as day as well, and I remember every feeling and moment leading up to it. This journey has and will always be one of the best moments of my life and I don’t regret doing it for a second. I have learned so much about myself in 1 year living in Korea than I have during my 27 years on this planet. Living in a foreign country by yourself is not easy, let me tell you that. Everything is new, it’s different, it’s not what you are used to. Having experienced it first hand, it makes me admire people who actually decide to live in a foreign country so much more as I know their struggles.
As I am back in Sweden I wonder.. is life better now? Has my reply changed when people ask me “How are you?”. To a certain extent… Yes. Yes it has changed. But most people will probably not understand why my answer is this. “I am fine… but I would right now much rather be back in Korea”.
But David… I thought you were depressed, lonely and sad in Korea? And while yes, I was from time to time, there was something about living in Korea that just made sense. Thinking back I had a certain freedom that I don’t feel like I have in Sweden. It’s hard to put in words, as I don’t quiet understand it myself, because everything (well.. Almost at least) I did in Korea, I can do here in Sweden as well, but it just doesn’t feel the same. Let’s take this for example. Whilst living in Korea, a lot of my friends were single, which meant we could hang out at any given time and moment. Here in Sweden.. Everyone has to ask their significant other if they are allowed to hang out, or they have some reason to decline hanging out. Even I just don’t feel like hanging out sometimes, I rather just sit at home staring out the window listening to music sometimes rather than going for a beer with friends.
There is a quality of life I feel like I had in Korea that I don’t feel like I have here. A freedom to just take a walk by the river and relax after a day, going to the gym and burn myself out and then feel refreshed, or just go to a park and relax for a bit, there was always options. Here? I mean… if you like getting stabbed be my guest! This is of course an exaggeration because it also depends on where you are in Stockholm… But there was a safety that I felt in Korea that I don’t feel here in Sweden. Actually.. it’s something I haven’t felt anywhere else in the world. And I liked it. Now thinking back.. Were there things I could’ve done differently to either clear my mind, or just in general, make sure things turned out differently while I stayed in Korea? 그럼요! Ofcourse! But we can’t travel back in time to fix what’s broken, or we all would’ve done it by now. What we can do is learn from the experience and change the way we will handle it in the future.
So what are my plans now? Sounds like I am missing Korea right? Oh I am. I am missing Korea everyday. Things are… complicated these days to say the least, especially with Corona. It definitely doesn’t make returning any easier. But my goal is still the same, what I am looking for is that quality of life. Next time I return to Korea it will be to stay there for good, there is no changing that, and I will also not make the same mistakes twice. Having walked a thorny road for months, I definitely don’t feel like taking that hike again. This time, I will take my bike, and I will ride into the sunset instead, humming along to my favorite songs.
Even in our darkest hours, there is always a glimmer of sunshine even though it may be hard to see at first. Hold on to that glimmer and I can assure you, the darkness will go away. Surround yourself with people that you feel comfortable to answer the question “How are you”, and your life will no longer be like the Swedish winter months, dark and gloomy, rather they will be like the short but beautiful summer months full of light and life instead.