I got a message from a friend in a different country yesterday, asking after my newly unemployed status, and if I was enjoying my new "freedom". The truth is, what I'm enjoying is not having to go to that job every day and wait for whatever steaming pile of other people's irresponsibility may be deposited upon my desk for the day. I'm enjoying not having to brace myself at lunch time to go down to the cafeteria to have to nod and smile my way through the most bizarre conversations possibly imaginable, as if they and the people inflicting them upon me were anywhere near normal.
I'm enjoying that. But as a rule, I do not enjoy being unemployed. I don't have much experience with it, and I quickly begin to feel listless and panicked about the meaning of life. While I'm sure Marx would have a mouthful to say on the subject, it is what it is, I guess. I can barely cope with a couple of weeks vacation, so the next few months should be interesting.
The way things are at the moment, I'm baking and cooking a lot. I'm introducing that terrible thing called exercise into my daily routine, for "health". I'm getting older -- I'm getting tired, and I'm getting headaches. I can't really seem to handle sugary or heavy foods anymore without feeling ill. If I refuse to pull back on the coffee and cigarettes (alcohol has already almost completely disappeared from life, save for the occasional beer with a friend or glass of wine with dinner), then I should at least try to do a healthy thing to counteract it a bit. Is that how it works? Anyway, I won't let go of those last two strongholds in my life before trying everything else I can think of.
I'm emailing and meeting up with a lot of people, getting out and doing things I didn't have the chance to do before, being obligated to spend most operational hours of the day out in Incheon. I'm slowly getting to know a portion of the foreign community that I feel I will kind of settle in with eventually, which is a nice feeling. I'm getting my Korean studying organized again for a major revamp, and getting myself settled into a number of other personal projects I've been looking forward to for a while, as well. I'm beginning to build myself a daily routine that doesn't mostly feel like pacing around, trying to figure out what I should be doing, until everyone else finishes work.
B and I are also adjusting. Finding a balance between spending time together and having enough time on our own to do our own things, when huge portions of all of our time is spent under the same roof. I have to say, although we thought the amount of space we ended up with in the new apartment was a bit ridiculous at the time (three bedrooms), it's helped a lot in that regard. There's no bickering over differing agendas, since we both have our own "rooms" to use. If the basketball comes on the tv, I can just head to my room to pull up in my arm chair and read a book. Doors are almost always open, but they can be closed, when they need to be.
There have been a few domestic squabbles, mostly due to differing concepts of "private" and "public", so to speak. For instance, I would prefer it if when B digs into the loaf of pumpkin bread I've made, he does not use his bare hands. I may want to eat some of that later, and I would prefer if it didn't look as though a rabid animal had gotten to it first -- use a fucking knife. Also, please do not put leftover food into the refrigerator in the container it was formerly being consumed out of, without any kind of cover. Please. Please. We have foil, plastic wrap and Tupperware overflowing from the cabinets. Choose one. You may not mind consuming food that's been, essentially, left sitting exposed to the elements for 24 hours, but I do. For his part, B's made it clear that demands of this type make me a "perfectionist -- let's live a relaxed life!"
On the other hand, when I settle in to read a book and finish the last bit of a bottle of wine that I bought, I'm having a hard time watching him swoop in and empty the remaining portion into his own glass. B's perspective: "There is no 'your' and 'my' -- there is only 'ours'!" Funny how often 'ours' consists of whatever I currently have in my hands. That wine sat there for a week without any interest from him. He brought home a new bottle of wine after work on Friday night, and then got very offended when I told him I wasn't really in the mood for wine. He sulked a bit as he poured his own glass, and then proceeded to carry on for fifteen minutes about how delicious it was, and how much I was missing out. He didn't even finish the glass. The bottle is still sitting, mostly full, on the counter, where I'm sure it will remain until I try to pour a glass and his interest in it suddenly returns.
It's all good, really. Life is soldiering on, and what's mostly dawning on me at the moment, is what a truly malleable thing it can be, when you have the right combination of opportunity and initiative. There was a truly exhausting conversation over on that other website this past week about ESL teachers being "trapped" in Korea. But I've been far more trapped in far worse circumstances in the past then just a job I really loved with coworkers I really, really did not. And trapped is not something I generally settle for. The conclusion I came to in an unrelated conversation with B earlier this week is that 'fine' is not really what I'm looking for out of life -- I would like to have much, much more than fine. But more than fine only comes when you're willing to put in the work and energy and sometimes time spent in very un-fine circumstances to get there.
So, the un-fine circumstances are behind me, and now it's time for me to spend some time opening my eyes to what opportunities there are, and doing whatever work I need to do to take advantage of them. To me, the most extraordinary life is one that consists of acquiring -- not things or money, but experiences and knowledge. And now, it's just up to me, and that good old fashioned Protestant work ethic, to take things from 'fine' to better than.