Balancing then and now.

How is it that something I've done for so long can suddenly feel so foreign? A few weeks ago, Stupid Ugly Foreigner came back to Korea for a wee visit and we met up one Saturday afternoon, me rattled and in a mid-deadline haze, to catch up on -- what, years? -- of conversation in a few hours. It's some strange social mark of our tribe, how we don't meet for months or years, and then turn up at the designated spot and carry on like it's been a few weeks.

As we strolled along toward the tiny burrito shop where the handfuls of fresh cilantro the man who runs it piles on top of the meat and rice can convince me at times to swing by after work-- a good ten minute walk from the nearest station -- just to pick a couple up for B and myself, we did eventually get on the subject of the blogs. Maybe not so odd, as they are how we originally met. He's retired his now, too, and for essentially the same reasons I'm not on mine much anymore. Namely, we don't know how to juggle more than a few types of writing at once.

I am writing food articles now, in addition to slowly plodding along on a project that is only beginning to develop edges. I'll go weeks without anything, and then a slow, dull ache sets in and I sit down, not sure what will come of it, only to have ten pages at a time come rolling out. I'm cautious to hem it in -- it's doing its own thing, and for now, I'm allowing it to.

My daily life is mainly a blur of learning Korean company politics, how to communicate more clearly and delicately in my second language, in that regard, and in many others, deadlines, overtime -- way too many company-comped midnight cab rides home to count. As Friday approaches, I plot grocery lists, order books and records and hard-to-find ingredients, and then, when Saturday arrives, I revel in being-homeness. I cook as much as I can, fed up with quick salads and meals from the company restaurant wolfed down in a rush to get back to the office -- lunch and dinner, about a third of the time. I try to leave the apartment at least once every other weekend to make sure my social life doesn't completely crumble, or to take in something of the outside world other than the inside of a bus or a subway tunnel.

B was unemployed for about a month, searching for a better job than he had before, eventually settling only to quit again within a week. I've been poisoning him with chatter about moving to the country and working on our own terms, and although we both know we need to buckle down and earn the cash to buy the land and house first, it seems to have gotten to him on some real level. So when, at the new job, the 부장 started pacing up and down the space between the cubicles like a jail warden, and the no overtime they promised turned out to be overtime every night (I laughed when he actually bought that, but tried not to rub it in when reality set in), he couldn't hack it, which is not like him. We had a sweet deal for a while, him working a short half-hour bike ride away, home by 6:30 every night, and me, with the time to put dinner on the table. It's hard to let that go.

At the moment, we're fighting with our landlord who has decided in the eleventh hour to hold our deposit for an extra month and a half, which will make it impossible for us to move as we had planned. But when we do move, we will be much closer to the magazine offices and things should get a bit easier. The summer is going to be hard, with no vacation time, but when the fall rolls around, there's a trip home in October for a dear friend's wedding, which may double as a work trip, if I can get an article organized. Of course, Chuseok in September and a long vacation at Christmas, which we may take with friends in Europe if everything goes well. I'm waffling about whether or not to continue with this job for another year after the winter. On the one hand, the experience is valuable and the money is good, but on the other, there is a lot I was able to do in my spare time last year that I'm missing. Like sleep, for example.

The point is, there are options. More than I expected there to be, and for that, I'm grateful. I do worry sometimes about how, over the past decade, my life has been a continuous string of promises to myself to buckle down for just one more year, and then... and then... and then. I'm 30 now, and I'm going to need then to become now at some point soon. But I also know that I'm easily bored, and listless without some goal to work toward. The past ten years have been, for the most part, good ones. B said something shortly after we got married, for no apparent reason -- we were in the kitchen setting the table for a meal, and it just popped out: "Well, we're done now, I guess. Just need to buy a house and have a baby, maybe, and then that's it." I stared at him in horror, because the idea of just finishing life halfway through....

I think the key is to find a balance between being "finished" and always waiting for "then". I'm trying. At least for now, my thens are getting a little closer together. One more week, and then I'll be working on a story again. One more late night, and then we'll have made it through deadline. One more day, and then it'll be the weekend.

But now, it's Sunday afternoon and a little get-together at a friend's house is waiting, and I've got to finish the baking. Then, tomorrow will be Monday. Five more days, and then it will be the weekend again.

1 comment:

Turner said...

I don't think anyone can just come to the moment of "well, that's it: I've accomplished all my life goals and there's just this and this left to do." B may have said it, but do you actually feel it?