There are two reasons why I’ll never be a professional photographer: 1. I have zero talent for it and 2. The things I like to photograph seem intrinsically less interesting to everyone except me. Alleyways, stoops, small windows high up on walls with cigarette butts pooled on the ledge outside. People scuttling off to work, pushing and dragging carts, setting clothes up on display tables outside their stores. Typical, everyday monotony that most of us live regularly, and no one quite cares to see it represented in art of any sort. We don’t see our lives in an artful light. It’s work. It’s life.
There’s a buzz that idle observation gives me. It’s a feeling I only catch glimpses of, the rush of being in a foreign country, the excitement of “what am I doing here?” It’s one of the most addictive bites of traveling. I felt it a lot more often when we first moved to Korea 7 months ago. But I’ve been so occupied, days brimming in immediate tasks, that the feeling has subsided into dormancy. Time happened, and the unfamiliar became the new normal.
Every week my students get a new quote they have to write about. This week I gave them this: Time changes everything: the impossible of today is the inevitable of tomorrow. I cribbed this from Jeffrey Sachs in his book about ending poverty, a sentiment of stubborn optimism, that goodness and reason won’t just win in the end – they must. It is the course of all things to change, and, perhaps naively, I think change for the good. Though it’s dramatic to say that feeling at home in Korea was ever impossible, the fact that I am as comfortable as I am now is a testament to the inevitability of positive change, if nothing more.
Perhaps a better example is this country itself. I spent my day bobbing in and out of coffee shops and boutiques, eating Mexican and South African food, drinking beer brewed in California, debating whether or not I should go big and take a bucket of baskin Robbins home. Fifty – even 15 – years ago, that was an unthinkable impossibility. In my parents lifetime, Korea has gone from mass poverty to one of the richest, most modern countries in the world. This in wake of devastating wars, no less.
I complain a lot. Perhaps because I’m an earth dragon on the Chinese zodiac, stubborn and impatient. Maybe I’m just a Gemini, never able to make up my mind. Maybe it’s because I’m the youngest – spoiled and bratty. Or, of course, it is just a generational symptom of growing up with the internet. I’m honestly not sure. But what I am sure of, is that I’m happy here, more relaxed, and less existentially exhausted. That’s a good thing, and a good change. I have to believe now is another plot point in a larger trend of positive change, and it’s a natural byproduct of just living. It’s inevitable, it must be true. At least for today.