Turkeys, Mangers, and Santas! Oh my!

Goodness, the time has flown by quite quickly these past few weeks! I’m still trying to grasp that it’s less than a week until Christmas. As far as my internal clock is concerned, I’m still in early December. Needless to say, time has gotten away from me. Living among Koreans and ex-pats during the holidays has been interesting and fun. As part of the curriculum at CFLEC we take the time to teach our students about the foreign holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) that are happening around the time that we have them at our school. So, I’ve gotten to dress up as Batman and now Santa Claus (St. Nicholas, one of the most hardcore saints in the history of the Church, with a penchant for punching heretics and caring for the poor) over the past few months (sadly, no Thanksgiving turkey outfits, so I’ve had to make up for it in attitude).

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Thankfully I have a wonderful family here to celebrate the holidays, so we’ve had a Thanksgiving dinner, two Christmas dinners, and we still haven’t even finished the Christmas celebrations yet. There are some family friends from Germany that are now stationed at the Army base just north of Cheonan and I’ve gotten to see them several times (and eat American food on base! Woo!) and enjoy the company that they bring (plus it’s like having yet another set of adoptive parents). There are many wonderful people here and I’m glad that I’m able to spend the holidays with them. Soon we’ll be going ice skating (they will, my tailbone can’t take the abuse that ice skating tends to dish out) up in Seoul and having even more Christmas related fun.

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This picture is from the games we were playing after the Thanksgiving dinner.

So, fun facts about Christmas in Korea. In Korea, it’s only been a nationwide holiday (where everyone gets off work) for about 2 years. It’s generally considered to be a holiday that is celebrated only by Christians and couples, and has no real cultural relevance to everyone else. Korea is a little obsessed with the whole couples thing, and Christmas has become one of the many holidays where that is emphasized. However, for all of the Koreans who are single, they have the option of saying, “I’m spending Christmas with Kevin.” This is in reference to the movie Home Alone, which is apparently a Korean holiday classic that is shown every Christmas, and many other holidays besides. Funny what things tend to become popular across cultures.

In other news, I also have recently been able to take a day trip to the south-eastern coast of Korea at Busan, and that was very neat. Apparently the world’s largest department store is there (Yes, I got some pictures of it thanks to sneaking up the elevator of a hotel right across the street) and there are a lot of neat museums and other stuff. I was only there for about a day, so I didn’t get to see too terribly much, but enough to know that I want to come back and do some hiking and see some more museums. If you want to see the pictures from that, check the end of this album: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10153227621700534.1073741828.668415533&type=1&l=fccfb14d55

I’ve also been given the allowance to grow a beard until Christmas, so I am taking full advantage of that!

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Anyways, life is going well and I’m still enjoying Korea! I love all of you very much and Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! (Now here’s a picture of Korea in the winter)

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Shift

I recently read an article (http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/how-to-love-someone-with-depression/) that has helped me to continue to gain insight into myself, my life, and thoughts on how to “move on” from previous failures and shortcomings. In particular, this quote stuck out to me, “This is because my depression completely changed my entire outlook on life, and it changed who I was as a person.” After having lost my job and leaving the ministry I went through what is to date, the most severe period of depression I’ve gone through thus far. I locked myself away in my apartment (which was the only tie I still had to that town) and it became my prison cell. As I mentioned before, it got so bad that I very nearly committed suicide, but some final reserve of self-preservation saved me from putting a bullet through my own head.  Even after leaving that town and getting resettled in OKC, I wasn’t entirely out of the woods. I then had to learn how to endure an employment situation that was not always financially stable (to date, living from paycheck to paycheck has been one of the most terrifying experiences of my life) and was not always particularly rewarding. While I’m finally working in a job that is meeting so many of my goals (teaching, living abroad, financially stable, worthwhile experience that can help me find work in other places abroad), I’m still finding places that are damaged. I’ve recently discovered the severity of just how much I lack a sense of hopeful future, in spite of all of the good that I am encountering right now. It has certainly given me a new appreciation for the struggle between the head and the heart.

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I used to think that the head and the heart only disagreed on matters of love and passion, but I’ve found that irrational fear, unreasonable sadness, and numbing apathy provide just as much conflict with a rational mind if we speak of the heart as the seat of our emotions. (Fun fact: In ancient middle eastern cultures, the bowels were considered the seat of our emotions, so many words from those languages have ties to their words for guts, and may very well be why when someone does an act of particular fortitude or bravery, we still say that the person has “a lot of guts”). Mentally, I know that I shouldn’t be afraid, angry, sad, or so entirely apathetic in those times of instability, but I keep right on feeling when I shouldn’t and not feeling when I ought to. I send constant messages to myself saying, “Hey you! Come on! Get it together!” but instead I spend an hour on the floor hugging the backpack that I’m supposed to be using to carry my stuff out to the coffee shop so I can work. (Note: backpacks are not good huggers, they are too clingy and just kind of hang there. *rimshot*)

Fear has been a big struggle recently in part due to that lack of hopeful future. I’ve made some tentative contacts with a master’s program and have received very positive responses, but I have yet to apply. Even though this degree would set me up very well for what I want to do with my future, the things I want to be doing with my future (full-time professor of Theology and Church History) might be going extinct (due to the advent and increasing popularity of online classes and now open online classes that are offered for little to no money – this is excellent as far as educational accessibility is concerned, but bad for me if I expect to feed myself as a professor and am getting a degree geared towards that purpose). Furthermore, churches and I still aren’t on the best of terms. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have found a good church home in OKC and to now be participating in a fledgling house church of ex-pats here in Korea, but in general the idea of attending a church holds very little attraction, interest, or concept of benefit (to any party involved) for me. Realistically, if I want to work as a professor of theology, that’s going to need to change, but even if it does, the position for which I am attempting to educate myself may not exist.

Honestly, I don’t know what else I would do with my life. I need to eat, have a roof over my head, and realistically be capable of providing for the well-being of others, but I’d like to be able to attempt to do so with some hope of enjoying myself as I work. What else would a master’s degree in theology and research be good for? How would I feed myself, much less a family with that? This is one of the few things in which I’m genuinely competent and enjoy, but there isn’t a likely future in which I can be reasonably reliable for the well-being of others much less myself. I realize that this is the reality that many people face, but what point is there in a continued existence? Existence for the sake of existence seems rather pointless. Eat, work, sleep, repeat until you die; even though we’re not meant for the history books, there’s got to be more than human existence than a cycle without destination. If that’s all I have to look forward to in the future, euthanize me now, please. So yeah, that whole lack of vision for a hopeful future. I don’t function particularly well in an economy and society where I expected to make and push product (even in jobs that are supposedly “people oriented”) rather than develop people and help them to do, think, and be better in their relationships with themselves and others.

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There is some semblance of hope though. For whatever reason, God is the reason I wake up in the morning. There is a future. I can’t see it, and I can’t see what is likely for me. Honestly, I’d say this makes a fair amount of sense given that I didn’t realize until recently how much I still had left to rebuild. So, I can only assume that at some point I’ll find another high place where I can get a vague sense of where I’m going to head in the event that the current plan fails. So, here’s to the day where I will rediscover that I feel hope when I use the future tense.