The Two-Year Itch

I was grading tests last week and a kid spelled the word ‘excited’ like this: ‘ceixade.’

My first thought was, What an idiot.

Then I felt guilty. Maybe his inability to spell is a reflection of me, not of him.

Because the truth is, I’ve been pretty down on Korea lately. I’m tired of trying to fit into a culture that is so dramatically different from my own, whether it’s pretending to care about teacher dinners or biting my tongue when an ajumma cuts in front of me at the grocery store.

Namsang Tower Seoul
Sadly, I am no longer this enthusiastic about Korea.

Little things irritate me to no end. If someone pushes the call button for both elevators in our building, it sends me into a fury of rage. If a student answers a question in Korean instead of English, I want to go all Trunchbull on them. I don’t give my age in Korean age anymore, because what is that about, anyway? How was I already one when I was born?

See, it’s making me all whiny and unlikeable.

This irrational anger is nothing new, but it’s no way to live.

It’s a warning sign.

The two-year itch is creeping up on me.

You know that feeling you get when you’re ready for something new? I’m talking about the urge for major change, not just highlights or a spontaneous pet purchase.

CODA kids
This is lame. I gotta get out of here. (That's me in the purple.)

I get that feeling every 18-24 months, no matter where I am. There’s no question of ‘should I move on?’, only a definite conviction that I need to get out of here, like yesterday. When I’m ready for change, I want it now. Kind of like the feeling I get when I’ve finished eating at a restaurant and the waitress hasn’t cleared the plates away.

Take them away, minion. I’m finished.

(I used to be a waitress. Don’t judge.)

That’s where I am with Korea. I’m 30 years old, and at 19 months, this is the longest I’ve ever worked at the same place. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made – an unbeatable experience, numerous travel opportunities, great way to save money, and an inside look at a culture I never could have begun to understand otherwise.

Teddy bear museum Yeongwol
Most things I still don't understand.

But I’m done. I know what to expect most days. I can predict how the next several months are going to go. My Korean’s not going to get better. I’m pretty sure I’ve crested over my peak as an effective teacher. Instead of enjoying life, I’ve been looking forward to the next big thing, disregarding all of the days that come between now and then.

Jared once said to me, “You should never wish away your days.”

You shouldn’t. It means that you aren’t living life the way it’s meant to be lived. When my days all start looking the same, I know I’m in trouble.

I fear the known much more than the unknown.

Routines are valuable – I need them to keep me sane. But I also need to shake them up completely to remind myself of what it’s like to do something totally different from what I’ve ever done before.

High One Snowboarding
Like snowboarding. Never, ever thought I'd try this.

It’s why, if anyone (ok, my dad) asks me where I see myself in ten years, all I can do is stare blankly. I lob out some abstract concepts (happy, healthy) and some more concrete ones (married, debt-free), but that’s as far as it goes.

Most of all, I hope that I’m always moving forward. That I take what I’ve learned in one phase of life and apply it to the next, making it even better. So far, I’m relieved to say, that’s been the case.

So I’m curing the two-year itch the only way I know how: planning the next step.

Chances are good that we’ll book flights to both Argentina and Japan by the end of next week. I’m so excited (some might say ceixade) about this that I find myself punching the air while doing a happiness jig. My mood is lifting again, and it’s spilling over into my day-to-day life, the one I’m still living in Korea. I’m surrounded by beautiful scenery, spicy food, hilarious kids, and generous co-workers.

Mmmm, dalkgalbi...I'll miss you so much.

The next five months are going to be about enjoying the time I’ve got left here, and piecing together a plan for the future.

Not a ten-year plan, though.

That’s just crazy talk.


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    1. But that leaves 45 weeks of working!
      For example: today, my co-teacher had a serious talk with me about not filling my water bottle from the upstairs water filter – the one I’ve been using for 18 months and the one all of the kids drink from – because it contains cement powder. Apparently I should only use the water in the teachers’ room, where there is no cement powder.
      Every day, at least once, I want to bang my head against a wall.

  1. Ha ha, can totally relate to the itchy feet and the overwhelming feeling of being stuck when still for very long! Clearly time for you to head off and do something different, or at least be making plans!

    1. Glad I’m not the only one with these issues! Making plans is the answer. We’ve just booked an apartment in Buenos Aires and flights to Osaka, so I’m starting to calm down now – 5 months isn’t that long, really!

  2. 7 WEEKS??? Where do you teach? Are they hiring?

    I get the itch, too. Even in the US, I moved 10 times in 11 years. I haven’t lived in the same apartment for 24 months since I left for college.

    1. Okay, it’s true. I get 7 weeks’ vacation and still feel antsy! In Gangwon-do, the province I work in, we get 5 weeks’ holiday. If you renew your contract, you get an additional 2 weeks. Et voila! 7 weeks. If your feet are feeling itchy, they hire English teachers twice a year. You could add a Korean address to your multiple US ones!

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