Dear Future Me,
I had a wonder that weighed on my mind. What is your friend group like nowadays?
I know it’s impossible to know where you currently reside. I hope there’s a university there. But do you have a good friend group? Do you meet up for regular cookouts or cocktail parties? I hope so.
As you know, I have a pretty good friend group now. We call ourselves the Mokpo Misfits. The name is fitting. Each of us possesses social quirks that somehow brought us together. Though it is more likely we came together by virtue of being native English speakers who came to the same geographic region of Korea at the same time.
While I still see many of them regularly, our busy lives have caused greater divergence. Seldom are we all together at once. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s a consequence of life. All Earthly relationships are finite in nature. As contracts close and some decide to move on, the river of time will slowly erode our rock of friendship to fine dust.
This friend group has been special to me so far. I wonder what you think about them now that they are likely a distant memory. Was my relationship with them transformative? Did I edge further out of my shell? Have I become any more comfortable with expressing vulnerability?
How are you at that today? When Scrabbles described me as “psychologically heavy” I took it quite personally. This mental obesity now weighs heavily on my mind (which does me no favors). How are things now? While I don’t want you to surrender your intellectual curiosity and ability for deep thought, I hope you can lighten up more than I am able to now.
First, it was video games, then it was alcohol and marijuana, and then it was just alcohol. What is your coping mechanism now? I hope it is writing. I am slowly learning the therapeutic nature of this craft. How has this therapy developed over time? Do you still write today? I hope you write for scientific journals someday. You’re too smart not to.
Actually, forget I said that. Humility is the key to intelligence, you fool. The best way to convey intelligence is to honestly assess how little you truly know. I really hope your thirst for knowledge has opened this world ever wider. I hope each question you answer spawns seven more. I hope your reading list is three miles long. I hope you plan to die with a pile of good books on your wall, close friends and family besides your bed, and love entrenched in your heart.
Back on the subject of friends and family, how is that going? Do you have a family? Do they crowd out the time you could spend with friends? I hope not. I pray you do not live in the suburbs.
The suburbs are a lie. The white-picket-fence American Dream is a lie. Owning land is not worth surrendering your time. Time is far more precious and useful. I don’t care if you have to rent. Rent to live among friends. Rent to live closer to work. I want you to spend less time commuting and more time doing the things you enjoy doing. Trade in your stress enhancer for a stress reducer. Driving long distances to work will be the death of you. I know you know because we share the same past. Remember DBI? That whole job was a commute and you hated it. Don’t do that to yourself. Love yourself. Love the time you have. It’s your most precious resource.
Schedule time with friends. I know it doesn’t sound “cool and spontaneous,” but what doesn’t get scheduled can often be dismissed as unimportant. You need to make friends a priority or they will disappear. Don’t let them disappear. Hold on to the fraternal love that only friendship can provide. I’m sure your wife is awesome, but don’t allow her to be the bane of your social existence. It takes a village to raise a child as much as it takes a village to sustain the social appetites of an adult. Stay involved. Stay connected. Stay present.
Forget about the money. An hour of time spent with friends is worth far more than most companies could pay you. Do you have enough money to sustain your basic needs? Do you have enough to indulge occasionally in activities you enjoy with people you love? Do you have some set aside for eventual troubles and an inevitable geriatric existence? Great. That is enough. Don’t worry about living in the nicest house or the best neighborhood. Don’t be a slave to “things”. We fall out of love with “things” quickly when we realize that “things” are incapable of loving us back. Instead, things just become deadweight that exacerbates rather than reduce our stress.
I hope you know that. I hope you realize that memorable experiences are worth 100 nice “things.” I hope that you know that things break down, erode, and disintegrate your well-being if you rely on them for satisfaction. Friends and family will always provide an inexhaustible spring of well-being. Drink deeply. Give them love and love will follow you for the rest of your days. Once you find love, you need not search for anything else.
I’m so grateful to live where I live. This lovely bamboo grove on Oryong Mountain is only a ten-minute bike ride from my home.
Just a small example of what Korean students learn in their reading class. I tend to teach much simpler grammatical structures because most students’ reading abilities surpass their speaking ability.
I had a delicious meal out with some teachers after a volleyball game. In the front, we have onion kimchi followed by raw squid. After that, we have slow-cooked pig’s feet. Of course, there are bottles of beer and soju to wash it all down.
These blue pentagonal address signs adorn almost every building I’ve seen in any Korean city. The sheer uniformity surprised me.
The Mokpo “Meeting Waterfall” is operational again. It is a surefire sign that spring has returned.