A Peculiar Life
[As ‘usual’, just ramblings and no editing because I already have to edit writings at work sometimes and I hate editing!]
My mornings are when my mind is at its best and I have always despised having my best hours wasted on menial tasks. Because of this, I have arranged my work and pocket-change endeavours (tutoring and streaming) for later in the day, allowing my best brain hours to be spent on something grander of my own choosing. Usually learning or creating. When I’m unsure what to spend these hours on, I simply read. It’s pretty rare to read and not be struck by some kind of inspiration to carry with you throughout the rest of the day.
At first, it was hard to even get out of bed with nothing specific to get out of bed for. I fixed this by invariably getting up simply to drink water. I have since upgraded this solution. The first thing I do is go outside. If the weather is good, I will walk and listen to an audiobook for around 2 hours. If it’s raining, I will run. I might stop under a wooden pagoda or whatever shelter I can find and read a physical book with the rain as my backdrop. I think many people with a walking or running habit forgo rainy days, and perhaps I will too, in time. But in the early days of establishing a habit, I must allow no excuses. I know myself and if I allow some excuses, well, I’ll forget I was even trying to make it a habit and excuses won’t be relevant anymore. Anyway, there’s a benefit to rainy mornings. Sunny weekday mornings are quiet. I might see around 30–40 people on a two-hour roundtrip. Rainy weekday mornings, even fewer. And the people you do see and interactions that come from it tend to be more interesting. Perhaps I’ll write about some of those on a future rainy day. Today, however, was sunny so I’ll write about that.
On this sunny morning, I set out without a plan. My legs took me across the bridge closest to my house. I walk here several times a week but typically I descend stairs halfway across the bridge to go to the outdoor gym or walk along Han river. This time I walked 75% of the way across and descended instead onto Seonyu-do. Based on my crude understanding of some worn plaques scattered about, it used to be not an island but a hill. A popular viewpoint of the city and river from its Southern side. There was a more specific description of what it looked like pre-transformation, unfortunately beyond my comprehension, mentioning cliffs and how it inspired poetry and art. Due to excavation during the Japanese colonial period (1910–1945) and some flooding I don’t quite understand, it became an island. This place that once inspired painters and musicians and poets was transformed like this and then used as a water treatment plant providing water to the Southern side of the river. It was used this way for about 20 years up until 2000 when it was reclaimed and turned into a large and well-protected green recreational space. There is a museum or information point within the park that is closed (I believe due to covid) that would have taught me a more complete history and may one day still. The entrances are blocked on one side by emergency tape, and on the other side by a piano that has been occupied (and emphatically so) every single time I’ve visited the island. I saw about 10 to 15 older citizens tending to the gardens even at this time in the morning, and I have seen similar sights when I have visited up until sunset. Other than that, I saw about five citizens of varying ages exercising (stretching, running, etc) and one woman with her baby. There are many specific paths around the island specifically designed to be ‘comfortable’ paths. Smooth, even, and largely flat for prams, wheelchairs, ailments, etc. There is also a 100,000₩ (~$85) fine for drinking alcohol in the park which helps to keep it the clean and peaceful place it is. I enjoyed the quiet environment, cityscapes, history lesson, a water break, and my audiobook for a while before returning back home to Hapjeong.
[[Refer to header image — that little cluster of skyscrapers at the end of the bridge, with my little home somewhere among them.]]
Whether (or weather, if you will) it’s sunny or rainy, I will return home after around two hours or perhaps a little less if I conveniently finished an audiobook in time. I coordinate this so I arrive just after my roommate leaves for work. I don’t think she is particularly bothered by my presence but I know how much better it can feel on certain days to have total space as you get ready in the morning. If I’m awake, she might try to time things around my own bathroom and kitchen visits, thus disrupting her own routine. If I’m asleep, she might fret about waking me and complete some activities slower ‘lest she wake me. It can’t hurt to give her that space. It’s a sensible way to coordinate our days and help contribute to the longevity of our happy cohabitation. She’s been wanting to lose weight and we’ve been ajumma-walking together (this is what I call it when you walk *just* aggressively enough for it to be aerobic exercise) along Han river after we return home from work (after 10pm). Not that Seoul or Han river has ever seemed dangerous, but once again it just seems sensible and safe to go as two. It can’t hurt! Furthermore, when something odd or vaguely amusing happens on the route, we have someone to share it with. We don’t talk. We take our Bluetooth earphones and listen to our own music, periodically laughing together as one of us absent-mindedly walks into the other or getting distracted by a cat or a dog or a particularly beautiful night view. For the last ten minutes of these walks as we return to familiar territory, we no longer ajumma-walk and instead dance-walk (to entirely different songs, mind you) all the way home. I like our dynamic. She doesn’t eat at home anymore due to changes at work so we only clean together and walk together, with one social call on a weekend once in a while. We both like our space anyway. We’ve found a harmonious routine alongside each other, where we just brighten up some otherwise dreary cleaning and exercise tasks and go on our merry way. I miss our Netflix meals but neither of us has the time for them these days. Perhaps this will change at some point later in the year and we can enjoy them once more.
Anyway, I digress. So I return home from my morning outing after she leaves. I quickly go about my morning routine and spend about 3–4 hours doing personal work before starting on non-personal work, errands, and study. Personal work is the name I give to my free time carved out to be productive in things that matter to me. Not to sound cynical but I find giving it this name has helped to make people who have social demands be more respectful of such time. I feel ‘grateful’ people have such demands, but I think it’s only because I know — socially — that I should. In truth, I hate the altercations that come about from me preferring my own company sometimes (not on my phone). I feel it’s fair and simple. I’m considered social because I love meeting new people, but what fewer see is that outside of that I am fighting for alone time. When I first met my now-friend Stu, he was privy to me venting to my already-close-friend Leigh. I was complaining that I meet people who want to be friends and we get on, but I already have many treasured friends I wish I had more time for. I vented that I felt at capacity. I realise how douchey it sounds now. Stu and Leigh realised it back then, and mocked me incessantly for a while with concepts such as ‘friendship applications’ and ‘bumping someone from the inner circle to make room for another’. It made me laugh a great deal but I also couldn’t deny the small feelings of truth behind what was supposed to be hyperbole. I’m not a robot. I’m the most human-y of humans but, honestly, it didn’t sound like a bad system to me… I pretended it did, though!
Oo, er. I digress, again. It’s been a while since I logged one of these little diary entries, okay?!
[[[On that note, I’m genuinely grateful for those of you who requested more during the hiatus. I won’t expose you by name right now for having awful taste in reading material, but I will thank you. I wouldn’t be writing this today if not for such encouragement and for those of you who funded the coffee habit via Ko-Fi that allows me to write this on my lunch/dinner break.]]]
This ‘personal work’ of mine has entailed all manner of things. Lately, I’ve been entertaining the idea of moving into production, perhaps a director role. I love my work but I know as I grow the limitations of my body will increase. It’s already tiring chasing around Korea after Gen Z kids and their idol schedules, as amazing as it has been. I don’t intend to make a change anytime soon. I’m just sort of loosely looking years down the line and honing the skills that may one day be relevant to me. I also look for opportunities to test the waters in different roles and see what I might like. This is the method that led me to my happy life now, with three smaller sources of income each satisfying me in different ways. I’d like to maintain this option moving forward. I’ve been doing several online courses in film and making connections to keep alert of any opportunities for work as a production assistant or assistant director on smaller projects. I’ve also been practising the skills required in the pre-production stage. One such example is taking songs that don’t have music videos and devising my own stories and themes, and making mock-ups of crudely drawn and maniacally annotated storyboards (that in the real world would be given to a storyboard artist to make actually comprehensible for anyone who doesn’t speak Cthuvian). This is just one example of a path where my personal hours may take me, but I uncompromisingly enjoy wherever they do. I know myself pretty well by this point (finally!) and I know how important this freedom to learn or read whatever I wish is. I can appreciate its a privilege of my position. And I’m not trying to advise you to do the same, by any means. You will naturally end up doing whatever it is you want to be doing in your spare time. Running or writing or watercolours. Games, movies, tae kwon do, political discourse, playing the recorder with your nose, whatever. All I’m here to share with you today is what works for lil’ ol’ me and my peculiar walk of life. Thank you to those who have allowed me to build it. Peculiar though it may be, it is me. I want to keep it going indefinitely right now — and will fight to do so — but I also understand a time will come when some major part of this life will have to change. I will do my best to enjoy this chapter of life to the fullest and try to ensure that when it does change it is with progression or minimal loss, but I know how life can be and won’t make any promises in that department. No matter what happens, especially during these covid times, every day has felt like a bonus wealth of experience and knowledge. Whatever the future holds, it cannot take that away from me.
Thank-you, reader! If you enjoy these snippets, please help me to write more and save money to stay in Korea by supporting me over at Ko-Fi!