Sunday, October 30, 2011
This is a good book, but I won't mention it again in this post. It's just an illustration.
(If you don't want a detailed self-analysis that's a lot more about the SJC than the ROK, get out now!)
I am happier right now than I have been in many years; in some ways, in general satisfaction with life, this may be my best time ever.
Happiness mostly comes from inside, and I have always been somewhat dysthymic (good vocab word: in a chronic low-level depressive state). Why? I don't know; brain chemistry, I suppose. Some of my students used to give me Eeyore-themed presents, to match my outlook. In fact, I brought a stuffed Tigger-- the real, Milne Tigger, not that Disney schlock-- to Korea with me to remind myself to be more cheerful. I don't know that I'll ever reach true Tiggerhood, but I have at least achieved Poohdom, a general genial confusion.
With age has come a certain equanimity, if not wisdom: I recognize my strengths now and forgive myself (most of the time) my maddening weaknesses. I think I'm closer to being a good person than I was before, and a better teacher, and a better friend. I think.
The last week or so, though, has really changed my outlook completely. Last Saturday, I laid down the trail for my Yongsan Kimchi hashing group on my birthday run. It was also my Junior Trail Master hash-- 50-plus runs and five hares (laying trail), all in a bit under a year. I'd planned for six months to set a run from the brand-new subway stop opening near me; it's right near the neighborhood parks and my beloved Yangjae Cheon stream. Well, the new subway station was a year overdue, and as it turned out, it opened two days ago, six days too late for me to set the trail from there.
But we did run from a station not too far away, and what really made me feel great was how many hashers came because it was my birthday celebration. People who usually run with other groups made a special effort to be there, and that means a lot to me.
The logo for my"Corndog's (Probably Not Last) Birthday" patch.
The actual haring was a perfect example of the kind of thing I've always hated about myself: I am criminally spacy sometimes. I set off to mark the trail, 15 minutes before the pack would follow-- and brilliantly left two of my three pieces of chalk behind. I found that out a mile into my four-mile course, and kept using the chalk I had until it ran out, a mile from the start/finish line.
I called myself some bad names; I shall not sully the pristine surface of the Internet by repeating them here. (This incredible zoned-outness, which I know makes me maddening to live with, is exactly the kind of thing I've dealt with my whole life, and I'm with myself almost constantly. I'm just now coming to accept it in myself.)
All I could do was to run as hard as I could back to the start, grab the chalk, and run as hard as I could back to where I'd left off, knowing that the pack would get there before I did and mill about in frustration, then wrathfully rend me limb from limb when they found me.
But somehow, miraculously, I made it back before they got there and completed marking the trail. Afterward, as part of the festivities, they taught me how to drink beer upside down from a straw:
The beer really went to my head, and very nearly vice-versa.
It's nice to have friends. This warm feeling began my winning streak.
But what really has mattered began the next day. I had just met Kyung ah, a lovely Korean woman of nearly my age, on a dating site. On Sunday, we met in person. And on Wednesday, for my actual birthday. And yesterday. We've been to movies and noraebang (karaoke parlors), gone hiking, shared lunch and dinner and birthday cake and wine... it's been wonderful.
Kyung ah is a writer on Korean history; she lives in the hills above Itaewon, the international neighborhood I go to so often for hashes and the What the Book store. We hit it off immediately; we have so much in common, politically, spiritually, and in our outlook on life. I find her wise and centered, and she makes me happy.
So, you say, it's been a long time for me, and of course having a girlfriend-- if two people with a combined age of 114 can be called girlfriend and boyfriend-- makes a guy feel good. And of course that is a big thing.
But I think my current outlook is more than that-- people who've known me a long time can tell that the clouds have been slowly clearing for me for quite a while. My hashing friends' regard and Kyung ah's high opinion of me, and mine of her, have added to little things, such as winning a teaching award and finishing last year's marathon, that were already making me like and trust myself more than ever before.
In many ways, other than the fact I don't have as many years in front of me as I did, I like being 58; I've gained more than I've lost in getting older.