It feels fitting that I’m writing my last column for the Wave on a plane headed west. Today must be my lucky day because I’m assigned to a window seat. Several thousand feet below me, the earth’s surface is cracked with canyons. No sign of water for miles. I think it might be the Rockies. Only because this is my last column, I’ll spare you the rest of the dreary details of my view. What I really want to share today involves beginnings and endings.
I approach exercise the same way I approach doing laundry or turning in homework for college classes: I don’t HAVE to do them, but I should. They are evil necessities — unpleasant but good for me. And so, with great reluctance, I have picked up cardio in my daily routine. I’m sure it’ll pay off in the long run. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I put myself through a world of physical and emotional pain. Honestly, running makes me want to pull out all of my teeth and then chew on them. I’m serious.
While I’m back home in good ol’ Detroit Lakes, my suitcase is somewhere between Los Angeles and Fargo. I don’t exactly know where. This has not been a very good year for my suitcase. The first time I (or more accurately, the airline) lost my luggage in the maze of conveyer belts, I was too tired and thrilled to process the situation like a normal human being. Tired because it was three in the morning and thrilled because it seemed like one of horrific things that happened to other people, never to me. Sure, it was annoying, but also terrifically novel.
This is my last week at work and it has come to my attention that I never exactly clarified on what I’ve been doing for the past two months. To my defense, I wasn’t always sure about what I’ve been doing either. This summer, I’ve been working as a research assistant in a cultural neuroscience lab at Pomona College.
My baby brother is flying out here to California this weekend and I can hardly contain my excitement. I must have been mentioning his upcoming visit a lot these past few weeks because someone recently told me, “You and your brother must be really close.” I guess we are. I mean, you need to stay pretty close when you’re constantly trying to strangle someone. Jin, my brother, is only three years younger than me and will be entering his junior year in high school — they grow up so fast! — so he’s technically not a baby. Technically. But this column isn’t about him.
Last summer, I wrote a letter to my younger self. It was a fun piece to flesh out so I want to do something similar: A letter to myself three years in the future. If letters to the past are meant to dispense belated wisdom, this will hopefully serve as a welcome reminder. Dear 22-year old Goeun, I am writing this in the middle of July, 2014. I recently bleached my hair orange and paid a man with more tattoos than bare skin to stab a needle through my upper left ear. The piercing still stings a little.
A friend of mine asked what my plans were for the night. “I’m going to write a column,” I told him. “About what?” “About anything. Usually my life.” “Seriously?” “Seriously.” “So you basically get paid to publish your diary?” “Something like that.” Dear newspaper subscribers. First of all, it’s not quite like that. My non-existent diary would look more like this: “omg i saw the cutest guy working at the fro-yo place today and i cannot believe i didn’t try to get his number!!
“I want to go back to Korea,” I told my mother on the phone the other week. It’s a simple articulation of a feeling that’s been thrashing around my gut for a while now. A feeling that’s been crawling under my skin and clinging to my bones. I can’t seem to shake it off. I told my mother about my grand plans to hop on a plane and “take a language class or something for a few weeks” with the nonchalant tone people use to talk about going to the beach or a new coffee shop over the weekend. As I’m typing this now, I realize how absurd I must have sounded.
It’s not unfair to say that nearly all of my favorite memories involve food. Korean barbecue with the family in the backyard. Breaded shrimp for holiday dinners. Kimchi pancakes on the weekends. Rhubarb pie a la mode. Taco trucks on finals week. Pad Thai at 1 a.m. while cramming for midterms. Sticky rice with mango by the campus center fountain. Green tea ice cream with friends. Fro-yo. More fro-yo. Especially in the past nine months, so many wonderful moments have been captured in local restaurants and over long meals.
I was picking out some asparagus for dinner last night when I realized that this was the kind of typical thing adults did with their lives: buy vegetables from the grocery store after work with the money they made from their 9-to-5 jobs. I left the produce aisle like I suddenly remembered my room was on fire and walked back to campus feeling deeply disturbed. A friend of mine recently celebrated her 20th birthday. Most of my friends will be celebrating their 20th birthdays in the coming months, myself included.