I was looking through old photos today, and I realized something: I used to live in Korea. I lived there! For a whole year! I hadn’t forgotten of course, but it still took me a little by surprise because it suddenly felt like so long ago that it could have been another life.
Tomorrow will be exactly two months since I’ve officially lived in Toronto. Before October 1st, this city was more or less a mystery to me, despite having grown up nearby. Now I live here, it’s my home. It still doesn’t quite feel like home, but it’s getting there: I’m slowly learning the streetcar lines, and the major intersections, and the best place to buy flowers, and which cute coffee shops I like best by trying them one at a time. My family is nearby for the first time in 7 years, which feels like a peaceful miracle even though of course it’s not, it’s just that I’ve finally settled.
I’m learning how to make a life again, like I have a couple times now over the past few years. And every time, I re-learn and remember how hard it really is to find your tribe and start to feel safe and make your home feel cozy and to be yourself in a brand-new place. It’s hard, man! I say that, even though I’m so grateful for every experience and opportunity I’ve had: it’s still hard.
Looking at the pictures of my life in Korea, I saw that I really did make a life there. I found my people, some of whom are still so important in my life today. I found favourite spots in my neighbourhood. I had adventures (so many adventures!) and figured out how to run errands and how to feed myself and how to stay connected to loved ones. I (obviously) did not figure out how to do these things all on one day and then spend the rest of the year in a constant state of joy and fulfilment. The pictures I scrolled through might have told a story of ease and happiness (and of course it was both those things at times), but I still remember that it was a huge challenge and sometimes a struggle. There were sad days, and so many frustrating ones, and lonely ones, and ones where I questioned whether I was doing enough, whether I was okay the way I was or if I needed to change.
So the really beautiful thing is that I can see these photos and remember how I felt when I lived there, and I can realize, “Oh. Right. We’ve been here before.”
I can remember that day by day, this is how it feels – a lot of weird vibes and fumbling around, a lot of laughter and loveliness. A lot of wondering whether I’m doing it right, a lot of blissful moments when I know that I am.
I can also remember that “the useless days will add up to something,” that these days are my becoming. I can remember that “the days are long, but the years are short.” I can remember that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that a life is built over time, across many small moments of light and love. I can remember that having a good life is a practice, not a place at which you arrive one day.
I can try my best to remember these things as I build a new life here again. The best part is that I know I can do it because I’ve done it before, I just have to be patient.