I have the amazing power to find the negative in anything. It’s a curse more than anything, but I think that I’ve improved the severity of it over the years. Still, I find myself super discontent with life at times and always striving for something that I don’t have.
This grass is always greener mentality hit me hard while I was in DC. All throughout college, and pretty much life, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get a real job, live in a big city with a fancy apartment, wear nice clothes, work out all the time, and have a really nice body. Some of this happened in DC. The body’s still a work in progress.
I liked a lot of things about living in DC once I finally made friends. I loved being around other young, driven, international-minded people who were intelligent and could actually understand what I did at my job. I loved brunching and going to happy hours and playing kickball with my posse.
But eventually everything kind of fizzled out. I no longer had a friend group that regularly hung out. My two best gay friends moved, so I had no one to commiserate with about how terrible being in a city filled with gays can be.
My kickball friends stopped hanging out altogether. And a lot of stuff just plain sucked. I would stay home on Friday nights and watch TV by myself. That was fun the first time, but it got really lame after that.
In February, my job offered me the opportunity to travel to Nairobi for a week, but not until September. So, despite my urge to leave the city ASAP, I stuck around so I could get my free trip. Once I got back from Africa, my plans to relocate were put into action.
At first, my goal was to find a job that allowed me to work remotely. Maybe DC would be more bearable if I could periodically take extended trips and not have to deal with office morons. But, most remote jobs seem to be aimed at people who have actual skills, so no one was ever interested in hiring me because I don’t have any. Thanks liberal arts degree, seven internships, and two full-time jobs! The internal deadline to leave DC I had set for myself was the end of 2015. When I didn’t hear anything by the beginning of November, I knew it was time to enter the world of teaching English abroad.
I had tried to avoid becoming an English teacher for as long as I could. I went to school to study international relations and wanted to do something relevant to my degree. A lot of people with my major seemed to use teaching English as a fallback plan for when their dream job proved too hard to get. So, I associated teaching in foreign countries with not having any alternatives left.
I thought I was lucky to find an internship in Armenia with the UN and then a couple of jobs in DC in international development. But then I realized that I hate working in international development and the non-profit sector. So many people just suck at things like basic office technology. My supervisor at my last job once made hand corrections to a Word document, scanned it, saved it on our shared drive, and then told me where on the shared drive it was so that I could make the corrections in the Word document. And Webinars! Jesus God, no one knew how to do a webinar. I began to think that I had no alternatives left, so I embraced that teaching English abroad was now a legit option for me. I could live in a different country, travel more, and hopefully save up some money. It had to be better than sitting on my butt all day and doing nothing.
My older sister is in the Air Force and received an assignment to be in South Korea for a year. Although I was looking for any job that would start by January 2016, I thought it would be neat to find something in Korea so that sissy and I could travel/hang out together. We hadn’t lived in the same place since high school, so Mary-Kate and Ashley could finally be BFFLs again.
After several intense weeks of scouring job forums, sending my resume to sketchy email accounts, and buying a Groupon for an online teaching certificate, I finally started receiving job offers. Chinese companies were super eager to offer me positions. I was a white American, which, it became obvious, is all they are looking for. But, the jobs seemed to be in random towns or in big cities that had smog warnings.
South Korea seems to hold prospective teachers to a higher standard. Although being white is also a big plus for them, they like candidates to have some sort of qualification or teaching experience. I volunteered as an ESL teacher for adults in DC, but that wasn’t necessarily enough to easily get a job in Korea. I had no experience, or truthfully any interest, in working with kids. I wanted to continue to teach adults. But, I took the first job that offered me a start date I wanted and a good location in the capital even though it would mostly be teaching elementary and middle school-aged kids.
When I decided to tell my job in DC that I was leaving, I expected a reaction along the lines of “What a surprise! No one can replace you. You’ve been such a good employee”. I was one of the few guys in the office, and people always commented on my sense of humor. But the vibe I got was more “Ok, bye. You’re replaceable.”
The last two or three weeks I worked there consisted of me listening to Serial and preparing to move abroad as fast as I could. I had to move out of my apartment, sell my furniture on Craigslist, and get my documents in order for Korea. I made my last day of work the same day as the office Christmas party, so that it wouldn’t be as awkward of a goodbye. It was still awkward though. We had a White Elephant, which one overbearing employee decided to make stressful and not fun. After that, they said here’s your going away present but open it fast because we have a meeting in here in five minutes. Some people didn’t even say bye to me. In an office with about a dozen people, it’s not that hard to just stop by and say bye on your way out. Maybe they just didn’t want me to see them cry.
Once I submitted my documents to my school in Korea, I had to wait for the immigration department to process my paperwork in Seoul before I could drop off my visa application in DC. Although I had quit my job and sold my bed, I had no ticket to South Korea or even a for sure idea of when I would leave. I was nervous that my job offer would fall through or be rescinded for whatever reason. But I really didn’t care that much. It was a godsend to sit in my apartment all day and watch tons of TV. Almost reluctantly, my approval came through and I bought a one-way plane ticket to Seoul that left in less than a week. Time to GTFO.