living alone vs. living isolated

The weather is lovely today, not too hot or too cold. It’s sunny. Birds are singing outside my office window (which I’ve left open in spite of the fact that my allergies are clearly kicking in, in all their sneeze-inducing, nose-stuffing, chest-tightening glory).

ALL my kids are on a camping trip today and tomorrow, and most of the Korean teachers went with the kids as chaperones, which means I have the school all to myself (basically) in glorious silence.

It’s perfect timing; later this week, I’ll be reviewing everything we’ve covered till now for the midterm exam, and I’ve been wanting to make some really fun/cool Pokemon-themed PowerPoint games for that. This year I’ve mostly avoided PPT “bomb” games in normal class and tried out other kinds of games with them, but of course the kids love the bomb games the most. Since they’re studying their little brains out for midterms, now seems like a good time for a treat. A lot of them seem to like Pokemon, or at least Pikachu because he’s cute. And themed games (with music, GIFs, and maybe even videos embedded along the way) get them much more excited than a regular “bomb game” template.

Anyway, the point is that staying alone in the office made me think about living alone in general.

For someone like me, living alone is pretty much THE BEST. Peace and quiet, no interruptions, setting your own schedule and your own free time and meal times. I have hermitish tendencies that can make me forget entirely about the need for socialization sometimes.

And it is a need. I would go crazy if I never went out of the house. It’s just that A) my need for social time builds up much more slowly than in, say, an extrovert, and B) even when the need to socialize or at least GET OUT OF THE DARN HOUSE is making me stir-crazy, sometimes it still takes an extra self-administered kick in the pants to actually go out.

Not because I feel depressed or anxious about it. I know logically that going out, even if it’s only walking to the grocery store and looking around and not buying anything (except ice cream because you know, I can’t just walk past the ice cream), will give me a little dopamine brain boost for changing up the scenery and the routine. But being alone at home in yoga pants is so much more comfortable.

Until it’s not, because if I allow myself to stay in that comfort zone too long, it becomes isolation rather than solitude, and loneliness instead of peace.

Maybe you’d think that living in a foreign country is enough to push you out of your comfort zone – and for a while, it is – but honestly, we will all build and rebuild our comfort zones no matter where we are. I can stay in my little bubble of introversion every day if I want to, but is that really what I should be doing while I’m living as an expat?

Today was one of those days that I had push myself not to take the isolated path. When the VP sent a message to the handful of teachers deskwarming at school (including me), “식사하러 오세요~” (Come and eat lunch) – instead of hiding out in my office with the excuse of “I couldn’t understand the Korean” (which I could’ve gotten away with even though it’s not true), I put on my brave grown-ass woman pants and went down to the 2nd floor office, where a group of teachers welcomed me kindly.

While we ate, I taught them that “jjim” means braised, and braised is the word for the kind of cooking used. (Because of course we had 해물찜, fish jjim, for lunch today. See “The Bad” in this post for more of my thoughts on fish jjim.) And that “shikhye” can be called “sweet rice drink” in English. Not that we have anything close to this sweet-tasting, watery concoction with paper-like grains of rice floating in the bottom. I’m actually kind of a fan of shikhye, but some foreigners hate it because of the weird rice texture – probably like how some people dislike bubble tea because of the tapioca ball texture.

sikhye-korean-sweet-rice-punch-c

Shikhye (kimchimari.com). Usually the rice all sinks to the bottom, though.

When I tried to help clean up afterwards, they shooed me out good-naturedly (“OK OK, yes, bye bye!”), and so now here I am back in my office, playing with Pokemon GIFs, with a very confused fly buzzing drunkenly around the florescent lights to keep me company (and/or drive me crazy with his incessant buzzing).

I guess this rambling post was an attempt both to give insight into the mind of an introvert and to remind myself that one massive leap out of one particular bubble of comfort (i.e. moving to Korea 1 year ago) does not adequately cover the rest of my life. It’s much easier to learn and grow when you’re pushing yourself than when you’re sitting in your pajamas in your comfort zone.

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3 thoughts on “living alone vs. living isolated

  1. As a fellow introvert, your description of the comfort and relaxation of living alone was spot on. I have a feeling I’m going to need to start setting myself phone reminders when I’m living in Korea to go out and interact with people (or at least, as you say, go window shop at the grocery store). Your coworkers sound so friendly though! I’m sure that helps…

    Liked by 1 person

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