I Feel Blue

Don’t you just feel like crap sometimes? Like every bad thing is going to happen in your life, and you angst and brood over your potential problems and stress sources until your family (if you are living with them, that is) gets fed up with your moping and brooding? Or is it just me who acts like a bad-luck bug has bitten my butt?

So yeah, I’ve already driven my family nuts with my rocking-back-and-forth-muttering-ominous-things and my tearful pleas to please don’t leave me alone. Now I’ve come to the internet to vent. Goodness, I must be desperate.

Sometimes it feels like no one wants to hear what we have to say. And why should anyone care? It seems everyone has got a better thing to do. We are so busy, busy, busy, be it working, studying, playing games on our phones, checking Facebook or YouTube every half hour… when was the last time I have done nothing, thought nothing, just enjoyed the moment for a quarter of an hour?

Sometimes, I care way too much about what everyone is thinking of me. Every word I utter or type, every gesture I make or don’t make, I weigh them, I gauge the reaction of others’, I curl up in fetal position because all this is giving me an effing headache.
Times like this, I want to give everyone (and myself) the middle finger and just not care. But it’s almost impossible, it’s like telling someone with OCD to stop OCD-ing. I always care. I just care too much sometimes, to the point where it feels like I’m putting others’ interests in front of mine. Yeah, people call that altruism and pat me on the head, which makes me feel so much more guilty about wanting to stay at home and avoid meeting friends. Not that they are bad. I just don’t feel up to it. All we do when we meet is drinking beer and gossiping and talking nonsense anyway. No thanks. Every once in a while is fine but twice or three times a week?

And finally, I sometimes feel so goddamn alone in this wide, wide world. I feel like I won’t ever meet someone who understands what I’m going through (loss of cultural identity, and all that), or worse, that people like me will stare at me for making such a huge deal out of it. So you think and speak and write in three different languages. Isn’t that just freaking great? You’re so talented! No, damn it. It’s pretty inconvenient because you can never properly carry on a conversation in just one language, you always mix up words and phrases from other languages you speak. And people around you just don’t fucking get that owning a language changes a person. I’ve never been to the U.S. and only once to England. Yet being able to speak English on a native speaker’s level, and loving the language, has changed me so much that a part of me has claimed to be English / American. And my German friends? My Korean relatives? They don’t know, and they don’t care. Even if I tell them, they won’t understand. And I don’t – can’t, really – blame them, because it’s not something you fully get until you experience it for yourself.
My grandparents are so proud of me because me, their granddaughter, a Korean, is doing so well in a foreign country whose language she couldn’t speak at all when she first went there. And they expect me to be the same person that left the country more than 8 years ago. What they don’t understand is that I can only be that good in Germany because I’m not the same person I was when I left South Korea. I absorbed the German language and a huge chunk of German mentality and culture into me, and that’s why I have been able to assimilate so well into the German education system and why I was the second best in the graduation class from my high school… because I changed. Because I’m not Korean anymore, not fully.
But neither am I a German. There are things I don’t understand because I didn’t spend my childhood in Germany. TV programs my generation watched as a kid. Nursery rhymes. Trends that I missed.
About once or twice a year, I have hysterical crying fits because all the frustrations I felt clog up and finally burst and flow freely with my tears. And you know what I think? I think, who would want to be with someone with so much emotional baggage? How big is the chance that I will find someone who understands exactly what I am going through?
The Asian communities in Western countries are big – within or outside of churches. But I was never – am still not – a part of such a youth hang-out during all those years in Germany. I would be a different person today if I was a part of such a group. But I did not feel like taking a refuge under fellow Asians, displaying my Asian-ness with pride in a country that was anything else but Asian. Why should I flaunt my Asian characteristics when no one understands them?, I thought. I also changed too quickly to find an Asian group to cling to, I think. Such communities only work when one wants to be a part of the community.
I started to see my home country through different eyes pretty quickly. I saw faults in the Korean systems, I saw the hot-headedness of the Korean people doing both great and bad things to themselves. Especially during the last couple of years, I embraced the idea of enlightenment, of rationality, of structure and reflection.But guess what… I started to see flaws in Germany (although not as much as Germans themselves did in their own country) and the Western world, too. I missed the quick warmth among the Korean people, and the way I didn’t stand out in Seoul, while I did – at least a little – in Berlin. I noticed the strange psychology make-up in Germans, and how they despised – yes, almost are afraid of – being alone and how “friendship” actually put you under obligations rather than warm fuzzy feelings. I felt my creativity slowly die out because of all the rationality and practicality. I went from one extreme to another – from predominantly emotional to rationally stoic.

In the end, I feel trapped. Trapped in the society norms and rules, in the expectations of others’, in my own body. I’m trapped by residence registry, by taxes and health insurances, by visa and citizenship, by my own worldly possessions, by my own bodily and mental needs. Sometimes I wish I could just fly. Spread my wings and fly to another place, wherever I want to be. How perfect would it be if I could just move to another country, whenever I want, and live and work there for a while – as long as I want to, and then I’m off to another land.

I’m cold, so cold that it feels like I’m frozen inside, never to be thawed and embraced.

Reading: a solitary activity again

I want reading to be a solitary activity again.

Prior to joining Goodreads.com in 2010, it was just that: solitary, but also restrictive. Being a part of the Goodreads community has opened me to a wide range of books on piling lists of topics I hadn’t spent even one thought on. I found books I had never heard of, books that would become my favorites after I read them. Reading other users’ reviews has made me think more thoroughly about the book I have just read, and GR ratings started to become a guide for me to navigate through floods of books and stories that have been opened to me.

I learned a lot, and it is only when looking back that I am finally able to treasure them. Interacting with strangers with civility, learning to structure my thoughts and edit my ideas, helping Goodreads to compile data on books by becoming an active GR librarian – they have widened my horizon and helped me to mature my temper.

And yet I am ready to leave all that. I have actually already left Goodreads in June. That was the first step towards what I wanted. The second step was to take a long break from blogging on book-related matters.

It has been too long since I have decided to read a book or not based solely on my opinion and not anyone else’s. It has been too long since I read without stressing about TBR pile, Book Hauls, monthly wrap-ups, and reviews. It has been too long since I re-read my favorites because I’ve been too anxious to gobble as many new stories as I can, just to be able to say: “Ha! I read that book!” and not for the story’s sake. It has been too long since I noticed the beauty of a prose because I was too busy getting through the story so I could take up another one.

I want to get away from that busy reading schedule I have forced on myself. I want to get away from a book hype (not that hypes are necessarily bad – I probably wouldn’t have picked up The Fault in Our Stars or Stay if it hadn’t been for the hype). I want to get away from feeling guilty whenever I buy a book. And because I know that airing these problems to the public – if anyone is actually reading this, that is – won’t help me have a healthier relationship with reading, I want get away from the internet for a while. I probably won’t be able to stay away from YouTube, but I want to stop blogging about books, at least for present moment. If I do post something on books, it will not be a formal review, but me just writing about it – random thoughts, gushy moments, diary-style.

Reading within a community can be an awesome experience, I assume – but first you have to get inside the community, and that’s not always easy. It isn’t easy for me, because I have trouble addressing people I don’t know, people that I can’t put a face and personality behind. And when you are new to something, you are in a room (literal or figurative) full of strangers, staring at you, or worse, ignoring you. It takes guts to wave your arms and say “Hiya! Here I am! Look what I have to say!”, even if it’s on the internet. I guess I just don’t like drawing attention to myself. It is extremely uncomfortable for me, dear Reader, to address you when I have not the slightest idea who you are. So I tend to talk to myself when I blog. It’s not because I’m full of myself, I assure you. I just don’t know how to talk to you, is all.

So I am ready to retire into my quiet shell again, to close my eyes to the book-lovers-on-internet communities, and let my experiences be mine alone, not tinted by someone else’s persuasive opinion or expectation.

Goodbye.

moving on

Almost every German I know have wanderlust (a German word, fittingly) and itching need to go off to somewhere else – be it another city, country or continent, the more far away, the better – whenever an opportunity arises. An opportunity – like high school graduation.

And I’m not even talking about three-month-backpacking-trips. As the graduation date came nearer and nearer, students all around me would talk about what they were going to do after leaving this wretched institution of learning (their words, not mine). Many had no idea what they wanted to become, but many did know how they were going to spend the first year after the freedom: they were going to another country for a year. Or they were going to do a FSJ, a voluntary social year. Anything to postpone the start of more learning, really.

I know I’m hardly the only one to start university right away, but I daresay I’m the only one eager to start it. People from my graduation class are going to Ireland, Chile, England, probably the U.S. and wherenot while I’m perfectly content to sit at home and wait for October to finally arrive. Difference in nature? I think so. The others – because they are the overwhelming majority – think I’m a nerd, a blip in the social radar. After all, after 12-freakin’-years of having education forced on you, you are supposed to want to go as far away from desks and textbooks as possible. Right?

Wrong.

I just happen to like learning. If that makes me a freak, so be it. What makes me upset is that because of that subtle social pressure – a weird look slanted my way, a surprised exclaim, a half-joke saying I’m the odd one out – I find myself finding my life so… boring.
My life isn’t boring. Yes, I’m not immune to the prospect of living a year in a foreign country with all its adventures and challenges, but because I know myself, I know it isn’t for me. Yes, I would love to live in the U.S., but I would be in absolute heaven if I could go to an American law school. Yes, Ireland is the country of my dreams and I will travel to various cities and countryside before I die, but what would I do for a whole year when I don’t even know much about the Irish history and have scarcely money?

I’m not much of a traveling person, but I have the fortune of having parents who were determined to see their daughters see the world. So we have been to various German cities (Berlin, Füssen, Heidelberg, Freiburg, Baden, München, Köln, etc.), Salzburg, Amsterdam and Paris when I was eight. It sounds so very grand, but it has been a day each city (except for Berlin and Köln) and as I said, I was only 8 years old, so I don’t remember much.
I have also been to Italy (Tuscany, to be exact), Prague and again to Paris with my family for short periods of time. During my class trip to England, we visited London, Oxford, Windsor and Eastbourne. I went to Dublin on a three-days-trip with my father two years back.
And somehow, I still am not a better, more knowledgable and worldlier person.
I guess traveling can change a person, the way music, books, movies, love and being out of your comfort zone can. It didn’t change me much.

So while my classmates’ lives go off to different directions… my life moves on, too. Heading towards where I want to be.

August Book Haul & TBR

August Book Haul: Part 1
(The original idea “In My Mailbox” was conceived by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. As for who hosts “Book Haul”, I couldn’t find out. So if you know, please let me know via a comment down below! Much appreciated!)

It's so gray this time...
The covers are so gray this time…

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1) by Carrie Ryan
16 Lighthouse Road (Cedar Cove #1) by Debbie Macomber [Kindle ebook]

Part 2 of August Book Haul is coming soon – featuring books that should have arrived already but haven’t yet & two books I ordered yesterday.

August TBR
(I don’t think anyone is hosting the monthly TBR features. As to who started this idea, well, I couldn’t find that one out, either. Help me?)

Since I have another gloriously free month ahead, my TBR list is going to be longer than, let’s say, it will be in October.

I plan to finish Jane Eyre and A Game of Thrones this month, as I’m reading them right now. I also started Perfect Match by Jodi Picoult today (2nd), which I intend to finish soon. I’m already 145 pages in, and I love seeing Patrick Ducharme again! (He also appears in Nineteen Minutes.)
Naturally, I want to read all the new books I’ve gotten / will get soon this month! I’ve already read Quiet and 16 Lighthouse Road, so that leaves me with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Tall Cool One, Back in Black, Succubus on Top and High Noon. I left out Fair Game because I have to read Hunting Ground, Book #2, first.
Additionally, I plan on reading: Waking the Witch, Bright Young Things, A Breath of Eyre, My Life After Now, Shadowland and Ninth Key, Poison Study and either The Woman in White or Agnes Grey and A Little Princess. (It depends how long it takes The Woman in White to arrive.)

Will I be able to read them all? With luck, determination and diligence, I’d say yes. Let’s see just how much of those qualities I own.

Book Review: Quiet

QuietTitle: Quiet
Author: Susan Cain
Publisher: Crown (Random House, Inc)
Original publication in: 2012

Date read: July 27th – August 1st 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking is a book on introversion and extroversion and would benefit both – introverts to understand themselves better and extroverts to understand their introverted loved ones and co-workers and themselves better.
Granted, the focus lies more heavily on introversion but I learned a lot about extroversion from this book, too.

Following topics will be discussed in the book, all backed by lots of scientific and psychological studies, interviews and example stories:

  • the difference between introversion and extroversion, and how to benefit from both – who is a better leader? How can a corporation make the best of both types?
  • nature or nurture?
  • cultural difference between the U.S. and Asian countries – different values, different environments
  • sensitivity and how it relates to introversion
  • how to help introverted children as a parent and / or educator
  • “faking” extroversion – how, why and when
  • Free Trait Agreement

I went into the book being bewildered and came out feeling awed.
I generally don’t enjoy non-fictions much because they rely heavily (as they should) on scientific findings and studies and theories I have no idea about. But Susan Cain carefully weaves a personal anecdote and others’ stories here and there, making the book more well-rounded and smooth. It is so well done that she doesn’t miss a beat. Each section somehow relates to the preceding and following section. It was informative, insightful and like a lightbulb going on in my head.

The following ramblings are my personal story regarding introversion:
In one of my first posts, I “diagnosed” myself as an introvert with extrovert qualities. After reading Quiet, I think I’m an introvert with high sensitivity and a rather high self-monitor. I guess it sounds gibberish if you haven’t read the book.

I’m an introvert because I am more often than not put off by high stimulation – I prefer the quiet and I can spend A LOT of time being alone, doing my things and I’m perfectly happy (unlike my friends, who text me several times a week, asking me to go to a lake (Berlin lakes are NOT beautiful – they are infested with mosquitoes and the water is muddy and so many people swim in them. Lakes are NOT my type.), a festival, cinema, etc.).
I have always been the quiet, reflective and serious kid – and Susan Cain’s right, that type is highly praised in Asia. I spent my first eleven years (and later one winter and two summers) in South Korea, and when I was six, I asked my parents how humans came to existence. They called me “the little philosopher” and my mom claims I had that “serious gaze – like an adult’s”. A person who passed by told my mother that she was sure I was going to be professor.
Since the overall atmosphere in Korea was more subdued (It’s another story altogether now – the youth is getting bolder and more rebellious. Damn it, that makes me sound so old.), I got on capitally at school. I had four best friends during my four-and-a-half years at my Korean elementary school (김민형, 안용진, 정유경 그리고 엄지선. 애들아 ~ 보고 싶다!) and was well-liked by many pupils.
That all changed when I came to Germany. Class participation. Small-talk. It’s not like Koreans are all monks with calm facial expressions and noiseless streets. OH NO. Not at all. It’s very loud, and people are also very loud. At the markets, sellers chatter with customers, at school you talk with your friends about all kinds of things. But it’s okay to be quiet. No one judges you (okay, hardly anyone) or tells you to be more talkative. And NO ONE ASKS YOU IF YOU ARE OKAY WHEN YOU ARE QUIET. I hate that with passion when my friends ask me if I’m okay when I am mulling over something in my mind. Am I depressed? Do I want to talk about it? No, dammit. I’m perfectly fine, thank you very much.
I also have the feeling that the friendships I had shared with my friends in Korea were more intimate and personal even at that young age (7 till 11) than my friendships now at this grand age of 19. To be honest, part of it lies also in the cultural difference, which is for another post.

Along with serious and quiet, I also have been quite sensitive to other people’s remarks. Even if they are well-meant, I bristle at them because I automatically hear them as slight condescension or criticism. I also can’t take yelled criticism and accusations, even if they are mostly true.
Being sensitive to what others think of me resulted in having a poorer self-image than it actually is. I remember at my Abiverleihung when people clapped extra loud for me and I chalked it up to the teacher announcing that I was the second-best student of the graduating year. A friend of mine told me – a different time, different place, different context – that “everyone likes you – do you think they would have clapped with that much of enthusiasm if they didn’t?” I hadn’t even thought of that possibility because, well, I didn’t know many of them that well. Sure, I talked a lot in class (having overcome my fear of class participation, at least when I’m comfortable with my classmates) and I was friendly to everyone I came in contact with but I thought most of them dismissed me as “Ah, Eugine. The Asian genius.” (I’m not, actually.) But maybe the extroverted students only saw the side I presented and didn’t think to look past that. Maybe that was enough for them to like me?

The wonderful thing about Quiet is that thanks to Susan Cain, I’m beginning to realize that my personality isn’t something I have to work at, to correct. I guess deep down, I always thought I was somehow a freak because I’ve had so many difficulties with social interaction. I frequently fretted about how other kids might perceive me – too aloof, too eager, too serious? I’m not a funny person. I can’t crack a joke to save my life and I find most jokes so lame, I don’t even try to laugh. Does that make me boring? Do they think I think too highly of me to laugh at their jokes? You get the picture.
Yet I maintained that shield that I held in front of me to hide the really geeky and bookish side of me. I learned to do this the hard way.

At first I was determined to stay honest. So when someone asked me what I did over the weekend (another thing I SERIOUSLY HATE. People expect you to answer in following fashion: Oh, on Friday I went to a club with my friends and had a capital time. On Saturday me and my boyfriend / girlfriend went to a bike tour and then had a small picnic. On Sunday my grandparents came to visit us and we showed them the city!) I said “Oh, you know. The usual. Did homework, read books.” They always asked “Oh, what book did you read?” and I would name a title. Since I love English books but live in Germany, chances are, they don’t know the book. And they always asked what the book is about – and I was almost tempted to tell them what they can do with their politeness, especially because they always, always, turned their gaze away and only half-listened when I rambled on how marvelous the book was. I usually stopped mid-sentence and just asked back “So how was your weekend?”, which was all my conversation partner had wanted in the first place.

I was always looked at funnily if I had nothing “interesting” to report about my weekend. And since I can’t lie to save my skin and I don’t want to lie (another confirmation to Susan Cain – my conscience clings to me like a lost puppy. Like a lost and frightened puppy. Lost and frightened puppy that is hungry and has found a soul-master in me.), I just shrugged and said “Nothing of importance.” each time I was asked that dreaded question every Monday. It is still my standard answer because it has become a habit. It’s easier to say that than to explain why I prefer books to jogging, sports and meeting friends.

In order to make up for that “fault”, I focused more on encouraging others to talk about themselves and was a seemingly attentive listener. I always thought about what questions I could ask which person. When my classmates complained about a teacher, I joined in, even though I personally thought that she / he wasn’t that bad. (Yeah, my conscience bowed to social pressure.) Every morning I tried to be cheerful and most of the time I failed miserably because my facial muscles wouldn’t budge. I felt like a clown – why do I have to smile all the time?
In the end, I faked so well that nobody thought I was anti-social and that I fooled even myself to thinking I liked being social. It’s not like I hate everyone. I just prefer to do without people, especially without masses of people. These months of tranquility have shown me what I truly am – an introvert. Now that I am armed with this knowledge and the book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I will face the upcoming university years choosing when to be social and when to retreat. I’m learning my limits, and what feels good to me. I’m entering a Free Trait Agreement with myself. Whoopee!

P.S.: Emma Watson is also an introvert – how cool is that? I never would have guessed!

Lughnasadh / Lammas

Today marks the symbolic end of summer and the beginning of autumn for me – today is Lughnasadh.

Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-Nah-Sah) is placed roughly half-way between Litha, or Summer Solstice / Midsummer, and Mabon, or Atumnal Equinox. Today Wiccans and Pagans (for those to whom Lammas falls on today) also celebrate the beginning of the harvest season.
I found out today that wheat (밀) actually is harvested between mid-August and mid-September in the U.S. and a whole month earlier in China. (I’m talking about spring wheat here.)

Lughnasadh is one of the Sabbats I really like, because it makes me look forward to the autumn to come – golden afternoon skies, shortening days and cozy feelings come to my mind.

I cherish the memory of what happened last year in August, not because of a particular incident, but because the whole period between Lughnasadh and Mabon marked new beginnings (starting of my last year at high school & reading ebooks) accompanied by agreeable weather and my excitement.
This year’s period will be more tranquil, and hopefully I will spend a lot of time thinking, reading and recovering.