Thursday, January 9, 2014

What I learned this Christmas in Korea

I started this blog entry almost a month ago as the Christmas season was just beginning. There were already things I was missing and others I knew I would miss as the holidays came and went.

Based on that you would guess this entry to be a list of things I missed most this holiday season, and that is what it was originally, but after living this Christmas without all the traditions of my previous Christmases, I realized something; something I preach and something I strive to practice. That is, to live in the moment and to learn from it. It took the entire season and one disappointment after another for it to finally dawn on me that I was living in a different place mentally. I was here in South Korea and they don't celebrate the way I do, but instead of mourning my lost traditions I should celebrate and embrace the joy of new ones.

Yes, I still missed:
Singing Christmas carols around a piano
Watching the Cincinatti Pops Orchestra on PBS
Watching the movie, A Holiday Romance (my favorite Christmas movie)
Playing Christmas concerts with symphonies and churches
Seeing Christmas lights
Eating Christmas dinner
Opening Christmas presents
~and most importantly, spending quality time with friends and family

I'm sure I excluded some things from that list, but even with that short list, not one thing did I get to experience this Christmas. It felt like the biggest empty hole the entire month of December. I missed everything and everyone. Koreans in this tiny village don't celebrate Christmas. There was a Christmas tree put up in the lobby and the week before Christmas the dj played Christmas tunes before the shows, but otherwise, there was no sign anywhere that Christmas was near.

There aren't any new traditions to add to my Christmas list. This Christmas I worked a normal day at the aquarium, went home and ate a normal dinner alone, and worked out like I normally do. That's it, that was Christmas eve and Christmas day. It was definitely the least favorite Christmas I've ever "celebrated". I made no-bake cookies (I don't have an oven) for everyone and sang Christmas carols to myself.

What I learned though, and keep learning, is that happiness and joy doesn't come from what's around you, but from inside yourself. People see my life and my travels and assume that I lead one of the happiest and exciting lives possible, and many times that's true, but sometimes (like this Christmas), it's the hardest life to live. I do love my life and even when times of despair and sadness occur, I try to learn from it and become a better and stronger person. A person who can help others, encourage others, teach others and inspire others through my actions and my life.

I really hope that Christmas 2014 is more exciting than Christmas 2013, but it doesn't need to have everything I thought it did. I just need to remember what I learned this Christmas and it will for sure be better than the last!