We wouldn’t be in Korea if the negative aspects of life abroad outweighed the benefits. That being said, though, there are definite struggles and disadvantages inherent in a drastic move or lifestyle change. Generally, we strive to focus on positive things in life and fully appreciate the life that we have, but there are some things that are far too painful to gloss over. Often my co-teachers will express envy for our lifestyle and freedom in Korea. We are able to travel regularly, we get paid well, and we lead fairly stress-free, comfortable lives. But I always remind my coworkers and Korean friends that they really can’t want what we have. They want what they see about our lives. The struggles and pains that come with living abroad are skillfully kept out of sight. So why talk about the negative aspects and go into detail on this subject? Is it cathartic and self-serving? Is Ryan pleading for sympathy while living it up in an exciting country? No. Let me explain…
My brother is getting married on Friday. Trust me, I am over the moon for this monumental event. My brother is probably the greatest person I know and I fully believe that he and his fiance are perfect for each other. The joy that they share is infectious and enhances the lives of everyone with which they come into contact. I couldn’t imagine a better pair. There is really no way to fully express my awe of their union. And let’s just say: Jason waited a while to settle down. As a spectating brother, it’s been like watching an extremely high flying firework that keeps going higher and higher. Everyone knows that the rocket will pop at the top, and there will be a brilliant light that brightens the faces of everyone looking up and watching, but when? My brother is worth staring at, not just because of his handsome qualities, but because you know that his overflowing energy will soon go POP! and the joy that he possesses will flood into the hearts of everyone lucky enough to witness his brilliant light. I fail for words beyond just grinning like an idiot and simply saying that I am so so SO excited for this leg of his journey to begin.
So why start such a celebratory post with such negative discussion? When Stephanie and I got married, Jason was my Best Man. He delivered a speech at our reception that still makes me tear up a bit. For a man that claims to be poor with words, he pulled out a moment of linguistic and emotional genius. His speech was easily one of the most moving moments of my life. And then, much to my pleasure, he asked me to return the favor and serve as his Best Man. While I stressed about doing my brother justice and delivering a comparable speech, the short engagement hurtled toward the big day. A short time later, while he and his future bride waited to find out when our vacation would fall, we found out that attending the wedding wouldn’t be possible.
There are some things- some aspects of life- while living abroad that can be called nothing short of personal sacrifice. I have no words for how painful it has been to witness his approaching wedding with the knowledge that I won’t be standing by his side and maybe patting him on the butt for luck as his fiance walks down the aisle. That’s where I want to be, but I can’t. Herein lies my point. Not on this scale, but we regularly are forced to miss out on events, milestones, celebrations, and even deaths while we are abroad. We have jobs with definite schedules and these don’t follow the same schedules that people have back in the states. So, we yet again have to attend a significant wedding via computer screen. Earlier this summer we had to dry our eyes and watch Stephanie’s brother get married in Tulsa, OK. Now, we will once again huddle in our small Korean apartment to witness a monumental marriage being forged in Los Angeles, CA.
Watching Stephanie’s brother’s wedding via Skype
We have suffered the loss of family members and have been absent as new lives join our families while we teach in Korea, but something about missing the marriage of a sibling with whom you are very close makes this summer the most painful. In a perfect world we would be able to attend each and every important event and celebrate each milestone, but this is sadly not that idyllic reality. In choosing to live our lives abroad we have learned of the necessary compromises that unfortunately exist. This is why, when people say that they envy us, we tell them not to. Each path negates the possibility of all options associated with the other path. Sometimes you can make it work, but more often than not you are simply absent.
So, as my brother gears up for his wedding day this week, I hope that he knows how much I love him. I hope he knows that I would be there by his side if I could. In spirit, I will be present and my entire being will flood with joy and enthusiasm, but it’s not the same.
I love you, brother. Congratulations on you special day; you look fantastic, I’m sure. Give yourself and my new sister-in-law a great big hug (we’re the same size so she can just imagine it’s me if she closes her eyes) and know that my heart is with you on this special day. I love you and hope you know how much you mean to me even though we are physically so distant from one another. You’re a man that defines how one should live life, and I am proud to call you my brother. Your wife’s a lucky lady, but she deserves you as much as you deserve her. Again, I love you both so much.