In life, everything can be divided into two very general categories: the “big” things and the “little” things. For the most part, people have little or no control over the “big” things. These things are constantly present. They may cause you extreme anxiety or you may be completely indifferent towards them. It really depends on who you are and what your situation is.
For me, my biggest “big” thing is my absolutely crippling student debt. This is what I got for five years of education at a relatively well-known, private university in New Jersey (in addition to a lovely piece of paper in Latin, which is still sitting in an envelope, unframed).
Before coming to Korea, this one “big” thing was the reason for all the other “big” problems in my life. I was working two part time jobs with one paycheck automatically going towards loan repayment each pay period. My other paycheck essentially covered gas and I had very little left over to do anything for myself with. Then, there was my car. In addition to gas, I had to have a lot of work done to it over the past year, most of which got put on a credit card.
I was constantly tired, stressed, and dealing with anxiety. No college graduate beginning their life should feel like that.
When I finally made the decision to come to Korea to teach, I had no idea what a huge difference it would make in my daily life.
Right off the bat, I was provided with a nice apartment at the expense of my employer. I also get inexpensive health insurance (something I was paying over $100/month for at home), and a salary that allows me to send nearly half my paycheck home each month while still being able to live extremely comfortably. I don’t have to be at work until nearly 3 PM, so even though my day doesn’t finish until 10 PM, I can go out and socialize with other expats and not feel guilty about it.
Now, for the “little” things. And personally, I think these are the best.
I have students who shout my name and wave when they see me in the hall and want to hold my hand on the way to class. I have students who insist on sharing candies and snacks with me for no reason at all. I even have students who ask me to tie their shoes and get so happy when I do it for them because they can’t quite do it themselves yet.
I also get to see the progress my students are making in class in their speaking, reading, and writing. This is rewarding beyond words.
Outside of work, some of my “little” things include being able to walk almost everywhere I need to go and, if I do need to take public transportation, it is ridiculously affordable. Eating out is essentially more affordable than buying groceries here, so it’s really nice to go to a restaurant and not feel bad about the bill. Finally, free public WiFi is pretty much everywhere in Korea so it’s really nice not to have to use up my data plan!
So, what are some of your “big” and “little” things?