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SinatraMyWayWhen I first moved to Korea back in late October of 2009, I was 23 years old.  I was coming for a year to experience something new and different before I moved home to begin my ‘real life.’

One month into my time here, I hated it.  Let’s be honest, winter in Korea blows.  It’s the absolute worst, and it really didn’t help that I was living in a small city in the middle of nowhere.  I couldn’t wait to get back home.

Then about halfway through my first year, I hit a super high point – summer.  Summer time in Korea is, without a doubt, the best times you’ll have here.  Now all of a sudden I was glad I lived in the center of Korea because I could go to Seoul or Busan without much trouble either way.  A weekend trip to the beach?  Perfect!  A Saturday rooftop party in Hongdae?  Why not?

By the end of my first year, I knew that I didn’t want to go back home… but I still had a nagging feeling that I was somehow putting off my ‘real life,’ simply delaying the inevitable and that every year I spent here would ultimately be a year wasted.

Now I’m still here, almost seven years later, and I have no regrets.

Why is That?

After my first year, I went back to my hometown in Texas for a couple of months between my contracts.  I spent two months back in Dallas, which was about 6 weeks too much.

I met up with all my old high school friends… And they were exactly the same as they were in high school.

I met up with my college friends… And they were exactly the same as they were in college.

The overwhelming majority of them were simply spinning their wheels, working this part-time job or maybe working as a manager at the local Staples.  Now there’s nothing wrong with those jobs and those lives if that’s what you want to do.  But the real question is this:

Is that what you want to do?

For me, the answer was a clear and resounding no.

Over the next several years in Korea, I noticed a big trend of people who would come here for a year or two and then move back home to trade down into some hourly paid job at a call center or working at a Starbucks.

Most of them are still doing that same job they started when they went back home.

I started thinking about their reasons for going home, and the conclusions I came to permanently changed my views on living in Korea.

The reasons they gave for wanting to move home were things like, I want to be able to speak the language, I want to understand the culture, I want to be near my friends and family, I don’t like teaching, I want to find my purpose… All reasons that come from a place of fear and uncertainty.

The only reason I can truly see to move home would be for family, and even that is a relatively weak reason.  Unless you need to be home to care for a dying parent, simply being near family is an excuse you give for being scared and wanting more of a security blanket.

As for the other reasons?  Every single one of them is fixable within Korea with a little bit of personal effort.

Want to understand the language?  Learn Korean!

Want to understand the culture?  Stop going to Itaewon and spend more time with Koreans!

Want to do something other than teaching?  There are large online communities dedicated specifically to foreigners in Korea who do work other than teaching! (And it’s not that hard to get a permanent visa if you put in, again, a little effort!)

Want to find your purpose?  This one is doable from anywhere in the world under any circumstances whatsoever.  Just find what you enjoy doing… and fucking do it!  Quit bitching about it and go Nike on your life… JUST DO IT.

The Mindset Shift

Once I really looked at what these people were doing and their reasons for it, I quickly realized that the idea of leaving Korea to start your ‘real life’ is total bullshit.

They were doing it because they were living their life for someone else.  They were NOT living for themselves.

This was the point at which I stopped and inspected my life here in K-Town.

I was getting paid more than enough money.

I was able to live the life I wanted including girls, beer, friends, and music.

I was free to do whatever the hell I wanted outside of work hours with no consequence.

I had the get out of jail free card that is being a foreigner in this country.

I was happy with my life as I was living it.  Why should I change because of what other people expect from me?

At this point, I decided that for the time being, Korea would become my home.  This is a radically different mindset than simply living somewhere for a short time and spinning my wheels.

Why Does This Matter?

As soon as I changed my mindset and began living for myself as if this was my permanent home, a lot of cool things started happening for me.

I almost immediately became involved in several musical projects that led to me releasing 3 albums within a year and a half.

The following year I released my own music video, starred as an actor in a Korean music video, and even had my own TV show about my life as a musician in Korea.

The year after that, I started this website and started helping other guys here better understand and succeed with Korean women.

I say this not to brag, so I hope it doesn’t come off that way, but to point out that when I decided this was my permanent home, permanently good things began happening for me.

When I realized that my so-called ‘real life’ was not waiting for me back in the states, but was already happening here in Korea, there was no longer a siren call to move back home and start over from scratch.

By living for myself, I did myself the greatest favor of my life.  I stopped caring what other people thought about me and my life and I started doing the things I wanted to do.  That was the only thing it took, a shift in mindset, to make this life over here my undisputed real life.

And Then?… No And Then!

This last Christmas I went back home to see my family again.  It had been three years since my last trip home.  I got to talk to my brother and my cousins, as well as older extended relatives who I likely won’t see again.  Do I miss them and wish I could see them more often?  Sure, but if I move back there just for them, who am I living for?

I didn’t see any of my “friends” from high school and college.  I sent a few messages but got no response.  Why should I move back to see them more when I have great (better!) friends here?

Chillin with my buddies Spider Man, Ghost Rider, and 오빠차! Plus Rabbit and Rancho I guess...

Chillin with my buddies Spider Man, Ghost Rider, and 오빠차! Plus Rabbit and Rancho I guess…

 

One thing that stood out to me was when my younger cousin, freshly graduated from college and working some corporate job that he hates with a girlfriend of seven years who he resents, said to me:

“I don’t know if you’re ever going to move back home, but I do know that you’re living the most amazing and exciting life of anyone in this family.  I envy your life, but I just don’t think I could do it.”

I laughed and played it off.  As any of you fellow players know, when it comes to life changing concepts, you can’t even lead a horse to water.  He has to find his own way there, and maybe he never will.

Conclusion

As I continue to move forward in life and in Korea, blazing my own trail, I highly encourage all of you to do the same.

Now I know I started this post off with a basic question. How long should I stay in Korea?

And I know I didn’t answer it.  Because I can’t.

Only you can answer that question.

If Korea is working out for you and you like being here, then why should you leave?

If it doesn’t agree with you and there’s some other place you’d rather be, then what are you still doing here?  Get wherever you want to be.

Ultimately I don’t know if I’ll stay here forever.  What I do know for sure though is that wherever I go or wherever I stay, it will be my choice and I will be doing it for myself and living life my own way on my terms.

Of course though, I can’t put it any better than Ol’ Blue Eyes himself.  I leave you with this song of his and a hope that each of you will live life your own way and on your terms rather than bowing to the pressure others put on you to start a ‘real life’.  I’ve seen that life, and all I have to say is “NO THANKS!”

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels; 
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way! 

Keepin’ it real til next time players.

-JN