Man, life sure is a hard game to play. As I profess in the description of this blog, I am a gamer. Not just any gamer, either. Video games are now a common part of pop culture and are found in nearly every household with children ages 3 and up, plus with the recent surge of the smartphone craze, more and more people are turning on to mobile gaming. I’m what most of my colleagues and peers would call a younger man, but I can tell you from experience that even back so far as 15 years ago, video games were relegated to the nerds and social outcasts. I have never considered myself one of those outcasty folks, but I have spent the entirety of my life with games on the brain. They are fused with fiber of my very being so much so that I often find myself looking at the world as some sort of game. And when it comes to games, as any real gamer will tell you, I either have to win or die trying.
The most direct example of this scenario would be my recent battle with physical health. Though I was never thin or particularly musclebound, I exercised regularly up until my junior year of university when I decided, like many college students, that I would rather spend my time socializing, sleeping, or (when I had to) going to class. Thus, my supreme figure was spoiled. I also started smoking cigarettes with my Japanese friends on campus. I figured I might as well smoke while I was still young enough to decide to quit. What can I say, I was the pinnacle of logic.
Five years of virtual inactivity have taken their toll. Last year (2011) was the worst since I was incredibly stressed about getting married and moving in together with my wife while at the same time trying to maintain a positive reputation in my workplace. Being a “good worker” in Korea comes with its own set of difficulties. Priorities at the workplace in Korea differ significantly from those of their western counterparts. Boss wants to have a meeting at 10 pm? Sure, what else am I going to do. Have to go to a conference next Thursday morning? Okay, who’s driving? I did whatever I could to make and get the most out of my position. That was all well and good until I started to share my time and living space with a wonderful woman who I very quickly decided was worth much more to me than my measly title and satisfied boss.
My wife moved in with me after we got married since I was living in company housing and she was living at her mother’s apartment. It was an easy decision. However, we learned very quickly that we needed to upgrade after spending the entire winter living on the floor. Allow me to explain. We were living in a studio apartment, but the bed was on the second floor and only the first floor was heated. It was also drafty, tiny, and terrible. With only one electric stove burner of reasonable size and a glorified mini-fridge, we rarely cooked anything. The pounds continued to be gained while we spent the latter half of the year working on improving our living situation for the next year.
My wife is a great many things: beautiful, kind, and practical immediately come to mind. She has earned another adjective in the time since we’ve been together: resourceful. Give her a topic or an objective and 24 hours and she will get it done. Booking cheap flights, finding amazing recipes, ordering replacement parts for electronics, getting tax refunds, she can either find out how or just get it done in a few hours’ time. Were it not for her, I don’t know how I would’ve survived this past year. I love you, baby.
Okay, back on topic. Most of my friends and family know that I was hired on as an ESL instructor at a local college. What they probably don’t know is how ridiculously difficult it was to find this job. I put application packets (CV, letters of recommendation, other fluff) together as early as May last year trying to get hired for the fall term. I must have emailed at least three dozen packets out while snail mailing two dozen more and even hand-delivering a handful. Two universities were polite enough to respond with a “thanks for playing” and that’s about it. I was honestly embarrassed. I went over my CV and cover letter a hundred times looking for the damning grammar mistake that kept doing me in, but in the end it turns out luck was just not on my side. There was an incredibly high number of applicants for each position (over 200 applicants for 4 positions at a few schools). I can only speak for my profession, but this seems to be the case for a lot of people nowadays. Gotta love a competitive job pool. But I’m a gamer, damn it! If I don’t succeed the first time, I keep on trying until I get past this stage and move on to the next one. And that’s exactly what I did.
My company was kind enough to extend my contract an additional 6 months with no salary bonus or additional sick days, terms I could not argue with considering the circumstances. Enter the miserable winter and the bitter hatred for studio apartments. Though I continued supporting the Korean postal service with my applications, my wife and I knew that chances were slim (made increasingly so by public school job cuts) and we needed a contingency plan. We were sick of spending so much of our newlywed life away from one another. We had quite a large number of plans, actually, though I’m glad it never came to that. I was getting ready for work one day January this year when I finally heard back from a small college that was looking to hire three new teachers. Better yet, they only had five applicants they wanted to interview, and I was one of them. I immediately thought to myself, “50/50 chance of success? Mission accepted.” The incredibly strange interview gave me a lot of insight into what people were looking for, and I realized why most of my applications (if not all of them) were passed over very quickly.
Quick tip for all the would-be ESL professors out there: the people deciding to hire you will most likely never even look at your original résumé. It gets translated and typed up into a handy packet that summarizes your accomplishments in the working world. That, in turn, is barely read over by the circle of sages responsible for determining who will join their ranks. Moral of the story: keep it simple, straightforward, and chock-full of goodness.
It took two long, stressful weeks for the school to get back to me. I was very something when the head of the English department called me up and asked if I was able to meet him to sign a contract later that day. It’s hard to say exactly what feeling I was. I think it was one of those adult feelings that supersede the common emotional palette. I can definitely say I was happy to tell my wife who then also entered a difficult-to-describe state of adult emotion. Eventually, the news elicited happiness/relief, which was more than enough for me. Resourceful wife got right to work and found us a relatively enormous apartment within our budget and we were good to go. All we had to do was play the waiting game, and you know how I feel about games.
December 26th this week will mark the end of two successful semesters and an entire wonderful academic year with the university, and what a wonderful year it’s been! I won’t get into details this time, but let me sum it up nicely: a nearly stress-free environment and a generally positive atmosphere with half the hours and over 4 months of vacation time. Hands down, the best part of the job is the extra time I have to spend with my wife. She has been very supportive of my recent efforts to self-betterment and fulfillment. I have learned a lot over this past year:
- Burning bridges isn’t easy, but it can be healthy and spiritually gratifying
- Different people move through life at different paces
- Having realistic short-term goals (leading to long-term) greatly increases your chance of success
- Reading classic English literature is not always enjoyable (unbelievable, I know)
- Skyrim is one of the greatest games of all time
I’ve actually been keeping up with my commitment to physical fitness and am happy to say I’ve lost a real 20 pounds of weight. That puts me back down to where I was when I first arrived in Korea, but I can tell you firsthand that I’m the strongest I’ve ever been my entire life. I don’t know what was holding me back for so long, but I will freely admit that I was afraid of changing my appearance. Even the Gamer knew that my lifestyle was leading to a drastic decrease in lifespan (again, death is tantamount to failure) but I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t until I came up with the fitness challenge with my friends that I was able to overcome my fear of physical progress. How did I manage to push myself through my own barrier? Check Item 3 in that handy list; short-term goals. By making a plan of what I wanted to accomplish each day and setting out to get it done, I find myself happier, healthier, and more motivated than I’ve been about anything for a long time. I’m grateful for the great group of friends who helped me to go beyond my “comfort zone of unhealth.” Thanks, everyone. You know who you are.
I have an established workout routine that I follow a few times a week, so hopefully I can keep on turning converting my stored energy into strength. Unfortunately, I’ve strayed from the path of academia this past month and failed to keep up with my reading and writing. That being said, here is a list of short-term goals I have for the winter vacation:
- Lose 15 more kilograms
- Be able to run a 5K by the end of February
- Read 3 books each month
I have a short list of gaming accomplishments I have to work through, as well:
- Wrap up the Main Questline of my current home campaign
- Finish Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
- Finish Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
- Start Mass Effect
Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. Short-term goals lead to long-term success. I hope I can say this in earnest over the coming year. Apologies for the massive update, and congrats if you’ve finished reading it.