The story of my childhood and my current lifestyle is the typical Korean cliché. While my international friends may find it shocking, my Korean friends would simply nod along since they’ve all lived a similar scenario. When I was in elementary school, I was addicted to books. My mom used to call my favorites books-that-areno-good and hid away my beloved Harry Potter and Twilight series. What she didn’t understand, however, was that they used to be my only escape route from my daily life. It may seem even comical that a mere elementary school student needed such a thing as an “escape.” But the thing is, I was constantly comparing my life to those of my friends living in the States who didn’t have to get scolded for not finishing their math homework which was resulted from spending the day before on English homework, they didn’t go to hagwons – a private after school academy – and they didn’t have every adult around them fretting about the acceptable level of university they must get into eight years later. My childhood orbited around a single goal: getting accepted to a prestigious university. While I envied my American friends’ Facebook page filled with sleepovers, Halloween party, sports, and weekends of road trips, my reality was a routine of home, school, and hagwons. This was why when I actually got into a university that even my mom – a strict parent with high expectation even in Korean standard – prided upon, that single goal I had chased my entire life was finally, finally, out of the picture. I felt like I was holding the steering wheel of my life for the first time and joined every activity that I wanted; Ewha Voice, Ewha-Harvard Summer School, Ewhaus (architecture volunteering club), PEACE Buddy, part-time job, traveling three different countries, volunteering at PyeongChang Winter Olympics to name a few. The liberating feeling in which I felt like I could do anything did not last two years, however. Although I have no regrets on my past activities, I’ve come to a realization that my childhood had me addicted to being busy. Not having much leisurely time had given me the illusion that my time wasn’t being wasted. This is how I was taught to live since elementary school and I’m terrified that this might be the only way I know how; inability to stand the spare time that doesn’t get spent on goal-oriented tasks. It scares me to death that I can’t escape from this horrendous habit I developed and that I’ll end up living just as busy, just as unhappy – if not worse – later in workplace. I’ve hurt the most important people with the excuse; “I’m too busy.” I’m a coward for admitting the fault was completely on my part only after I myself have been in their shoes. I’m hoping my next semester of exchange in France would be my turning point. Flying halfway across the Earth where I’ll have significantly less obligation would hopefully force me into breaking the urge to keep me busy minute by minute. I wish the Korean society stop calling people like me “normal” and others “lazy.” I wish the society stop driving young people mad.
Ewha Voice firstname.lastname@example.org