In February of last year, after nearly five years living in Korea and as I re-signed another one year contract, I decided it would be my last. I was going to leave and go on my dream trip of traveling around the world for as long as I can on the money I’ve saved up (you can read about this trip in the coming months here at NetSideBar). A common question when you tell people you’re leaving is, “Why?” and it’s a good question because, for most of us, there isn’t really a good reason to leave this place: The money is more than decent. The social scene is great and, other than the cold winters, the overall daily life is pretty enjoyable. So instead of explaining why I’m leaving Korea, I’m going to explain the “how to do it” part because that’s what seems to be so tricky.
Decide this will be your final year… for real this time.
Immediately second guess your decision.
Go back and forth on this for a while.
Finally realize there’ll never be a good reason to leave. Instead, convince yourself it’s time for something new because it is.
Admit you’ve known this for a long time.
Don’t tell anyone right away because knowing someone is going to leave, even if it’s months away, is a downer.
Realize with more than 10 months to go that you’re already experiencing things for the last time like St. Patrick’s Day and the cherry blossoms.
Promise to soak it all in.
Discover that a lot of what you’ll miss is weather related and always insist on eating and drinking outside whenever possible.
Fail to live up to your promise to make the most of your time by skipping several big summer festivals.
Promise to redouble your efforts as the weather starts to change, and you feel summer slipping away.
With five months left, finally start talking openly about the fact you’re leaving with your friends.
Start to wish time would go by faster so you can start your dream trip.
Do that while knowing you’ll come to regret ever having had such a thought.
Tell yourself you’ll remain open to trying new things and meeting new people because 5 months is still a lot of time,
…but start to feel the sentimentality creep in as you’re already feeling the need to make the the most of the time you have left and new things don’t fit into that.
Feel very bummed out as the weather starts turning colder and colder and your last summer comes to an end.
Realize that any day now that you’ll be seeing your favorite view of the sun setting over the Han River on your bus ride home for the last time.
Admit that your last time comfortably sitting outside of Phillies, your local pub, and talking to your friends as they get back to the neighborhood from work has come and gone without you properly relishing it.
Host your last Thanksgiving and for the first time really start to appreciate you won’t be here this time next year.
Turn in your 60 day notice at work and feel GREAT… then immediately feel bad cause your time in Korea is coming to an end.
Watch as work days pass by painfully slow while weekends pass exceptionally fast.
Catch yourself out with friends staring off into space thinking about all the friends who have already come and gone.
Find yourself looking around your favorite bars like they are haunted as you replay some of the crazy, fun, wild times you’ve had in them.
As feared, meet a girl you think you could’ve had something with if you had just met her sooner.
Question if this is just your fear of commitment playing itself out by allowing you to bond with someone because you know there’s no way it could work out since you’re leaving. (Realize you have issues).
Similarly, and much more annoyingly, find a new way to get to work that would have made life much easier just 4 weeks before you leave.
Get down to the actual business of moving: start packing, selling things, booking flights and what not… but don’t take anything off the walls just yet. Bare walls make a house feel unlived in.
Start telling your friends how important they are to you and how special you think they are.
Realize this is something people should do much more often than just when they’re about to move.
Notice your productivity at work drop off as the gravity of the move and the excitement of your trip occupy your every thought.
Watch as people go out of their way to spend more time with you, even if it’s just to come by and help you pack.
Start saying good-byes because sometimes these hang outs are the last time you’ll see them until….?
During your last week, find yourself surrounded by people who care about you and try to appreciate just how lucky you have been in life to have friends like this.
Assure the people who can’t make it out that your friendship is not about the last time you see them. It is about the collection of memories you’ve already made.
Complete your last day of work and think you’re on easy street with your remaining few days until you realize how the moving situation you thought was under control is WAY out of control.
Still though, go out every night and live it up.
Give picking a place to eat out the kind of contemplation normally reserved for a man’s last meal on death row.
On your second to last night, Karaoke your ass off and get a hoarse voice that will last for three days.
On your last night feel as tired as you have felt in forever, but feel complete. All your lasts have been done.
Crash at your friend’s house since you’re now jobless and homeless.
And as tired as you are, fight falling asleep once you’re in bed because you know in the blink of an eye it’ll all be over and you’ll have to leave for the airport as soon as you wake up.