Earlier this week, I was writing a “Top 5 News of 2017” feature article for my client. It was a big year for Microsoft, from opening a datacenter in Korea to launching its mixed reality platform, a first for the industry.
My 2017, on the other hand, was rather uneventful. But a lot changed within me that made it a very significant year. I also didn’t want to go yet another year without having written anything on my blog, so voila. My 2017, in top 5 news:
#1 Finding a lifelong passion and career
I changed tracks in my career from education to PR in 2015. While a lot of the work in PR came naturally to me, it definitely was not an easy ride. The first year was an extension of my editing career, with the opportunity to apply my writing and editing skills to the field of PR and digital content marketing. I learned how to make content calendars and interview executives for stories.
Year 2 is where things got rocky – I was juggling work from two teams – tech PR and digital – and found myself liking media PR more. I was adjusting to working with newly hired team members. In the end, I transferred to the tech PR team and it’s been full speed ahead since. Managing PR and IMC campaigns for challenging clients who are also some of the biggest names in the tech industry has taught me a lot, not just PR knowhow but lifelong skills of persuasion, diplomacy, and decision making. I think the next step is to learn leadership and stress management, and I look forward to the challenge.
I also learned that I truly love the work I do, because I talk about it all the time. I love coming into work every day and reading what familiar names at familiar media outlets wrote overnight. I love getting calls from journalists and clients, because it means they trust me and respect my opinion. I get to help them, which I find rewarding. I want to do PR for tech companies for as long as I can foresee – I can’t imagine myself doing anything else for the time being.
#2 Becoming comfortable with Korea
It took 7 years. I came here in 2010 to teach English, and socialized with mostly foreigners and gyopos (Koreans raised overseas) like myself. Even at my office job of curriculum development, I worked with mostly foreigners, gyopos, and Koreans who had worked with foreigners and gyopos for most of their career. Exposure to the full breadth and depth of Korean culture didn’t happen until I started my current job, where the mostly-Korean staff and corporate culture hit me with their Korean-ness full-force.
This year, I found myself wanting to express certain things in Korean and posting certain contents on social media in Korean. And writing in Korean has become enjoyable – I still have a long ways to go, but I’ve become comfortable enough with the language to write in it at length and on various topics. I’m going to keep working at improving it and extend my practice to hanja (Chinese characters), and eventually, Chinese. I also learned that I will always want to work in a bilingual capacity – it’s just more fun that way.
I owe a lot of this assimilation to the patience and understanding of my friends and coworkers. I’m not gonna say it doesn’t still trouble me when attitudes deeply rooted in Korean culture – such as Confucianism and cutthroat competition – affect me directly. But America isn’t perfect either, and in some ways, Korea is more malleable and receptive to cultural change.
#3 Becoming comfortable with losing friends, and appreciating the ones I’ve maintained
I’ve never been one to like losing things or giving things up. I’ve been a pack rat all my life, refusing to let go of anything I value. And I value a lot of things. I used to go out of my way to maintain contact with friends and acquaintances, even when circumstances made it difficult or burdensome.
But because work kept me so busy this year, I couldn’t make time for everyone. And that was perfectly okay – there are friends I couldn’t see, and there are people that I didn’t want to see that I would’ve not known how to turn down before, that I’ve successfully repelled. And of the friends I couldn’t see, I know the ones that care for me still think about me and will want to see me next year. I miss my friends outside of Korea, but I know that I will see them again, too.
Oh my. There’s just something about this country. I visited Bangkok and Chiang Mai for a total of 4 days, which was much too short to explore all that the two cities have to offer. During my Thai massage in Chiang Mai – which was so bad it made my mind wander – I started weeping because my special moments with Thai locals were so fleeting, and I knew there were so many stories there to be uncovered. There’s a carefree and comfortable feeling in Thailand that I’ve never experienced elsewhere.
I will go back. There is a bar with a special drink prepared by a special person waiting for me with my name on it.
#5 Feeling the effects of aging
From the half frown wrinkle I’ve developed between my brows to my much decreased tolerance for alcohol, I definitely feel myself aging. I’ve lost more hair than ever, and it takes me longer to recover from illnesses. I chose sleep over yoga this year to work more and recharge to… work more, but work is starting to take a toll on my health. Next year, I’m gonna have to find a better balance.
Men don’t approach me anymore at bars or clubs. Friends comfort me when I complain I’ve aged, but I’m not gonna deny that aging is a factor. Weight gain was another unfortunate trend, something I’d like to remedy next year.
One of my best friends says this to me every time we meet: “I’m not the same anymore. I don’t get excited about things.” When he’s with his girlfriend, he’s happy and time flies, but when he’s by himself, he doesn’t feel much of anything. This troubles me, and I hope he finds his own passion soon.
Because although I haven’t been in love since 2014, I’m happy. While I don’t get giddy about things anymore either (which I think is an inevitable part of growing older), I have a passion that I can call my own. For now, that happens to be my job.
Passion is tricky and requires careful handling. I took a 2-month djembe class this summer, and it became the most important thing to me. I practiced on my purse on transit, on cardboard boxes at home, on tables at work during lunchtime… I listened to our practice beats over and over again on the streets. Then I developed an infection in my hand from drumming too hard and drinking too much afterward. This was in July, and I got injections and physical therapy for weeks, but to this day, the swelling below my right index finger has not completely gone down.
And I blamed my slow healing on work: the constant typing and clicking. I had to take off my brace because I couldn’t type with it on. I gave up on learning to click with my left hand because it slowed me down and I didn’t want to slow down the team. I was bitter at work because work was preventing me from pursuing another passion: the djembe.
I was going to progress to the intermediate class but have already had to postpone for two terms. But I’m not bitter anymore. I don’t know if it’s the passage of time or my growing passion for work that allowed me to let go, but either way, I’ve grown comfortable with the state of things. And I think this was the most valuable gift of growing older: learning to let go of things and appreciate what I have.