Before deciding to move almost 6,000 miles to live on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, I lived a pretty comfortable life in the OC. I shared a 2-bedroom apartment with 3 other friends in the beautiful city of Irvine, where I’ve lived for almost 7 years. I will miss Irvine’s vibrant shopping centers, its lush parks, beautiful neighborhoods, scenic lakes and landscapes. I will miss the well-maintained running trails, the Saturday morning Farmers Market, and the amazing sunset at Corona Del Mar. Irvine has been my home away from home. I will miss all the wonderful friends and colleagues I have gotten to know.
Because I lived in a shared bedroom, I only paid about $400 in rent and $70 in utilities each month. I worked full-time, yet only 4 days a week at a prominent non profit organization. And my gym was right across the street from my apartment. My weekends were usually 3 days long (Friday-Sunday). Yes, one of the perks of working for an established nonprofit! Most Fridays, I would take care of laundry, chores, and errands, but then the rest of the weekend I would be free to do and go anywhere I wanted. On weekends, if I was in the mood for a hike down south at Laguna Canyon or wanted to go for a stroll along Newport Beach, my car gave me that flexibility and freedom. Most OC Californians are very dependent on their personal vehicle and I am no exception to that.
Beyond my neighborhood and comfortable lifestyle, what I love about California is the variety of food! Yelp is undoubtedly the compass for my cravings. Fellow yelpers, you know what I mean! From Mediterranean to Korean cuisine, we have it all! And I don’t know about you, but second to seafood, breakfast is my all time favorite meal. I could seriously eat breakfast for lunch or dinner. Why? Because I love eggs and breakfast isn’t breakfast without the eggs my dear.
Clearly for a girl like me with a big appetite, I have to work out a lot. Through morning runs, jogging at the beach, yoga, bouldering, hiking and hitting the gym, I get enough physical activity in my routine to stay in decent shape. And the best part is that all of these recreational activities are about 15 minutes away from me or less.
I really feel blessed to have experienced a level of comfortability, flexibility, and accessibility in my life. The lifestyle I have lived for these past few years has allowed me to reflect and make improvements on myself, especially in health and wellness. However, I realize that my life has become somewhat routine and predictable. What I want is to progress in my career, acquire new skills, build on new experiences, continue to learn and grow as an independent woman and as an individual who makes meaningful contributions to society.
Ever since high school, I have suffered from inflammation in the joints. In 2012, I was diagnosed with an early stage of RA (rheumatoid arthritis) and ever since I have had to cut certain foods out of my diet, adjust my level of physical activity, and consider how people and everyday tasks affect my health and well-being. At first, my condition was amplified due to a strenuous job, which caused me a lot of anxiety. After seeing a doctor, I learned that fried foods and certain fruits and vegetables could also be causing the flare ups. Over the next couple years I learned to discipline myself in order to better my mental and physical health. If I’m not careful, I could wake up again paralyzed in my joints, struggling to get out of bed, and having to endure electroshock treatments from a physical therapist. Even though I know there is no cure for my condition, I have come a long way and do not exhibit the same symptoms at the intensity I once did.
Enduring and overpowering RA, has definitely helped me put my life into perspective. Even though traveling to South Korea has been one of my lifelong dreams, I have never put enough time and energy into actually doing it. My excuse was, “Where would I get the money?” I kept telling myself that once I pay off my student loans, help my family out, and have the opportunity to save up, I would then plan a trip to Korea. Last year, I realized 3 things:
- I’m single and inexperienced
- The world is enormous and I’ve only seen and lived within a small speck of it
- South Korea has this teach abroad program called EPIK where they pay you to live and teach in their country for a year!?!?! AND I meet all the minimum requirements!!
Because of that realization, I finally made this life changing decision. I did a lot of research before I applied and yes, I’m still doing a ton of research each day as I prepare for an expatriate life. Nothing can truly prepare me for this experience, but what I do know is that unfamiliarity and challenge is food for the heart and soul. So yes, I’m trading in my comfortable California flip flops for the expats’ second hand sneakers, in hopes that I may find myself along the way and experience what life is all about.