The End of the Summer


It’s still hot in Korea. By hot I mean warm enough to prefer shorts to trousers but pleasant enough to consider the walk, wherever it is you’re going, enjoyable. Only this afternoon it started raining the kind of rain that smells of the heat that has warmed it. Like some kind of stagnant puddle water. And as it drops and hits the ground the water mixes with all the other smells walked into the street, then stewed up to create a black paste which seems to follow every foot’s step in the city. It’s a summer rain true, but not a high summer deluge.

When we returned to Korea from Ireland a little under two weeks ago we were told we had missed the worst of the summer. The breeze which we found chilly was a much welcomed breath of life into a country drained to exhaustion from the hottest of summers. We were grateful that we had chosen our flight dates well.

When I first spent a summer in Korea I can’t recall how I felt about it. I don’t remember when the heat began or ended, but I do remember staying outside long and late into the night at the weekend dressed only in shorts and t-shirt. I also remember walking into the ice cold bank to find 10 to 15 people sitting around in small groups chatting, snacking on fruit, and generally just hanging out in what was a free air-conditioned space. A few years later and I would do the same, but with a cheap ice coffee in the local Paris Baguette.

Now, that cool breeze I mentioned seems to have let up a little, but there is still a heavy rattle of cicada in the afternoon. Occasionally a dragonfly will drop to the ground dead in front of me, a sure-fire sign of the end of the summer. I still carry a handkerchief with me to avoid looking like I just stepped from the shower, but I can feel the weather getting steadily cooler.

In Ireland the summer ends in July, apparently, and autumn runs from August through to October. In many parts of the world August is an unbearable month, but Ireland it can be cool and the most unbearable thing we have are the wasps which seem to enjoy lunches in the garden as much the next person. It’s a far cry from the crowded beaches and sweltering streets of Korea, but that’s where I was a couple of weeks ago.

 

A view in Ireland

A view in Ireland

I was not thinking of the Korean summer, just of how nice it was to be in Ireland for what was a very enjoyable and warm summer by Irish standards. If anything the only reason I didn’t want to go back to Korea was because it meant the summer would be over and I would have to return to work.

It’s always easy to get all sentimental after leaving your summer holidays behind and returning to work, normality, and routine, as you sit there, wherever it is and doing whatever you have to do, looking invariably at a scene quite different than you have recently made familiar to yourself. My view from where I write is often uninspiring, faced with a computer screen backed onto a white wall, and the view through the windows leaves nothing to the imagination. The mountains in the distance even being too far off to be wistful.

An example of 'the routine'.

An example of ‘the routine’.

Coming to Korea you’d think that all would be amazing, especially from little old Ireland. But equally so, leaving Korea and going to Ireland presents such stark contrasts, not just visually, but also physically and socially. One is here and the other is there, and there is so distant from here that it bears such little comparison that highlighting the differences only serves to be counterproductive. Each country exists in such stack separation from the other that seeing the two in any light never presents any recognisable image.

I say this with a fair amount of regret, but I know that it’s true. To worry that, for example, your holiday has ended and that you must now return to the routine does little but to feed your own sentimental wishes and dreams which are likely to be realised. It serves to remember that those who can be considered fortunate enough to live where you have returned from also have the same concerns as you, none more so than complaints about the weather, bills, normality, routine, and a desire to find a better life somewhere else. I would also hasten to add that if I were fortunate enough to be so wealthy as to afford to sit around and play golf all day at such a young age I think I’d find myself bored. Perhaps when I’m old enough to retire I will be of a different mind-set.

It is safe to say that we make decisions in life about where we want to be and what we want to do. Where we choose to live and how we choose to live are important decisions. Of course not everyone is in as comfortable a position as myself to be offered a choice, I know this better than I used to, but still it’s in our power to change this, somehow.

Living in Korea, I have been frustrated by many things, but at the same time I find a lot of enjoyment in living here. I work hard enough to enjoy a lifestyle which many in Ireland do not enjoy, but we are just as happy living where we are. I have being living in Korea long enough to know what to enjoy and what to avoid. I know the limitations of my luxuries and envy those without them, which sounds odd I know, but it is nothing unusual for a person to covet what they cannot have.

A view from Korea

A view from Korea

I have never really felt myself unhappy in Korea, homesick yes, but never unhappy. There are plenty here who find fault with so many social and political issues here, but I always look at it from the perspective that every country has its problems and no one country manages to deal with them in any way more effectively, as a whole. Societies face pressures from all angles, but rounding them off they are internal and external issues which time itself and the experience it brings often help to solve most complaints. Whether we live to see some of these changes is probably what concerns us the most.

I started this post talking about the weather. I see the weather as a metaphor for how we deal with our lives in different countries from our own. I can’t say it matters much to me or anyone in Korea, unless there’s some agricultural or aeronautical connection I’m forgetting, how the weather is in Ireland right now. I’m concerned that my family and friends are doing alright of course, but I don’t think that this supersedes my own situation, which is the rain from now until some time tomorrow.

And that is what I will do. I will wait until it stops and then I will see what happens next. I wonder will the rain be light enough when I get up so that I can walk to work, or will I have to drive. I wonder if it will rain all day and what I will do in between my classes if it is still pouring down. It’s what is here and what I must deal with, regardless of what the weather is in Ireland.

Demons, Distractions, and Demands


I am my own worst enemy, and when it comes to giving advice I don’t think I stand a chance when put in front of the judges. Why would anyone care to listen to anyone who cannot claim to have achieved as much as they’d like to? I’ve an answer, and it is because I know what I’m doing wrong and I know that if you’re looking for a way to get over something perhaps, and I really mean perhaps, what I’m about to say might help.

I was born as a procrastinator. I’m lazy. I’m easily distracted. I tend to blinker myself from the reality of life’s requirements. Much of this doesn’t really effect me until that awful last minute arrives and I suddenly have to get everything done in a fluster. I don’t know if I was born like this. I don’t think I’ve inherited this gene from my parents. I do wish that I could be just a little bit committed to one of the many causes I assign myself to.

Take today for example. Up until about fifteen minutes ago, my plan for the day was going perfectly. I had woken up, had a light breakfast, read a little, then walked to the shops and bought some mushrooms and bread, then I cooked lunch for myself and Herself. I have since returned to the bedroom where I’m sitting under the fan writing a blog post, when I had initially set out to do more reading. I think I read about five hundred words (incidentally it was a book review for a book about helping writers to focus on their writing), and then I thought it would be a great idea to write a blog post. About what? Being distracted. I am not sure whether you could say I was inspired.

To add insult to injury, I’ve been out to the kitchen twice to boil the kettle for coffee and to find a particular blue pen, checked my email, twitter, instagram, the weather, and started reading an article about Ireland’s hopes for a second gold medal in the boxing at the Olympics.

It’s a curse, and I know it’s not something I suffer from alone. Fortunately, my income does not rely on me to be an overly productive writer, but one day I would like it to be so. I worry though that because of my reliance on being incessantly distracted, no one will give me a job because I’ll never get any work done, or I’ll be driven mad by stress because it took me until the last minute (again) to get something handed in on time.

Allow me to bore you for a moment with the things I’ve seriously (kind of) committed myself to (psychologically at least) over the past year or so, but which have made little to no progress.

– A distance feature writing journalism course (only one of ten assignments done)
– An application to do a Phd in contemporary poetry.
– A first collection of poems (many started, many submitted to magazines, many unfinished, and many rejected).
– A chap book of poems on things which people do all the time but which they never talk about.
– A collection of essays and short comments based around the posts in this blog and sold as an ebook.
– A memoir of my life in Korea to date.
– Various articles for magazines in Korea and Ireland, but most of which have no research carried out.
– Even more literary magazines with with submission deadlines and guidelines duly noted, but that’s about all the work I’ve done on them.

There could be more…

Oh yes, don’t forget all the magazines, novels, books, and links to articles online which I have stockpiled but never seem to get around to reading.

Did I mention I also have to work and that Herself is six months pregnant?

So, you see, by expecting myself to unrealistically see these goals through I think I’m causing myself undue stress. I know from my co-workers that none of them are stressed about that much, but by building up my own demands I have created this little red demon who sits on my shoulder and whispers into my ear, “why aren’t you doing this?”, constantly. Nagging, like my mother who used to ask me to paint the fences in the summer, and still I kind of metaphorically roll over in the bed and check whatever poxy internet site my finger is nearest to again.

The thing is, it is not as if all this comes down on top of me unexpectedly. What bothers me the most about this is that these are all things that I want to do. If you look at the the to-do list above, there is not one thing which I have been made to do. I have asked for all of this, and I want to do it all too. Perhaps it’s just a case of my eyes being bigger than my belly.

Right now you’re probably right in thinking that I’m an idiot, and I could have at least warned you before you started reading that this post would be mostly me complaining about my inability to start, let alone finish, things. I apologise for that, but if I had warned you I would never have kept your attention, and that would have meant that this piece of writing would have been a complete waste of my time and your time. However, allow me to remedy that.

The solution to all of this is very simple. It has to do with attitude, of course, and trust. This can be applied across the board to anything. While I consider myself a writer, I don’t doubt that this post can be applied to all areas of life, work, family, and personal development.

Firstly, you have to look at yourself, whatever it is you are doing, and know what it is that is stopping you from doing it. In my case, what is stopping me from getting things done is my laziness. If it’s something else, then what can you do to change it? Can you afford to take the steps to make a difference to allow you to do what it is you want to do, and if you can, then is there any other reason that would stop you from doing it?

I won’t suggest that you should stop doing everything you have been doing and start trying to achieve what it is you have always wanted. The world does not work like that, and no person, regardless of their ability, can be expected to start something new and instantly be a success. Yes, there are success stories of people who have done things like this, but this is why we call them stories and not realities. You need to work hard to realise your goals step by step. Slowly and assuredly is the best way to realise what it is you have always wanted to do. But remember, you have to start.

More importantly, trust has more significance than attitude. Trust is something which has varying levels of applicability and needs to be applied differently to different situations, and of course people. Trust should always be applied relatively to whatever it is you are trusting. That being said, you need to trust yourself that you can do whatever it is you are doing, to the point that you know the limits of your own ability. Set yourself small goals and gradually as you overcome each one, the next one will appear less of an obstacle, because you can gradually trust yourself to reach them.

Let me give you an example from my own experience. About two years ago I set myself the writing goals of getting a poem published and also getting some magazine work published. I overcame both of these goals after a fair amount of effort, but I did it. With the magazine writing, I have moved on to larger and more ambitious projects but which I believe to be realisable because I can trust myself to work within my limits. With my poetry, for some reason I decided to rest and think about my options. I didn’t write much or submit much for quite a while, and now I’m right back to where I started again, trying to find somewhere that will accept some of my poetry submissions. I wouldn’t be far from the truth if I told you I had zero confidence in my work at the moment, but am I going to let that stop me?

Trust also applies to the system you work with. To trust something, much like people, you have to know it and how it works. Whatever it is you do, learn what it is you are dealing with and understand it so that when you recognise openings or situations that you might be able to take advantage of, you will be prepared to do so.

For example, think of the amount of times you’ve gone hunting for a job only to turn up with nothing because you didn’t really understand what it was you were letting yourself into, leaving you all washed up with negative results. Even if something is apparently corrupt, if you know how it works then you can trust it to operate in a particular way so that there are no major surprises whenever you approach it to deal with whatever it is you’re trying to do.

Attitude and trust are, in my mind, two of the most important aspects of helping you to realise beyond your current situation. Both of these boil down to knowing about yourself and your broader situation. The more you know about yourself, the more you can get on with achieving your goals and crossing off items on your ever expanding to-do list.