Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve: some reflections

2011 was the year I began to get back on my feet. The previous year had begun with my mother's death, followed seven months later by a major rupture within my remaining family. A double-whammy like that is hard to recover from, and I'd be remiss if I failed to mention that it's been hard on my brothers, too. In November 2010, I moved out to the mountains in search of peace and cheap housing, and began the struggle to find steady work. The job I found, as an essay rater for ETS, lasted only a few months when the rating work dried up in January and February. What followed was a flurry of desperate borrowing-- most often from friends-- and desperate job-searching to match.

In March of this year, I began working at YB (not its real name). Life started to improve, but it's still been a desperate scramble, financially speaking; the YB tutoring job isn't a full-time position, and as with ETS, it's subject to the vagaries of student demand. All in all, though, I've come to like this job; I only wish it paid about five times more than it does. In June of this year, my mother's car gave up the ghost with a slagged transmission, thus ensuring that I would remain financially behind: I bought a used car, and am now saddled with car and insurance payments (Mom's Honda had come to me nearly free). Car ownership also introduced me to the wonderful world of property tax, something I'd never had to deal with while living, car-less, in Seoul. And things don't promise to get any easier: in February 2012, one of my scholastic loans-- currently on forbearance-- will kick back in, piling another $320/month onto my debts.

I've somehow managed to make payments throughout this year thanks to a combination of factors: the discovery of a large sum in my Korean bank account (thanks, Charles, for helping out with that), the borrowing of money from friends (Mike, Hahna, Steve, Bill O., et al.) and brothers, the obtaining of proofreading work from a Korean friend's sister, the radical increase in my work hours during the summer months, the eBaying of several old items, and the very random arrival of a refund check from my town for having overpaid my electric bill. Every month, I've somehow barely managed to scrape by, but with the return of the Sallie Mae bill in February, life is going to get very interesting.

So 2012 will begin with some hard choices. In all likelihood, I won't be able to stay with YB, and it doesn't appear that I'll be getting that high-paying job with MGRE anytime soon. The most obvious choice is for me to go where I and my bizarre, narrowly-marketable skill sets are wanted and appreciated: back to South Korea. I can easily find university work, complete with partially-funded housing, and pay my bills (and my list of friendly creditors!) without breaking a sweat. The only things keeping me from leaping at this option are, first, the fact that I'm within driving distance of my brothers and other loved ones and, second, the strangely stubborn desire to try and make something of myself here. But fiscal prudence is probably going to win out over pride, so it's very likely that, in November or December of 2012, I'll be heading back to the Land of the Morning Calm when my apartment's lease expires. I'd like to be in a position where I can breathe more easily. Being constantly in debt is no picnic, and is, frankly, depressing. A return to Korea seems the best solution, at least for the moment. I might be singing a different tune by the end of January.

2011 wasn't all about the finances, though: my lovely goddaughter turned 14 and became a high schooler. I made the acquaintance of the embattled-but-cheerful Marissa Parks through, of all things, an article at (the author of the humor piece is a friend of Marissa's; he'd linked to her blog). Through Marissa, I "met" her father Brad, who is determined to do whatever it takes to help his daughter weather the brutal storm of her glioblastoma multiforme. Brad and I have maintained a steady correspondence over this year as I've shared my own experiences in dealing with Mom's GBM. I also drove the entire length of Skyline Drive, and discovered that its middle and its southern end have far fewer tourists than the northern end, which starts at Front Royal.

I'm still hoping to embark on a trans-American walk, but I no longer know when I might do this. To me, it seems best to get the walk done before returning to Korea; otherwise, I'll have to leave Korea yet again to do the walk. But with the money situation the way it is, I don't see how the walk can happen anytime soon.

Of course, no one said life would be easy. If anything, I should put my problems in perspective and recognize that I have it easier than most: I live in a decent apartment, I've got a working car, I'm well-fed (too well-fed), and I can afford to plan my future. When I look around me, I see much to be thankful for: brothers and friends who love me, a supportive online readership, plenty of books to read, and the rest of my life ahead of me.

But first things first: let me wish you all a Happy New Year. May 2012 be a Year of No Self-pity and a Year of Making Things Happen for you, as I hope it will be for me. It's going to be the Year of the Dragon in lunar reckoning, after all; not an auspicious year in which to mope. As Koreans might say, let this be a year of Try, try, try. As the ancients of classical antiquity would have said: Per ardua ad astra-- through great effort to the stars.

So! Once more unto the breach, dear friends. Once more!



hahnak said...

happy new year to you too! try, try, try!!

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ewha has been hiring more instructors, so you might check that possibility . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

John from Daejeon said...

I've decided to start each and every new January 1st that I have left being grateful that I don't have to live the life of a Hobo With a Shotgun.

As much as I love Rutger Hauer, Bruce Campbell would have been a much better choice in the role.

Kevin Kim said...


I saw the preview for that film on months ago, but never saw the film. Judging only by the preview, though, I'd have to agree: this would have been right up Mr. Campbell's alley. (Then again, I did enjoy Hauer in the first version of "The Hitcher.")


If you know of any specific positions I could apply for, please tell me. Would I be able to ask you for a recommendation, if it came to that? Or would you need to see me teach first?

Another question: is Ehwa hiring people who have only Master's degrees?

Come to think of it: I don't want to bother you with too many questions. Could you point me to an online resource (other than the jumble at Dave's ESL) that shows Ehwa's hiring announcements? I'd be in your debt.

Merci d'avance.


Thanks for the encouragement. May your 2012 be happy and prosperous!

John McCrarey said...

Great post, Kevin. Although we have never met in 3D, you have frequently been an inspiration to me in the way you have handled all the sorrows and joys along this road we call life.

Here's hoping 2012 is good to you and I wish you success in whatever pursuits you choose to engage.

Sperwer said...


Best wishes for 2012. And don't forget,if you don't make the walk across the US,you can do the newly established Wonhyo trail here!

Kevin Kim said...


Happy New Year! And thanks.

John from Daejeon said...

Rutger was at his prime in The Hitcher, Flesh+Blood, and Ladyhawke. And quite a bit past it as the Hobo.

I do think my reluctance to this day to pick up a hitchhikers is due to his wonderful performance, and I still can't believe that Matthew Broderick received top-billing over Rutger in Richard Donner's "Ladyhawke."

Charles said...

Happy new year, my friend. You've been through a lot, but I have no doubt that you will continue to make it through.

Elisson said...

May your 2012 be everything you wish it to be. Ad Astra, indeed!

Anonymous said...

A late Happy New Year to you, Kevin.

I'm sorry to hear about the financial concerns (something I have dealt/am dealing with despite working in Korea) and subsequent concerns (I do hope you get a windfall and are able to do the walk). Here's to hoping that 2012 will be a year of good tidings.

* If you do end up having to come to Korea, I'll have a beer waiting. My finances should be better by then.

Nathan B. said...

A belated Happy New Year to you, Kevin. I've been unable to get online much since late December, and there are many changes in my life. Good luck to the both of us!