At the beginning of this year, I took a life-changing trip to Seoul, South Korea. I was blessed with the opportunity to intern at 10 Magazine Korea while vacationing. It was the most I have ever felt uncomfortable, but it was rewarding.

My first day in Seoul was a complete nightmare. I arrived at Incheon Airport at 7:30 am and was immediately confronted with reality. Seoul was the polar opposite of Texas. Immediately, I had to use the minimal Korean that I knew. I was tired from a 16 hour flight and just wanted sleep.

Fortunately, the lady at the ticket booth and my Airbnb host (bless their hearts and souls) were patient with me. My Airbnb host told me which bus to take, and the ticket lady told me where the bus would pick me up. Unfortunately for me, my inability to navigate followed me to Seoul. In the true nature of myself I missed my bus. At this point, I was on the verge of tears.

In light of my distress, I was told I could take another bus to get to the part of Seoul I was staying in. I immediately texted my bonus parents to tell them I was safe and asked for prayers because we all need prayers.

Finally, I got on the correct bus and traveled the hour to Seongbuk-gu. Once I was settled I was off to my internship. After taking the wrong train, getting lost in Itaewon, and the helpful guidance of a nice stranger, I arrived to my internship an hour and a half late. Needless to say I was ready for a sleep.

Once my orientation and first day was over, I was relieved to finally get back to my Airbnb for some much needed sleep. However, I couldn’t remember how to get back to it. *Cue the face palms* I had taken the wrong exit and ended close to a police station I remembered seeing earlier. It was closed, but I walked around the back and saw a few workers in charge of the parking lot entrance. In my minimal Korean, I was able to ask for help. Obviously, the Lord was watching over me because they were able to get an English-speaking co-worker to give me directions. I was literally five blocks away from my Airbnb.

This was the first and last time I would be getting lost in Seoul.

My first day was hectic but a true test of perseverance. It was a complete mess, but it was a chaos I needed to experience because things would only get weirder from here on out! I was about to experience a personal stretch and growth like no other.

 

As my birthday quickly approaches, I can’t help but reflect on this year as a 22-year-old woman. It’s had its blessing and lessons, but it was all worth it. I’ve grown and done things I never thought I would ever do. But, if I had to sum up 22 in one word, it would be: adjusting.For starters, I graduated college with a degree I dreamed about getting since I was 15. Writing has always been a major part of my life, whether it was writing poems, short stories, or recapping my day in a diary. Writing was the only thing I never questioned, and receiving my B.A. in journalism was huge milestone for me. I thought “Wow, I can tell people’s stories accurately and effectively now!”

Adjusting to being a college a graduate has been one of the toughest things for me. All I’ve ever known was school and homework, and to suddenly realize I have to get a ‘real’ job was the ultimate shock. I knew I was not ready. As a way to buy myself time, I saved up money and went to intern at a magazine in South Korea.

Moving to South Korea has been the biggest adjustment I’ve ever had to do. I never realized how spoiled I was until I got here. I had been spoiled with copious amounts of love and attention from others. I was very under-appreciative of it. Being completely alone in Seoul has taught me just how much my family and friends truly love me. (So, thank you to those of you who went on midnight food-runs with me. Y’all are the real MVP!)

I had no choice but to adjust to being by myself and investing into myself. I’ve been constantly trying new things just to know myself better. For instance, I learned I’m a big fan of hiking. Never in my life would I have walked up hill for more than an hour just to see grass. It was the peace and one-on-one time between myself and God that made it all worth it.

Twenty-two has taught me so many things. I’ve learned to be kinder to myself, to try no matter what the outcome may be, and to be okay with awkward situations. Just like that time, an old lady randomly started yelling at me Korean to come talk to her. I almost ran away, but took a deep breath and had a pleasant conversation with her in my limited Korean.

I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin. This has been something I’ve always prayed for, and it took coming to a 99% homogeneous country to do it. I live in an area where not many foreigners live, especially black foreigners. At first, I never wanted to walk around my neighborhood because I just didn’t want to deal with the staring, but once I started forcing myself to go out it got easier. I put on my signature smile and go about my day like everyone else. I’m comfortable in the person I am and becoming.

As 23 begins, I can only hope to remain kind to myself and others, be fearless, and to allow myself to experience all of my emotions wholeheartedly. Emotions can be dangerous, but downplaying them can be lethal.

Twenty-two, you were beautiful in every way, and 23 I can’t wait to see what’s in store!