Simply Solo Spotlight: Having to Leave The Good Guy
Today’s Simply Solo Spotlight is written by Emma. Her story completely tugged at my heart strings, not just because it’s beautifully written but because I think it’s an experience with which many of us can identify. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Quick shameless plug: Do you have a story to tell? Advice to offer? Did you just have literally the worst date of your life and you must write about it? I’d love to have you as the next Simply Solo Spotlight! Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having to Leave The Good Guy
Jeju Island is the paradise of Korea. A small, luscious island of rolling waves and foggy skies, Jeju hosts newlyweds dressed in matching outfits, horseback rides, and turquoise waters. There are old women who dive in the sea for oysters and fat-skinned oranges. Jeju Island is Korea’s romantic mecca. Jeju Island is where I broke up with Kyungnam.
It was just this May. Kyungnam and I had been together since I’d arrived in Korea to teach English nine months before. We’d met through one of my co-workers and had an instant connection—the kind where you’ve just met and within an hour you’re holding hands. It took me a little while to warm up to the idea of a relationship. I’d only been in Korea two weeks when we met. I believed I should embark on this adventure by myself. But, I loved Kyungnam’s free-loving spirit, how he was loved easily by so many, how he said my name, how he wasn’t aloof like so many young men I’d met. Kyungnam was a handsome charmer, but he was genuine. Within a month, we were inseparable. Within 6, we’d decided to move in together.
Kyungnam and I drew plans to travel together, to move to America together, to blah blah blah together. It should’ve made me happy and excited to think about a life with him, but it didn’t. It just made me anxious. Still, Kyungnam was the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. He brought home my favorite foods for me after work, he gave me massages every night without asking for them in return. He gave me gifts and tried to write me poems, though he always said he wasn’t a writer. Kyungnam not only told me daily that he loved me, but he showed it. He traveled hours to see me late at night and showed me off to all of his friends. “Isn’t she so amazing?” he would say, with eyes twinkling, “Isn’t she the best woman in the whole world?” We went to China and Japan together. In China, the women told me how lucky I was to have such a handsome boyfriend and I marveled at his ability to bargain at the Silk Market. In Japan, we dressed in kimonos and kissed each other on bed mats. I opened a fortune at a Japanese palace. It told me to be sincere to my boyfriend.
And sincere I was, which is why I broke up with Kyungnam on Jeju Island. If you’re on the most romantic island in the country, surrounded by tropical trees and wild horses with the person you most dearly love, then you should probably feel good while you’re on vacation. I felt terrible. Having this much extended time with Kyungnam proved to me that I wasn’t ready for what he wanted. I found myself snapping at him, which made me hate myself. He was so good, so loving, so everything…and I felt….so guilty.
On our last night on Jeju, I told him the truth. What followed was the most excruciating pain I have ever been through. I cried for a week straight. I couldn’t sleep in our bed because I kept finding his hair in the sheets, so I slept on the floor. I saw him in my sink, in the shower, out the window. Every time I saw something written in Korean, I felt as though my heart were being pinched. I sobbed to a Korean woman on a subway platform, who just held me, unable to communicate with me, but giving just the same. I felt disappointed, sad, guilty, and alone. I called my Korean teacher, Seon Joo, who took me into her family’s home with open arms. She helped me move out of the apartment and into hers. That’s where I live now. In a race car bed, no less.
I’m not sure what it was inside me that felt that what Kyungnam and I had together wasn’t right. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not ready for that level of commitment or because of who he is or because of who I was when I was with him. Two months later, I still don’t have the answers. I don’t want to believe that cultural differences and homes across the world can separate two people that love each other. Before Kyungnam, I always believed that loving someone would be enough to instill me with the desire to make things work. Maybe it will someday, but not when I’m not sure where I want to live, what I want to do, or who I want to be. On Jeju Island, I realized that the only way I could move on and be happy again was if I left Kyungnam. I didn’t want to leave him, but I knew I couldn’t stay. The sooner I left, the sooner I would find myself again.
Have I found that self again? Have I found new happiness? No, not even close, though there have been good days and good experiences. I am confident, however, that I made the right decision. I miss Kyungnam every day, but my future is open and free. I am making progress and reclaiming myself. I’ve taken on new students, learned what it’s like to live with a Korean family, and made new friends. When I finish in Korea next month, I’ll be traveling through Thailand and Cambodia on my own. After that, I’ll return to the United States as a young woman who has undergone much growth.
There are a lot of people who stay in relationships because they are afraid of hurting the other person. There are people who stay because they’re afraid they will never find anyone else. I understand these fears, but life does go on. Life goes on even when you’re across the world in South Korea, far from anything that you know. A relationship should be a positive addition to your life, not something that makes you feel anxious, depressed, and confused. Kyungnam was the best boyfriend I’ve ever had and it killed me to hurt him. I always say that he’s the best man in all of Korea, but being with him didn’t bring me great happiness. It may not have worked out between us, but I’ll always feel grateful for everything that Kyungnam gave me: new life experiences, a grasp on Korea, and so much love. I broke my own heart and I broke someone else’s, but I stayed true to myself.
Sometimes I ride the subway and don’t think of him. Other times I swear I see his face in the window at Guro Station. Either way, I am moving. I am going somewhere. I’m getting off subway cars and climbing up the stairs and into the sunshine. Kyungnam is out there, too, doing the same thing that I am. We loved each other and we lost. Now, we are moving on.