Hello friends and family! It has been just over two months since I last updated as part of the Dream Life Project, so I’d like to get you all up to speed.
May and June’s challenges came about pretty naturally. In May, my challenge was to get my finances in order and open a seperate savings account for emergencies. I reached out to an accountant friend and filed my US taxes from abroad, and though I was not able to open another savings account with my preferred bank (apparently there’s a limit on savings accounts as a foreigner in Korea), I did keep a tally of how much money I was setting aside for emergencies and am making sure that I don’t touch it, regardless of what account it is in. June was my physical health month, so I joined a gym and started going regularly. I don’t do crazy workouts, just lift some weights and walk on the treadmill for endurance. I also signed up for school lunch, which is cheaper than ordering lunch everyday and easier than bringing it from home, and allows me to eat a full Korean meal once every weekday.
Now, it’s July, and I’ve started thinking deeply about why I started this project. I called it the Dream Life Project for a reason: I am trying to build the life I always dreamed about. I want to build a good support system for myself, ease the stressors of chronic illness, and find contentment in my everyday activities. But as always happens with reality, things have not been that simple.
In March, I contracted COVID-19 and though my illness was not as severe as others’, the long term symptoms are still messing with me. My memory, which was already pretty scattered, seems to have gotten worse, my brain fog can be incapacitating, and my immune system is in chaos. In mid June I caught a cold from a coworker and it quickly turned into bronchitis, complete with gasping coughs and laryngitis.
That’s right folks! I, a teacher, who is paid to speak to my students, spent two weeks unable to utter a single word. Lucky for me, my coworkers were extremely understanding and the managerial staff found workarounds where I was still working, but not speaking, so I could still be paid my full salary. God bless kind people.
Things are not all bad, not in the slightest! I’m working at a job I enjoy, I can afford rent on a comfortable apartment, I have friends and mentors, and other than Long COVID, my health is in reasonable condition.
But, I recently started to think, not about the things I’ve accomplished since moving back to Seoul, but about all the things I have not accomplished. I started feeling guilty. How could I be happy when I’ve lived in Korea for almost 2 years and still don’t really speak Korean? How could I be happy, when I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt that, at my current rate of repayment, will take me 45 years to repay, without interest? How could I be happy when I come home so tired at the end of the day, that I don’t even cook fresh meals for myself, let alone clean?
I started having conversations with myself, but, you know, in a not-crazy-enough-to-be-institutionalized kinda way.
For the purposes of clarity, MB= My Brain, Me= Me.
MB: Wow, your room is a disaster. Are you ever going to clean it? Or are you just going to continue being lazy?
Me: I’m not being lazy, I’m just so dead tired.
MB: You can’t even start the laundry you’ve been putting off all week? The washing machine does all the work!
Me: I have to sort it and pull out the things that can’t go in the washer, and then I have to stay up until the washing is done so that I can hang it to dry. It’s already 10:30, I don’t want to stay up another hour. I have work tomorrow.
MB: So does everyone else in the world! Other people manage to stay up late, get up early, and accomplish what needs to be done. Why can’t you?
Me: I’m doing my best.
MB: Are you? Are you really?
Me: I don’t know.
So, as you can see, my brain’s a bitch. I would never let anyone else talk to me like that, so why do I do it to myself? I suppose that’s something I’ll have to work out in therapy, so we’ll save that unpacking for another time.
To ease some of my self-inflicted guilt, I started trying to define what it means to do “my best”, and I had a sudden epiphany. If you did your best at everything, all the time, then it wouldn’t be your best, it’d be your normal.
If you did your best at everything, all the time, then it wouldn’t be your best, it’d be your normal.
Holy shit you guys. Is it possible to blow your own mind? My absolute best is not something I can realistically uphold at all hours of every day. It’s just not possible. Not just for me, but for everyone. No one can give 100% to everything, especially not someone with chronic illness.
So, now I need to redefine “my best”. The working definition I have so far is, “giving as much energy as I can realistically spare for this one task, while allowing for other tasks and human nature, as well as the nature of my illnesses”. Not exactly snappy, but it sums everything up quite nicely.
What does this mean for my Dream Life Project? I have goals to accomplish this year, and I know that I am capable of accomplishing all of them, just maybe not in the time frame I set for myself. I work full time, six days a week, and work an hour from home. I live with chronic illnesses, compounded with mental illness and Long Covid, and would still like to have a social life by the time this year is up. So, will I complete everything I set out for the Dream Life Project? Maybe not. But will that mean I can never accomplish these goals, or that I am going to stop trying?
Hell no. Doing my best means doing the best I can at that present moment.
(At some point, I’m going to write a post about how capitalism has coerced us into believing that ‘our best’ needs to be saved for our workplace, and everything else is secondary, but as I am currently doing my best for today, that post will have to wait.)
So, for the present moment, this is what I can give. And I’m okay with that.
What does “doing your best” mean to you?