Four years, one month, and 9 days ago, I logged on, sat up straight and wrote, what I was sure, couldn’t possibly be my last blog post. Nevertheless my last go at writing in it’s entirety. On September 22nd, 2011 in a tiny studio apartment in South Korea, thousands of miles from my family and any “normal” life I’d lived to that point, I happily typed away and uploaded bright, clear pictures of the bright, clear life I was delightfully living in my host country. Excited for the future, excited to wrap up the best year of my twenty-five as the equally long commitment to teaching in a English kindergarden in Hwajung, I had so spontaneously made, came to a close. I was super young, single, excited and eager, and full of energy to travel Southeast Asia alone for six weeks, spend a solid month in India practicing yoga, to then return home to my family and embark upon a new life in Savannah, my beloved hometown, as a graduate student of SCAD’s Writing program. I had little possessions and lots of saved money. I had strength and support that made me braver and than I ever thought possible. I was ready; energized by my awesome, life changing experience in South Korea. Looking back now, all this time later, the word vitality subtly flashes again and again in my mind’s eye, because vitality is commonly defined as life force and I don’t know a time before or since then that I’ve been so full of life.

Now. It’s November 1st, 2015. I’m sitting in the dim light of my giant (to me) apartment in Arlington, Virginia. I look out the window on this early fall morning, post a Halloween I stayed in to miss, post a daylight savings time change I was asleep too early to notice. I have a lot of stuff and little money saved. I have credit card debit and a big girl job. I’m 30. THIRTY. I’m happy and fulfilled in my job as a pre-k 4 charter school teacher in our nation’s capitol, but for whatever reason, the vitality I know I once had, and long for currently, is missing.

Having spent 13 years in Catholic school, what I’m doing now feels familiar and appropriately guilt ridden.

Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It’s been four years, one month, and nine days since I last wrote anything. Four years, one month, and nine days since I did my part. Since I bucked up, pushed procrastination, fear, confusion, and ego aside to do the thing that has forever been the most important thing to me. Writing. Creatively sharing myself with the universe. I say universe, not world because universe is a more accurate description of who is reading my writing. Who is exposed to the innermost workings of my creative soul. Back then, I wrote practically to keep my parents and close friends up to date on where I was and how I was doing. Being that far from home and having always been extroverted in my ways, blogging my year abroad was natural and seemed necessary. I wanted everyone to know I was alive and well, figuratively and literally. But whether or not I knew it fully then, or wanted to admit it, I also wrote for the universe. To release myself of the constant hair brained ideas, passing inspiration, and goofy inner monologue I was dealing with. And/or blessed with, really. So while “sharing myself with the world” seems to imply that I wanted or needed other humans to read the poppycock I was uninhibitedly spilling all over the internet, “sharing myself with the universe” more accurately describes what I craved and what now seems so desperately necessary it borderlines life and death.

Inspiration vs. Obligation

I felt so inspired to write during that formative year abroad. Everywhere I turned I was smacked in the face with some absurd experience or mind blowing encounter. I assume that many people who have spent a long stretch of time in as shockingly different a culture as I did, can attest to feeling similarly. I wanted to write it all down, share it with my family back home. Let my besties in Georgia, North Carolina, and New York all in on the joke. A little to maintain closeness and foster the connections I was so lucky to have made, but also to prove that my picking up and running off to the other side of the planet was neither in vain, nor totally insane. I was having real life experiences with little expectation attached and loving every minute. I was freely, playfully, and causally journaling my day to day without any fear or apprehensiveness to expose it all to the public.

And then life got in the way. As it does from time to time for everyone. Specifically my life, which at that point consisted of Vietnam visas, shipping personal belongings across oceans, and exchanging foreign money for even more foreign money. Those were labors of pure love, because when I got up from my computer that day in 2011, I was blissfully unaware that I was headed down a path of writers block, writers abandonment, writers guilt, and eventually, the worst of it all: inspiration drought. For this negativity was not even a thought passing in my sky, because all I had was positivity and excitement for my next and most outrageous adventure! With being “blissfully unaware” comes bliss, after all. And man what bliss it turned out to be.

I spent the next few months, hopping from one obscure country to the next, learning and living. Meeting all sorts of wild people. I ended up in the summer of 2012 at an Episcopal camp in the mountains of Western North Carolina, a home I felt called to, thinking that a 3 month commitment was all I needed, before I was to finally wind my way back to Savannah so immerse myself fully in writing; a creative life I couldn’t wait to lead. But something kept me away. Kept me from barely lifting a pencil all this time. I ended up spending two years in the woods (again, literally and figuratively) with little motivation to soul search and now find myself a year into D.C. living, looking back and wondering where the time went, or how it went so quickly.

So I’m back to the future. Back to where I was, while being so far from it all as well. I know now what’s been missing. Where my vitality went. It didn’t get lost down a dirt road in Cambodia or in the backcountry of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I didn’t turn in my creativity card all those years ago to now be requesting it back. My vitality and creativity, my inspiration, my obligation to myself to live a full, textured, varied, and deeply meaningful life has been within me this whole time. I buried it for some reason, still unclear to me. My writing is back. My clear, bright life will come back too eventually, and quickly, I believe, now that I’m putting pen to paper again (or finger to keyboard, really). I feel lucky to have had the history I’ve had with inspiration and creativity, because I feel like I got my future back.

CHUSEOK: Korean Thanksgiving…

Neat costumes… (or as history and culture would like us to call them, “hanboks”)

Pushing each other…

Chuseok ROCKS!

P.S. I’ve been quite busy trying to knock off items on my Korean bucket list as of late. Last Sunday I got the chance to visit Everland, Korea’s fake Disney World. It was AWESOME. Mega awesome. Rode the world’s steepest wooden roller coaster, watched Russian “cast members” dance to Korean kiddie tunes in a day-glow themed Halloween parade, ate seriously overpriced candy, saw a real life liger, and took a ride through the Korean equivalent of “It’s a Small World.” It was way scarier than the roller coaster. Like Chuckie’s great- grandfather toured the world with the libido of one of the dudes from Jersey Shore and one million super CREEPY multi-cultural doll offsprings were created. Check it.

You’re Welcome!

…today, my Facebook status read…

Monica Phillips’s life revolves around Korean immigration.

Glad that’s over! Here’s to pushing through the bull malarkey and not giving up!

But not in the way Miss Houston once described in her hit song…

It’s started. Already. With the curtains coming down on my Korean experience in just a few weeks, I have already stated falling into this ridiculous habit of gazing at my students like a criminal/ father on death row. When I’m not attempting to shell out some form of disciplinary action or convincing kids that hangnails do not warrant a trip to the emergency room, I’m getting all teary eyed over the idea that I won’t be seeing them everyday, in the not so far off future. It doesn’t help that I got this note this afternoon from one of my grade 1s.

To Monicateacher
Hey! Monicateacher I love you very monicateacher. I like you! very very much you are very very very very good teach when I ever see it. Thanks.
from Nicole

Seriously. I almost wept. Is that not the most adorable? But, she might need to knock off one of those verys when referencing my teaching skills by the looks of her writing skills.

This is pretty high up there on the adorable scale too…

What in the world are these young scholars discussing, you ask? Does it matter? They are just SO ADORABLE. FYI, Andrew is talking about a TV commercial for the Galaxy Tab (the iPad’s Asian cousin) where it shows a cobra on the screen and the tab eats a cell phone (of a rivial company’s make) with an elephant on the screen, or something to that effect. At the time, I was like, am I witnessing the side effects of fetal soju syndrome? but then I randomly saw the commercial on TV and totally felt bad for questioning my little man. Are they not smart or what? And they remember EVERYTHING. It’s scary. But not as scary as how attached to these kiddies I’ve become.

This is weird. Only two more months of Korea. Can you believe? I can’t. I feel like I just got off the boat a few days ago. Just worked up the courage to start a blog. Just said BUH-BYE to the good ol’ U S of A. And now… here we are. Wrapping things up, more or less. I really can’t believe it.

I’m planning a big Top Ten post in the spirit of a truly great American, David Letterman, to come soon. I just started a new yoga class in the early morn’ so I’ve been going to bed super early to compensate for getting used to a 5:45 a.m. call time. I’ll get my waking up early ju-ju back soon enough and with that’ll come a brilliant post full of hilarity and wisdom wrapped up all special like for you to sink your teeth into. Not unlike a delicious order of Korean gimbap (my current fav). Until then… here are some random visual highlights of the past year…

(that don’t really warrant their own individual explanations)

I’m so glad I don’t get my panties in a knot planning things too far in advance. Not planning gives you flexibility. Flexibility brings people and opportunities to your life that you never thought you’d meet/ be presented with.

“Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.” – Victor Kiam

Darling Mr.Kiam. You’re cute. That’s adorable.


In an effort not to get too mysterious here… I had a looong talk with Ma and Pa about this Fall/ Winter… I don’t wanna jinx it… I’m super pumped… if it works out… let’s just say… IT’S ALL HAPPENING.

North Korea being fussy, per usual.