"Does it feel weird to be back in New York?"
"No, the only thing that's weird about it is how weird it doesn't feel"
I repeated this interaction almost every day for a week. And every day it felt truer.
"Don't get me wrong, I know we live very comfortably here but... do you ever just have complete break downs? Like ugly cry break downs? I have those" a friend asks me back in Seoul.
"Oh yeah, I think that has to be a normal part of living abroad. Every so often it just gets to be so much. Three cabs passed you by before one picked you up, you just want to be able to buy dog food with out traipsing halfway across the city, you're missing one crucial ingredient that can only be found at the foreign food store - the little things, they just keep building up and then you remember you miss your friends, you miss your job... I think it's normal."
I sat in front of my computer Friday and I sobbed. Uncontrollable, unending, sobbing. I woke up and read that the bakery I was working for before we left for Korea, one of the few places I've felt sad to leave, was closing. I walked the dogs, holding back tears. I watched President Obama's statement on the shooting in Oregon, crying the whole way through.
These are, of course, two very different news events but my feeling of overwhelming powerlessness was the same.
For over a year I've had more time than is probably healthy to read the news. For over a year I've watched from abroad as my friends have taken to the streets in protest while the best I have to offer are retweets and facebook posts that, honestly, mostly are read by other people in my same liberal bubble, as we rack up racially motivated gun deaths and mass shootings in my home country. For over a year, I've felt fucking useless.
For over a year I've answered the question "what will you do when you go back?" with "Oh, I've been a baker for almost ten years, so I'll probably go back to baking. Honestly, I'd be happy to go right back where I left".
When we went to New York for a week in the Summer and I visited with friends and family, none of it felt weird until I was on the train to meet Dominique at SCRATCHbread and I started crying because I remembered this wasn't my life anymore and I wasn't going to wake up the next morning, put on my clogs and yell at the front of house for not telling me we were out of shortbread ten minutes ago. For over a year, I've thought my career could take the hit of a two year hiatus because at the end, hopefully, I could go back to a place where at least in my own little kitchen world, I was useful.
So in a two hour period, not only did I feel like I was completely useless at the moment but I also felt like all my future usefulness had just expired. I had a day of despair, of sobbing, of "I just can't anymore" and while I was having all that, I baked my friend a birthday cake and I decided it needed to be big because it was a big, fuck you world, cake kind of day.
Yeah, that's right, my fuck you to the world was a cake. We're probably going on 15 years of fuck you cookies, cakes and candy at this point. I get depressed or enraged and I create something and then I give it away. Sure, when I'm working, I'm selling it away, but still, it's my own tiny, daily protest.
The thing, of course, that kept going through my mind was that somehow, if I had been in America, I'd feel different or these things wouldn't have happened which is crazy. I am not singlehandedly responsible for preventing gun deaths in America and I think maybe one of the take aways from President Obama's speech is that we're not alone, we're not alone in being sad and frustrated and scared because he's the president of the United States of America, and he is too. And even if I had been at SCRATCHbread, giving my all, there's a good chance it still would've closed and I still would've spent the day sobbing. Most of the small businesses I've worked for have closed, food service is a hard industry. Neither of those statements are very comforting I guess but at least they take the blame away from living in Korea. I'm sad and that's fine and I'm going to sit with it.
I have to make a new plan for the future instead of living like I'm in a holding pattern that has another year to return to normal.
But ultimately, the plan is always the same.
Create more. Give more away.