Today’s Epiphany Provided by : Laura
Hello! I’m Laura, a 26-year-old who has been living and working abroad since 2013. While participating in a travel writing program in Lima, Peru, during college, I instantly became interested in the prospect of traveling long-term. So, after spending far too long in a miserably menial Corporate America dungeon, I decided to pack my bags and teach English in Seoul, Korea and it’s been an adventure ever since! I hope to inspire others who are interested in this lifestyle – anything is possible.
What advice would you give yourself at 20? And at 25?
When I was 20 years old, I was a bit of a know-it-all and unwilling to listen to anyone aside from myself. While I was very much dedicated to my studies, I wish I would have taken more opportunities that were presented to me. I was naïve in nearly all of my decisions and could have been a bit kinder to myself.
Fast forward to age 25, I would like to tell myself that it’s okay to fail. Shortly before I turned 24, I lost my brother and my grandmother within four months of one another. Following their losses, my life sort of spun out of control and I didn’t know how to handle it. In addition to grieving their deaths, I had been dealing with a lot of other problems in my life, but I was trying a bit too hard to be independent that I rarely asked others for guidance. I felt like I was fighting this massive internal fight alone, even though that never really needed to be the case.
However, A few months before I turned 25, I started gaining back my desire to continue to better myself and I got my life in order. I often wonder if I never went through that dark period if I’d ended up following my dreams.
Now that I’ve read what I just written and briefly reflected on what I went through and overcame, I would like to tell my 25-year-old self that she’s an absolute bad ass. I’m giving her a mental high five.
What does a quarter life epiphany mean to you?
To me, a quarter-life epiphany means making a series of mistakes for an entire spring season before finally crying on my couch next to my cat asking myself, “what are you doing with your life?”
It means spending each morning looking at myself in the mirror, demanding that I be better to myself and doing everything in my power to ensure that I followed through on that. It means feeling absolutely and completely lost, but having trust in myself that I was on my way to something better. It means growing up, regaining focus and realizing that I could do anything I put my mind to.
What was your quarter life epiphany?
I was lost and just pretty worn down. I decided that I needed a change to remove myself from this massive rut. So I moved to Seoul, Korea.
Where were you when you had your quarter life epiphany?
I was sitting on my couch, hungover after doing a night of standup comedy at a few different locations throughout the city. I decided that instead of continuing to make fun of myself in front of groups of strangers and peers I needed to be more accountable for my actions.
*For the record, I find NO issue with standup comedy. In fact, I love it. For me, I knew I wasn’t channeling my energy in the best way possible for myself and my personal actions at the time were quite destructive.
What do you think inspired your quarter life epiphany?
I can easily say that my quarter-life epiphany was triggered by all the aforementioned. I think the zenith of it all, the absolute peak of realization, was when I looked at myself in the mirror and noticed that my eyes were just emotionless and dull. I couldn’t bear the thought of feeling that lost for an extended period of time.
How are you different now than before your quarter life epiphany?
I wouldn’t say I’m a different person, as I’ve pretty much stayed true to myself since a young age. However, as any major life change occurs, life lessons are learned and we can grow for the better. That’s essentially all I did – I took an unfortunate situation and tried to spin it into positivity almost immediately, which really seemed to help. I started really caring about my health and my well-being and two years later I feel much more mentally strong and capable.
I moved to Korea without really knowing a single soul, having little to no knowledge of the native language and barely having a clue about the culture. In turn, I’ve met the love of my life and gained more knowledge about myself than I could have ever imagined.
What advice would you give to others who want to make a major change in their life?
My advice is to explore all potential options and never downplay your emotions or needs. I think it’s best to never make promises to anyone when you’re happy, never make a rash decision when you’re sad and never give an answer for anything when you’re upset. Accept that things may not always work out in your favor, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying.
What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
I faced a hell of a lot of challenges, but the biggest one was giving up my need to always be right. I’ve learned it’s not important to always get the last word in!
What do you wish more people realized?
I wish more people realized how important it is to be nice to themselves. Be kind to your body, be kind to your mind and the chances are, your life will become a bit brighter. I also wish more people realized that they aren’t alone if they’re ever feeling lost in life – some people are just better at hiding it than others.
What advice would you give to someone having a quarter life crisis?
We’ve all been there. You’re not alone – essentially everyone is going through a continual crisis as we get older. Nobody really knows what it is exactly they want to do, and life ebbs and flows like that beautifully. In all honesty, I think the mentality of “fake it ‘til you make it” is powerful.
I OCCASIONALLY travel solo, because I think…
It gives me a sense of independence and forces me out of my comfort zone.
I get through long flights by…
I am one of the lucky ones who generally asleep before take off. However, I always have a good book and headphones available.
The cause that really gets me riled up is…
I am extremely passionate about sex trafficking victim advocacy. The fact that it is so hard to police on a local and international level is daunting.
When traveling, I always miss…
I always miss seeing live music in Chicago, watching American football at a pub and Chipotle burritos.
I REALLY want to visit…
Myanmar. Luckily I’ll be heading there next spring!
Best travel tip?
For me, it’s important to keep an open mind and have patience. There are times when things are going to backfire and not work out in your favor, but that’s okay! In these situations, just try to laugh it off and chalk it up to the old phrase, “shit happens.” Another thing: HANGER IS REAL. Pack snacks and stay hydrated, otherwise you may find yourself saying something you’ll regret later.
Best packing tip?
I roll all of my clothing items to ensure maximum space.
Worst travel experience? What did you learn?
While my boyfriend and I were visiting Beijing for the 2015 Chinese New Year celebrations, the smog was so thick we could barely see anything. As if that wasn’t enough, an unexpected snow storm hit about halfway through our bus ride to The Great Wall of China, which, mixed with the smog, created a massive white out.
Although we were upset, James and I remained calm and tried to be as hopeful as possible. However, once we got off the bus, we immediately discovered that he had been pick-pocketed. I bent down to pick up a note pad he dropped on the ground, and doing so the zipper on my coat completely broke, making it unable to close (a minor issue, but boy was it cold!) We comforted one another on the cab ride to the Wall, trying to look on the bright side. However, once we reached the point in the queue to purchase tickets, we were told the option to buy tickets to toboggan down the Mutianyu section was closed due to the storms. They also suggested we take a ski lift up to the top due to the conditions of the wall. Our original plan was to hike up the wall and take a toboggan down, so it was a major let down. Needless to say, once we reached the top of the wall and couldn’t see beyond 9 or so feet in front of us, we felt extremely defeated.
To bring some comical relief to the situation I kept referring to it as “The Decent Bridge of China” and we chose to slide down the icy stairs on our butts rather than risk slipping.
While it seemed like absolutely nothing went right that day, it’s certainly one of my most memorable experiences. James and I are able to laugh about it now, which is great. We make a great team. I learned to just try to stay as calm as possible and it instilled the notion that comic relief is extremely important.
Current city versus home city? What’s different between the two?
Comparing Seoul to anywhere in America is just impossible. There are so many different aspects that are differing about the cultures. Seoul is very homogenous, whereas uniqueness is celebrated in Chicago. Though they’re both larger cities, I find the way people drive in Seoul to be far more dangerous – life threatening even.
The way of life is much different. Everyone in Seoul seems to be operating at a fast pace while being far too concerned about what others think. However, in a more positive light, I find that Korean people are far more willing to help out others compared to people in Chicago.
Favorite place to live?
This is too hard to choose!
Favorite place to visit?
I really love Vietnam and I’m excited to return for an extended period next spring!
Find out more about Laura!
Laura’s Blog – Willful and Wildhearted
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If you enjoyed Laura’s Quarter Life Epiphany – check out the others in the series by clicking here!
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