from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #28: Five Years Later

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Today is the fifth anniversary of my release from those two years of captivity. New Year’s Day 2006 was four weeks late in coming but I stood just outside the white line that separated the base and the real world, captivity and freedom, depression and utter, indescribable joy, and took a deep breath of the crisp, free air. Science would say that the air on either the side of the line was the same and common sense would say that the air deeper inside the base was fresher (less greenhouse gases are produced when everything is powered by manual labor), but that air, oh God, that air was the freshest that have ever entered these tarry lungs.

Perhaps a better man would have resolved to take steps toward self-improvement. Perhaps he would have resolved to love more, enjoy life more, appreciate freedom more, plant a tree, take the world by the horns, bend the unseen, unyielding, and unpalatable forces of society to his will, challenge, fail and rise again, conquer, or at the very least step outside his apartment once in a while. I am not that better man. I spent the next eight months drinking and sleeping on random people’s couches and spare beds and racking up credit card debt. I returned to Korea, got a Master’s of extremely questionable utility, and took a completely unrelated job because the pay-work ratio was tolerable. I do appreciate freedom, a certain kind of freedom at least, the freedom to lie in bed and watch movies of dubious origin in the comfort of my own home.

I started work on this book in the fall of 2004, lying on an Army cot in a wooden B-hut in the middle of Afghanistan. Six and a half years later, I’m looking at the manuscript I haven’t touched for two months, wanting to re-write the whole damn thing and wondering when, if ever, I will finish the wretched result of my protracted, semi-creative endeavors. (The disadvantage of working on a computer—deleting a Microsoft Word file does not give the same satisfaction as crumpling up a piece of paper and throwing it in the waste basket.* I’m no tree-hugger.)

I am not deterred, however. January 28th is my personal New Year’s Day. Not January 1st and certainly not February 3rd (lunar calendar, this year). As I mentioned earlier, I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but having over a month of vacation before the new semester and having spent beyond my means to buy something I didn’t really need, I am ready to sit down and give it another try.

“I am now face to face with my destiny,” said Philippe, with his eyes on fire, and his face lividly white. “Is it likely to be more terrifying than my captivity has been sad and gloomy?”

The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexander Dumas

Terrifying? No. Frustrating? At times. Rewarding? Hopefully, soon. Very, very soon and very, very rewarding.

* Technology is stealing away life’s little pleasures. But damn, it makes life comfortable. Convictions versus comfort, there’s no debate for me.

Seinfeld on the iPhone (1’14”)


Written by Young

January 28, 2011 at 8:14 pm

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