from the Korean Army to being published

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

Entry #48: Life Isn’t Fair (Shit Happens)

with 4 comments

J: “If you have children, what is one thing you’ll teach them?”

It’s a difficult question. The recorder is sitting on the table, recording the excruciating silence that will inevitably be followed by the first dumbass comment that pops into my head. Even with the security of anonymity, I don’t do well with pressure.

HB: “Life isn’t fair.”

I’m surprised by my answer. Jin, my interviewer, is surprised, too. I’m doing the interview as a favor but am already regretting it. What’s been said has been said so I try to explain what I meant even though I’m not sure myself.

HB: “Uh… what I mean is… I think that people expect life to be fair but it isn’t. We go around expecting fairness to dictate life and it isn’t and… we suffer because of it. When we’re kids, we’re always saying or thinking this or that isn’t fair and parents try to perpetuate this myth that things are fair but they’re not. So we grow up to be bitchers and whiners and… I don’t know… but I think life is much easier once we come to terms with the fact that it’s not fair.”

I know I’m spouting verbal diarrhea. It always happens. When I’m put on the spot, I pucker my oral sphincter, tying to think of something good to say but then time drags on and I get more stressed and more unable to speak, and when I can’t handle the pressure anymore, I relax the muscles and let it flow out of my mouth in an incomprehensible stream of bullshit.

HB: “Shit happens. It just does. People can’t handle it. We always have to find someone to blame but sometimes there’s no one to blame… or maybe we just need to blame ourselves. People are always shaking their fist at the heavens and saying, ‘Why, God? Why?’ Or people are looking for meaning or some kind of silver lining… but sometimes it doesn’t exist. Shit doesn’t have a silver lining. It’s just that… shit.”

Plop… plop… plop.

I realize that my answer is straying into the realm of being unhelpful for this interview, which Jin needs for an academic conference she’s attending next week in Michigan, so I force myself to stop and fight the urge to go on, like when someone else is waiting for the stall or I’m running late for something.

I’m far behind schedule in my manuscript, having written almost nothing in the past two months, and the section I’ve been stuck on is the period where I learned to accept life as it is. The first year in the Army was a very troubling time for me. I kept hoping for the universe to correct itself and serve up a cosmic apology and heaping portion of redemption on my plate, even up to my deployment to Afghanistan.

It was in the desert that I learned to stop worrying and at the very least accept the fact that things weren’t going to change. When I was finally presented with an out, a Korean-American officer who offered to take me (hiding in the trunk of her car) to the American embassy in Kabul, I shocked myself by politely declining. Regardless of what you call it, acceptance or resignation, it was freeing. Life didn’t get any better, but the raging tempest in my mind was replaced with tranquil seas.

After I returned to Daegu after the deployment, it wasn’t always easy—the Army made sure of that—but I was in a lot better shape mentally. During my last month as a corporal, I went on a short-term deployment with Ken, one of the few Army buddies with whom I still keep in contact. We were talking after lights out and he asked me, “How do you do it, hyeong?”

“Do what?”

“How do you not go crazy in here? It sucks for me, but I’m sure it’s much worse for you.”

I just shrugged and smiled my Buddha smile.

J: “My last question. Do you think you’re going to be a good father?”

I shrug. If I end up having kids, they’re either going to be fucked up or fucking saints.



4 Responses

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  1. “If I end up having kids, they’re either going to be fucked up or fucking saints.”

    May your kids end up fucking some saints. Genital transmission of holiness. (Hole-iness…)


    August 1, 2012 at 9:38 am

    • Haha. I’d like to say the double entendre was intentional but I can’t remember anymore.


      August 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm

  2. “Life’s not fair” is a good answer. My mom always told me that. Though it didn’t prevent me from shaking fist at the heavens, so maybe optimism is somewhat natural.

    Záhada Posedlá

    August 11, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    • Your mother seems like a smart woman. I was never told that but I think I knew it from an early age. But you’re right. Even though I knew it, I still expected life to be fair. It wasn’t until much later (maybe the Army) to realize it.


      August 13, 2012 at 9:04 am

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