Merriam-Webster defines the word, surreal, as "marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; also: unbelievable, fantastic." Last Friday, I flew back to America, and to say that this week has been filled with a whirlwind of emotion would be quite an understatement. I said my goodbyes to my school, my friends, my church, and the city of Gwangju. Many of the events have been, no doubt, surreal.
My contract ended on April 25, just in time to fly into Los Angeles on April 26 to make it to the wedding of one of my best friends, Matt. The wedding was at a small, but gorgeous church on sort of a cliff, overlooking the southern California pacific coast. The architecture of the church was Spanish. It was marked by traditional white Spanish stucco, and a red tile roof. It is my favorite style of architecture, and I hope that maybe my house will one day be built in that manner.
From that spot, we were able to see almost all of Los Angeles, and where the Pacific ocean begins. And the wedding commenced late in the afternoon as the sun was beginning to set, my favorite part of the day. The windows of this church were large, and fully displayed the amazing view of the city and the coast. The weather in Los Angeles, apparently, is always perfect, and this day was no different. It was surreal
Matt's bride was Indian, and she was given sort of a traditional Indian style wedding, as the dresses of the bridesmaids, and the bride were uniquely Indian, colorful, and stunningly gorgeous. I am one who admires well-kept traditions. And at a wedding, regarding bridesmaids, I had never seen a set of dresses that were more beautiful.
The bride's dress was also uniquely and traditionally Indian, and white. It was refreshingly modest. She was absolutely stunning, and to say that the ceremony was beautiful wouldn't give it justice. I was blessed to be a part of it. It was surreal.
Another great thing that made the wedding special was seeing numerous old friends. I haven't had a drink in over five years, and I have come to find out that another one of my friends, Adam, stopped drinking also.
The reception was at a place that was further up the hill from the church, so from the porch of the reception hall, you could see even more of the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. And by the time the reception was in full swing the sun had fully set, so the view of the city was an endless field of lights as far as the eye could see. It was surreal.
Adam and I had a moment, as we talked about the surreality of the view and the weekend. Many of my friends still drink. Some of them even still smoke marijuana. And Adam said something that made me think. He said, "I don't think that most of our friends in that reception hall who are all either drunk, stoned, or both can fully realize how surreal this moment is."
He continued, "I've come to appreciate surreal moments such as this. They make you feel alive. I'm glad I quit drinking, because you can fully appreciate them in a way that you can't when you are not sober."
This week has been filled and overflowing with surreal moments. Beginning last Sunday, I broke down, as I got up in front of my church to tell them good bye. I also broke down when I told some of my favorite classes filled with children that I've grown to truly love that I may never see them again. Several of my students wrote me letters in broken English explaining that they will miss me, and that they hope I have a good time in America. My girlfriend and I broke up. On my last day of work, I broke down as I took off my lab coat, said goodbye to the woman who helps us foreign teachers at my school, Mrs. Ahn, and my principle, Mr. Ryu, and stepped into that elevator leaving work for the last time. The week was filled with surreality.
I've made it no secret that I am moving to Seoul. One of my recruiters squeezed in two interviews in the morning before my flights, because it didn't take off until 6:50pm. One of them was short, and by the book. The other one was rather in depth, and I could tell that the director of this school was rather thorough. She asked me a question about my teaching style. I began to explain my style to her, which is to love my students first and foremost. I continued by mentioning that I may never see many of my kids from my old school again. And as I went on to explain how I really hoped that my students will remember me as a good teacher, I broke down yet again. It was a surreal moment. Luckily, both the people who were conducting the interview were women around whom I felt comfortable.
Many of you may think that I am this big "softie," and that may be the case, but all these moments were filled such emotion, and that interview happened when all of those surreal moments were so fresh in my mind. I couldn't help it. I don't think I've ever cried this much in one week.
I thank God for these surreal moments, and I don't believe I am being selfish in asking for many more. As Adam explained, these surreal moments make us feel alive. They enable us to appreciate life. Luckily, Jesus says in the Bible, "Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened." I believe God wants us to appreciate the life he gives us, and when we recognize that we are alive in these moments, we are able to more clearly see his work in our lives, and in our environments.
These surreal moments are all around us. They don't have to always be on top of the hill in the sunset on Redondo Beach overlooking the city. They can be every day moments in life. The key to seeing them is to live life with a positive mindset, and a thankful heart. Cynicism and a complaining mentality are two things that truly blind and numb a person to them.
I pray for more of them. And my prayer is that you would experience them also. God bless all of you.