What’s the first thing you romanticized? The smell of the ocean? A pine-clad hill? Curly red hair. The Yorkshire Dales. Lamplight. Used bookstores and third cups of tea. Your uncle’s record collection.
A longing for a time and place that can’t be yours.
I work so hard to tell stories because outside of them, only the tiniest fraction of the universe is available. It’s depressing if you think too long about it. I try not to.
I spent most of my childhood fantasizing about being somewhere else. My home is a place that could, on one hand, be described as an ethereal, magical place. A place hidden in fog and time, where stories are born and shaped.
On the other hand, it could be described as a crappy, cold place where it’s hard to find a job and the local pastime is drinking or snowmobiling. Sometimes both, much to the chagrin of the local police force.
The first thing I romanticized, growing up here, was anywhere else. Especially the big cities. New York. Paris. God, Paris. London.
I have only spent a few days in each of those. As I get older, I find them too smoggy, polluted, and full of strangers.
It’s because of Seoul. It was my home for two years. I was twenty-one the first time I went. It was my lost weekend, my first time away from home, living away from my parents. I was an adult and yet at my most naive. I was surrounded by people and felt alone in the middle of it all. When it was over, I was done. You walk away from a period in your life like that and you know you won’t go back to it.
That city swallowed me whole and when it spat me back out, I was not the same. Not worldly, like I thought I was. Not at all. But it gave me a foundation- something to build my life on. A hope that I could go anywhere and tell stories.
They’ve been fermenting for more than ten years and I’m ready to tell the Seoul stories now. But I don’t romanticize big cities anymore. I prefer Amiens to Paris and Dublin to London. Much of the time I’d rather be in the woods. But for stories, and for a young woman from a tiny corner of the world, it was a hell of a crash course.
And it lived up to the romance. Some of the time. But I’ll get to that.