“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
― Leo Tolstoy
After a long hot summer, I eagerly waited for the seasons to change. And as much as I wanted temperatures to dip, I secretly, dreaded the thought of facing the Korean winter. I had heard unfavourable stories of gloom, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and the freezing cold from friends. My trysts with negative temperatures were few and never lasted more than a week or two — the duration of our trips. I knew, of all the challenges I had already faced, this would probably be the hardest. And as fall came and went, and took every bit of colour along with it; it left behind bare naked trees and emptiness. And strangely, there was a kind of beauty — even in the nothingness of the scenery.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tau
Temperatures slowly dropped from November and continued to plummet through December. And I seemed to be handling the cold surprisingly well. December brought along a little chaos, but steadied quickly with the holiday season. It’s hard to stay gloomy with all those lights burning up the night. And I learned that festivity can kill any form of SAD. And Seoul is known to be a festive place and almost every season is reason enough to celebrate change. Sometimes it can be a bit much, but in winter, you learn to appreciate even the excessiveness. You also realise how much the elements can make or break your spirit.
“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….”
― Erica Jong
And just when I thought that I had successfully conquered the cold — it was January. The month, when winter makes you realise how low is LOW. Last week warnings of cold winds, from Siberia, made it to the local news. Strangely, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. My Korean friends had already told me about cold winds blowing, from Siberia, through winter. What could be different now? It’s not like I could see snow anywhere. After being unable to feel my face or my fingers, in just 5 mins of walking outside; I realised, Siberia must be very cold and you should take warnings seriously.
“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.”
― Stephen Chbosky
Turns out, January is also the month (after December) when most of my friends decided to leave for home. Friends who will now be reduced to names in my contact list. Saying goodby is never easy and in the cold — all the more hard. Sometimes, I feel as if, I have boarded a virtual plane that goes nowhere, and yet, I get to travel the world, through the eyes of my co-passengers who keep hopping on and off from different parts of the globe.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein
Anna was the last to leave and she wanted to watch sunset, together, at Naksan. I almost cancelled it because of the Siberian winds and, like me, she initially thought it to be a bit excessive. I’m glad, I didn’t, otherwise I would have missed a fantastic experience. As Anna, Andrea(her friend), and I climbed the old Seoul wall, we spoke on a number of topics that plague our world today. Setting the ambience, for our discussion, were the celestial bodies of our sky. In the foreground, the sun slowly dipped towards the horizon and behind us, the moon rose from the spires, of the churches, in the cityscape. It was hard not to feel overwhelmed by it all. The words we spoke, the precision of those heavenly beauties, and the thought of not meeting again melted together. And yet, when you see the elements coalesce, you can deal with anything. A goodbye or even a chill.