I’ve always been a bit perplexed about love. It’s hard to understand a primal emotion in its entirety — when it has the power to numb the rational centres of your mind. In my angsty twenties, I wanted to stay away from it. I couldn’t have my mind clouded by frivolous emotions and lose focus from the bigger picture. I had watched many around me succumb to love and it didn’t seem like a state I wanted to be in. But you know what’s the funny thing about love? It just happens.

But could it possible that we’re programmed to believe in a kind of ‘love’ that’s meant to boost the sale of consumer products? Could it be possible that we have forgotten what love really is? Could it possible that even if it’s staring at us, we’re looking somewhere else because it’s not what we expected it to be? And could it be possible that we’ve forgotten how important it is to feel loved because we’re just too busy trying to fall in love?

Artist Byun, Ji Hyun

As a child, I felt love all around me. It was a good place to be in and those were possibly the happiest years of my life. But when you’re the youngest (amongst siblings and cousins), you live in a surreal bubble of cotton candy and all things pretty. You’re the last to find fault in parents. You’re the last to discover the harsh and grim realities of life. You’re the last to leave home. And yes, you’re also the last to grow up.

Artist Heo, Su In

Once that bubble pops, it’s hard to feel that kind of love again — or at least the way you felt before. As I keep getting older and the physical distance that separates me from my parents keeps increasing, I find myself yo-yoing between pangs of nostalgia and an empty void. I convince myself this space exists because of who I’ve become today. On a recent trip back home, I found myself observing my parents minutely. I was so much like them that I realised how wrong I was about being different. There was nothing original about me and my pride was just childish stupidity. I am one part dad’s quick temper, one part mum’s sensitivity; one part dad’s rationality, one part mum’s creativity; one part dad’s love for simplicity, and one part mum’s obsession to accumulate. It’s possible they alway knew it and kept it to themselves, while I dwelled on the growing space between us. That’s why, they always welcome me with open arms andย no matter how old I’ll be, or how many grey hair I’ll have, I’ll still be their youngest kid.

As an expat, love is a tricky situation. It’s hard not to be swept by the wave of isolation and loneliness. And it’s equally likely the other person is being swept by a similar wave. I’ve found most people taking refuge under the safety net of language — not necesarrily nationality. I’d hear words float around me in Korean, different English accents, French, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and even Portuguese. As groups formed around me, I was always the odd one. Language has never been my identity and I always fell in love with people rather than their identity. As an introvert, I struggled to be a part of any group. I’ve never been a person who could follow a group and most group interactions have been disastrous for me. Thankfully, over time, groups disintegrated or dwindled in members. I finally found acceptance in these groups and my friends have been kind to translate every sentence — so that I don’t feel left out. We forget how important kindness is because we’re looking for love.

There are so many acts of kindness that I see around me. Most of the local shop owners and bakers recognise me instantly. There are very few foreigners where we live and it’s easy to stand out. Over the years, I’ve become a regular at these shops. I don’t have to be the first to smile or say hello. I’m always greeted by a smiling face on the other side. Acceptance is also a building block for friendship.

As an introvert, I’ve also found it hard to make new friends and even harder to keep them. I’d like people to understand me and accept me the way I am. But, more often than not, I find myself becoming a people-pleaser in the process. And when you become a people-pleaser, it’s very easy to lose yourself. Days are built around loving everybody around you and that just keeps adding pressure on being the perfect person. But, no one really talks about learning to love yourself first. Self-acceptance is the hardest quality to have today when you’re always being told you’re never going to be good enough. It’s never possible to have it all and why should we have it all? Why can’t we be happy with what we have and learn to cherish it without feeling empty?ย The long winter is nearly over and spring is a month away. The sun will be out more often and the birds will sing again. And that’s a good reason to smile today…


Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

35 replies on “Love Stories

  1. ‘Acceptance is also a building block for friendship.’ This I so agree with and that’s so important if we want to be with or be around someone for the long haul. Over time people will change and if they really matter to us, we’ll have to accept them for who they are. Like you, I am an introvert and found it hard to fit in all my life growing up. I had to learn self-acceptance the hard way for so many years, and it hasn’t been until these feel years I feel, yeah, let me do what I want, and if others have an issue with it, f**k it XD Not everyone will agree. That said, without a tribe it can be lonely. But love and all of those feelings of belonging always show when you least expect it ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mabel! I know we’re so similar. I’ve read your work and I can relate to what you write and feel.
      I’ve loathed myself for years. I never felt I was good enough and it’s taken a toll on me and my confidence. Social media never really helps when everything is measured in numbers and likes. Umm…but it has also taught me a lot. I’ve come across so many people who feel the same shit and are talking about it. I never understood what it is when they said you should ‘love yourself’. It all makes sense now and I feel more at ease with who I am. I started writing this post as something else and I just went with the flow. I think I must have rambled…Thanks for reading. xoxo

      1. This really turned out to be such a well-written post, and so lovely to hear you got so much out of self-love. It’s so important. Keep writing and being yourself, Cheryl ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Well written, and I do recognize myself in many ways. Introvert, much loved as a child, never fitting in in groups or “out there” in the society. In some ways a people-pleaser, always a loner. Loving yourself is the most difficult but also the most necessary thing…to live a good life. Thank you for posting.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment, Ann! It truly means a lot to me. It’s hard to explain my predicament and my need to be alone (not lonely) — just to gather my thoughts. I’ve always wondered how two introverts would meet? I’ve found so many on the blogosphere and it’s so nice to know that it’s perfectly OK to be me! Big hugs, Cheryl.

      1. Hugs back, Cheryl. Life is there to be lived. Sometimes I lock myself in on the toilet when I have to go to a party or have to “behave” at a big dinner. I just have to be alone and collect my face, brace myself for the next hour. โ™ฅ

      2. Awww! I know how that feels. I avoid most parties if I can. I find it difficult to have a rational conversation with more than 4 people. ๐Ÿ™‚ Most of my friends understand me and work around my need to be a recluse. I’m so fortunate. It’s good to know that I’m not alone. xoxox

  3. Love is like God; everybody talks about it, but no one seems to have an objective definition of exactly what it is that we can all agree on. No wonder we’re confused. I suppose it’s like many things, it’s there if we’re open to it, but we may not be open to it because we fear losing it.

    1. I agree, Dave. I’m equally confused about God. ๐Ÿ™‚ The fear of loss and the pain that comes along could stop us from being open to many things. I guess, sometimes, it’s better to experience before thinking or over-analysing.

  4. Something to think about but I suspect we will never find the answer. However, I am reminded of Woody Allen’s quote from his movie, “Love and Death”.
    “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

  5. The thing with an introvert is that they find it hard to make friends but when they do it is for a long time. They have a different way of seeing things and sharing stuff. Not everyone recognizes that. Happy to know that you are being treated specially by the locals, Cheryl.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Arvind. I agree, we take our time to make friends. At least people who we can really call friends and then we’re fiercely loyal. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m surprised by the number of my friends who are introverts and have stayed in touch despite habit not keep in touch regularly. I’m also a recluse. ๐Ÿ™‚ It takes a lot to get new people to be kind to you. I’m glad I was patient and stuck through it all. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Cheryl, The world is large enough to provide us with enough of our kinds. It is just a matter of chance and luck. As for keeping the friendship alive despite not being in touch, it is all about striking that chord. If we have same wavelength, distance and time are irrelevant. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Thank you for this beautiful and honest well written treatise on love. Very interesting that you weave in the concept of being an introvert with the concept of love ~ food for thought. I may have to come back to these comments after I process it a bit. I also very much like the observations about being an expat as I have had this experience many a time. There is indeed a warm glow that comes from slowly becoming first recognised and then accepted and then welcomed by locals in your neighborhood (as a foreigner). This of course takes some permanence in a location for this set of behaviors to evolve. Not sure I would have considered these forms of love before reading this post, but yes, you make a strong point.

    You also make some very interesting points about your cocktail of one part dad, one part mom…. Perhaps we notice these family traits when we spend time apart from family more so than if we never leave.

    Love the visuals especially the baby animals…. So cute. That feeling we get with animals (for those of us who resonate with the animal kingdom) is perhaps the purest form of love. Not complicated by inter personal relationship dynamics.


    1. Thank you for such a wonderful comment, Ben. Means a lot! I’m not sure if I was rambling when I wrote this or just hoping to get through the last phase of winter. It’s hard being an introvert in a world that wants us to get out there. I’ve written so many posts on it and I still find it hard to accept it. Being an expat has taught me a lot and while the journey hasn’t been easy — the experience has been truly rewarding. Being isolated makes one look for love in kindness, that’s how the thought came about. We’re so focussed on finding love and we forget all the other emotions that make us human. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have such an interesting relationship with dad and we’re always arguing about something. It’s taken me years to realise how much I’m like him and mum too. I agree, it must have something to do with the distance and age.
      Aww..the baby animals were so adorable! I wrote about it in my next post. I’m with you! Being with animals is so different and the feeing is hard to describe.
      Thanks once again for stopping by and writing such a wonderful comment.

  7. What a beautiful post Cheryl, full of introspection and, from what I can see. a self acceptance and self love that has been gradual. Youโ€™ve obviously grown so much and itโ€™s reflected in the way people respond to you now. Wish we were closer so we could be more than virtual friends. But Iโ€™m just happy to have met you here. ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ’•

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Miriam. It’s been a very slow process of self acceptance. Being positive is what change the game for me. Your blog has been inspirational in so many ways. I wish we were closer too. It would be nice to meet. Warm hugs from sunny Seoul! xoxox

  8. Thanks for making me smile this morning. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ I love that cardboard couple image and I’m glad you’re starting to be more at ease with yourself. Ease isn’t an easy thing. Believe me, I’ve spent 70 years trying and I still wake up unhappy with myself. Happiness isn’t a given, is it, and we should treasure it whenever we can. And I’m still smiling at the image of you and Ann -Christine behind your toilet doors. Many of us have done that.

    1. Your comment made me smile. I’m so glad we both have the ability to bond over smiles. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love your blog because it takes me on those wonderful walks and shows me how beautiful the world is. A big THANK YOU! I’ve started trying to treasure happiness whenever it comes. I completely agree with you.
      The cardboard picture is a shot from a famous Korean Drama. They’re pretty big here! Sending you warm hugs!

  9. This is such a beautiful post โค I can relate to it so much. Especially the portion about being introverted and naturally gravitating towards being a people-pleaser. Over my last few years of university and this passed year and a half in Israel, I have begun learning that it is not healthy for me to constantly be this way. Being conscious of this fact has helped me a lot though – because by being conscious of it, I'm now able to work on bettering myself. With regards to isolation, that's one thing I'm worried about for my upcoming move to Korea – but I'm also excited that it will push me to learn the language and get out of my comfort zone to meet new people and make new friends.

    1. There are so many of us out there! ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s good to know we introverts aren’t as alone as we feel.
      You’re moving to Korea? Which city? If you’ve lived in Israel for a year and half, it shouldn’t be too difficult. Language can be a problem here — even in the big cities. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ You’d make so many friends here and there’s lots to see. You have visited Korea (Seoul) before? I’d recommend taking a basic Korean class if you can. It will help you with the basics. The blogging circuit is very well connected here and there are many expat groups for women on FB and other mediums. I think you’d be fine! ๐Ÿ™‚ All the best!

      1. My plan is to move there ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m currently in the planning/researching stage, so not yet sure where I’ll end up! I would ideally be coming next spring – my guess is most likely as an English teacher of sorts – and if possible, I would love to live in Seoul.
        And I have visited Seoul before ๐Ÿ™‚ Though only for a short period of time, so I’m sure reality will be much different than my vacation. But I’m up for the challenge! Here’s to hoping I’ll be able to learn Korean while I’m there – I’ve been learning it on my own, but it’s definitely different than taking a class. Unfortunately, where I live in Israel doesn’t offer anything – so if I could somehow integrate a class while I live in Korea (instead of just learning by myself), that would be amazing.
        Thank you for the recommendations and tips โค

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