Ah, I can do that…

As I mentioned in my last post, the weather in Seoul lately has been HOT…humid, muggy and damp. I live in an oktapbang (roof top apartment), the top floor of a old concrete building built in the 70s. It’s spacious compared to average one room apartments in Seoul, it’s cheap and the location’s great but getting through the hot summers is one challenge everyone who’s lived in an oktapbang can relate to. After getting back to Korea I found out my air conditioner was broken. So, I had to call up the service center for assistance. Simple enough…Right?

Despite being in Korea for a while and having reached a high level in my Korean, I still get nervous when dealing with things like this. I worry there will be a communication breakdown over the phone while I speak in Korean..or that the assistant will ask me repeatedly, “What did you say??”. For a long time, making this type of call in Korean was something I was unable to do. Even as my listening’s improved along with my conversational abilities, the fear and nervousness around putting myself out there and making calls in Korean has remained. Yet, this time, after much deliberation I said “Fuck it, I got this”. I felt a confidence, a part of me that said “Don’t worry. This is how you learn. You make mistakes”. Before making the call, I prepared notes about all the things I expected to be asked about: air conditioner model name, address, phone number, what happened, etc. I prepared any vocab/sentences I needed on a scrap paper and made the call.

Upon answering, I first said “I’m a foreigner, so please speak slowly”. And then we talked. A few minutes later I was told to wait for a call from a technician who would stop by my house this week. That’s it. Done. I felt a wave of pride and satisfaction, giving myself a invisible pat on the back…and I was reminded again, “I can do this….”. Sure, my pronunciation and intonation sometimes are a bit off and I had to ask the customer service agent to repeat herself once, but that’s not to get hung up on the mistakes. The mistakes are part of the process, and I did something that, at one point, wasn’t possible to me.

The lesson of this whole episode was that it’s easy to under-estimate ourselves…fearing the worst, thinking we can’t do something…That’s natural…but eventually, to move forward, you need to act. I usually will ask a Korean friend for help in these situations…but this time, I felt the desire to prove to myself I can handle this on my own. Half the time when you just say “Screw it, I’m doing this”, you’ll do better than you expected. The key towards success in anything is to re-orient from good/bad, win/lose, black and white thinking to a creative approach where the lines between these distinctions are blurred. Life is not clear cut, and we’re not born perfect. We learn through experience, and that includes pain, embarrassment, uncertainty, etc. This time, I felt a clarity in myself, somewhere deep down in my core the words “I’ll make mistakes, and that’s how I’ll learn, this is the way forward” echo up, passing through my mind. This is the way forward.

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