I used to have a morning commute, drink too much expensive coffee and sit in a desk from 9-5 just like the rest of Chicago does.
I worked in fashion, lived in Lincoln Park, shopped on Michigan Avenue, partied on yachts, flew in private jets, ate at extravagant restaurants, attended black tie affairs (you get the idea) and overall tried to ignore the fact that I was becoming a boring, mundane, basic, and superficial.
I found myself one day at five-star hotel, eating room service, staring out at the window at my gorgeous city skyline feeling painfully miserable. I couldn’t remember who I was before the world told me who I “needed” to be. Who was I before I was constantly striving to fit into the mold of a “beautiful young lady,” capable of a strong man with a bright future to give me a sappy, romantic-comedy-like marriage, children, jewelry, a fancy house and my happily ever after.
I wanted something more. Something different. Something I could look back on and be proud of. Something that would outlive me.
I wanted to leave a legacy worth following.
So with not a word of Korean and no legitimate plan, I pared my possessions down to almost nothing, quit my job and said goodbye to the picturesque life I carefully created for myself, because in my heart I wanted something different. And moved to Seoul, South Korea for a year to teach English to over 75 kindergarteners a day.
Why? Because I don’t want to live the same year 75 times and call it a life.
I want to stuff my eyes with wonder and form my very own opinion of the world. I want to uncage myself from what the rest of my generation and peers have fallen into. I want to make a difference in a child’s life, in a stranger’s life and in my own life. I’m doing this because I want to stop concerning myself with what others think or care about and focus on ideas that matter to me, beliefs I can stand by and tickets I can run on. I’m doing this to encourage others to go against the grain, to be someone who did something unique and now has countless adventures, experiences and no fear. If you do what everyone else is doing, life won’t feel very spontaneous. Period. But at least you’ll feel safe and secure, right? You’ll know what comes next because it’s been done before, a millions times, by everyone else. But what’s the point in living in comfort if it comes at the cost of your dreams? It’s mind-blowing to me how many people trade the chance to be fully alive for the seemingly safe harbor of the know, only to arrive at the last hour of their last day and realize they did nothing with their ONE life because they were scared. Run a marathon, hike a mountain, learn to scuba dive, go to the airport and pick a destination once you get there…Do something, ANYTHING to give your life meaning, to make yourself feel alive, to tell your kids about. You won’t regret it. I promise.
Photos by Valerie Denise