Can we talk about being a young adult?

No really. Can we talk about being a 20 -something year old person outside of careers and dating/marriage/kids? As a 25 year old woman, I sometimes wonder why I hear so little discussion about the other things that affect my life.  I hear so much about kids and marriage (or at least dating and heading towards serious relationships) but what about those other pieces in our lives? What about spirituality, learning more about ourselves, defining what success means for us, learning what makes us feel vulnerable and what simply makes us happy? Heck, what about discussing how to take the time to develop as a person?

I tell my mom pretty often that I feel short changed. Why? Because as we grew up, adults would talk about relationships (mainly about sex) but very, very. very little about other things that encompass an adult life. While there are some things we simply learn by doing, it would be nice to discuss some of the big things we might experience during our young adult years. It would be nice to know that some of the uncertainty we may feel is normal and learn ways to cope and work through it . Our parents (and other adults) can’t tell us everything that we may face, just having something to go on, just some discussion, about the experiences of the adult life would be great.

 

Take a peek into my TaLK life!

Maybe you’ve wondered what there is to do while living on a small island in South Korea…Well here’s a video that shows a few of the (fun) things I’ve done between Spring and Fall 2015. (More videos to come soon) 

Enjoy and leave a comment below! Could you live the Jeju Life?

Click Here —> My TaLK Life Video

My Honest, HONEST Feelings about Dating in Korea

Warning!!!!

If you are highly sensitive about race and gender (and the intersections between the two) this post may not be for you! For those who are open to understanding the dating game in Korea for Black women (from what I’ve observed after a year here) please read on and comment below! (Keep in mind I don’t live in Seoul. I live in a small city and other cities may be different) (For tips on dating in Korea as a Black woman see my last paragraph)

One of the FIRST things I noticed when I moved here was the (foreigner) male infatuation with Korean women. It started with the constant talk about how Korean women are beautiful or sexy or sweet (etc.) and how foreign men dreamed of  dating them. When you live abroad in Korea, Korean women are considered some sort of prize to be won. While for many guys, dating a Korean woman is a bragging right, something to high five and something to boost their egos, to others Korean women are datable because they simply are KOREAN and KOREAN= WORTHY in their eyes. 

On the other hand, many Korean guys want to date white women, simply because they are white women. I’ve seen no other reasons given for this dating preference. No Korean guy has ever said “Oh I date white women because they have this set of characteristics that no other group of women possess.”  The whiter, blonder, and blue eyed the woman, the more likely the Korean men are to jump up and want to date her and often, it’s considered more acceptable to date a white person if a Korean wants to date a foreigner. (Notice how many white dancers and actresses are featured in Kpop videos)

Now, with all that said, where does that leave a Black woman in the dating game in Korea? Well, oftentimes both situations leave us out completely. While Korean women and white women will receive a man’s interest simply for being Korean and white, the same sort of attention and consideration is not passed along to Black women. Now, this is not to say that my friends and I want to date some foreigner or Korean man with a Black girl fetish or simply because they want an ego boost.  This is to say that we want to be considered simply because we are human beings. We want to be considered because we are interesting people with great personalities. We don’t want to constantly be overcoming barriers that no other group of women has set before them.

Oftentimes, I feel that where white and Korean women are offered love simply because of who they are, Black women must constantly be trying to prove our value to everyone to be offered any sort of love. We have to prove we are NOT the stereotypes that many people hold about us. It’s almost as if I need to hand out resumes to make men understand that I have value too! It’s beyond annoying!

As my friend likes to say “I’m an awesome person, why can’t that just be enough for guys?” – Honestly, I don’t know why we have to work so hard as Black women to be seen as worthy of consideration as possible dates or partners. It’s an issue we experience at home in the U.S., but in the small foreigner community in Korea, we feel it with a stronger sort of intensity. Seriously, I’ve had to endure stories about how awesome a guy’s ex Korean girlfriend was or how many dates with Korean women they’ve had or are going to have. While most people will say “Everyone is entitled to their preferences” or “It’s really not as bad as you make it out to be”, I say “Well, do you want to constantly be considered a last resort for romantic relationships?”

None of this is to say that I’m bitter for being single in Korea. I am just pointing out what I’ve seen here. My main goal for coming to Korea was to teach English and I’m happy I’ve been able to do that this long. As a 25 year old person, however, I do expect to be able to date sometimes and being in a place where that isn’t really possible is frustrating. If I was planning to stick around Korea for another year or so, I’d consider moving to a bigger city where there are more options for friendship and dating.

Tips:

So if you are a Black woman planning to come to Korea, don’t let this be a discouragement. Be aware of the issues you may face and also know that if you live in a bigger city (Daegu, Seoul, Busan, etc) your dating prospects will most likely be more open. Also, consider learning Korean, because that will also open up more possibilities for you. Don’t simply come to Korea because you want to date here. Come here with a purpose so that if the dating game proves to be dead, you still want to be in Korea! Also know that you are valuable simply as a human being and remind yourself of this every single day and surround yourself with people who do the same! 

What Teaching Has Taught Me

I’ve always talked about what South Korea (or Korean culture) have taught me since arriving in this country in July 2014, but I haven’t really reflected on what teaching has taught me.

So here are a few things that teaching has taught me:

  1. Kids are kids, no matter where you go- I’ve heard many English teachers say that when they decided to come to Korea to teach family and friends said something like “Oh you’re going to Asia? The kids are going to be quiet, smart, and well behaved all the time,”. Okay, truth time- Korean children are just like the children you’ve observed in your home country and culture. They are loud and energetic and they want to have FUN! Luckily, I came into a teaching program that told me “You’re going to teach in the country/rural area. The kids will have big personalities,”- and for me, that has been a wonderful experience.
  2. Teaching is hard but it’s awesomely rewarding too- Teaching children to speak English is difficult sometimes. Since I don’t speak Korean, I have to rely on examples, repetition, acting, making silly sounds, singing silly songs, and anything else I can come up with. I also have to rely on the help of my Korean co-teacher, who assists with translations and class management.  There are challenges in the classroom. A kid may not understand the material or they’re tired and don’t want to participate. I’ve dealt with tears, angry outbursts, and meltdowns too. But for all the difficulty teaching has presented, I can say that it’s a wonderful feeling when your students actually understand something new or you see their ability to speak and understand in English begin to grow overtime. It’s the days when you say something in English to a kid, thinking that they won’t understand, only for them to answer you. As one of my most energetic third graders has said (in Korean to my co-teacher) “I understood what Tabitha teacher told me to do”. He couldn’t respond in English but he comprehended enough to follow my directions with no help or translation. And trust me, for a kid who jumps off desks and runs laps in my classroom at 9 am, that made me feel great!
  3. When you teach, you will feel OLD!- My students are the MASTERS of making me feel old! I keep telling myself “I am NOT old! I just graduated high school 7 years ago! Things haven’t changed that much right?” Well, turns out things have changed that much. I asked my 5th and 6th graders when they thought the very first IPhone was made and they said “2002”. These kids think smartphones have been in existence for as long as they have been. They have no idea that Spongebob Squarepants has been on air longer than all of them have been alive (whereas, I still remember its debut on Nickelodeon). They don’t understand why old flip phones did nothing but call people. They also don’t understand why I’m outraged at them having smartphones in the 1st grade (I didn’t get a flip phone until 16!). And most of all EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE SO MUCH TECHNOLOGY, THEY STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.  I still have to say “Hey why don’t you use that translator app on your phone to help you write in English,”- they understand smartphones are for playing games and texting friends, but they’re still kids. They still don’t understand the amazing technological capabilities they carry around in their pockets every single day.
  4. Teaching has taught me to love the “little kids”- Before coming to Korea, I was extremely concerned about teaching elementary school students. Before even applying, I always saw myself working with high schoolers because, in my mind, little kids where just not much fun. Now, I love the little kids. I love teaching the ABCs and shapes and colors and watching my students learn to say their first English phrase and be able to answer their first questions in English. It’s amazing! The enthusiasm of a first grader is contagious! It MAKES you want to work hard to teach and engage them! And hey, they’re also the only students who tell me they love me on a regular basis. AWWWW <3!
  5. Teaching and education make you a critical thinker– I’m always considering the “why” of things- it comes naturally to me. Teaching makes you consider the very purpose of education. You find yourself wondering why what you are teaching is important and how will it help your students throughout their lives. You are constantly thinking about your lessons and how they will help your students learn the material, and even why that material is important in the first place. Teaching is very much a field for critical thinking and learning new skills and new ways to help your students.

So there they are. These are a few things I’ve learned from teaching English in South Korea over the last 15 months!

Sit down with a teen/tween (and some adults too) in your life and watch a couple of episodes of Teen Mom 2

This post probably sounds silly. You’re probably thinking “Why would I ever watch that show? It just glorifies teen motherhood and made celebrities out of a few young women for having kids before they were prepared to,”.

Well, you’re right! The 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom franchise that has been produced by MTV for more than 5 years now HAS indeed created celebrities out of young, mostly white women for having children when they were still children themselves. This, however, does not mean you can’t use this show as an educational tool.

I’ve watched the recent season of Teen Mom 2 online mostly and with every single episode I watched I kept thinking “My GOD how could anyone watching this want to get pregnant or put themselves in any of these situations?!” I’m 25 years old and some of the things these young women are dealing with (for instance, being married and divorced twice, all while raising three kids and struggling with depression in her early 20’s) scare me!

Take some time to sit down with a teen/tween or even a young adult in your life and really analyze one of these episodes. Look at the problems these young women are dealing with and really, REALLY discuss why they are problems and how they could be avoided!  Even the mother who is doing the best on the show at any given time is probably having “baby daddy drama”, whether it’s about custody arrangement or child support.

My main point is this: Teem Mom and 16 and Pregnant can illustrate something a lot of teen don’t really think about- the very, very, very, very long term consequences of our actions. These young women participating in these shows have no idea that parenthood is a LIFETIME commitment and so is the person you choose to have a baby with, whether you stay with them romantically or not.

I can’t say that simply watching Teen Mom/16 and Pregnant can completely convince young people to not have sex or at least not have children before they are good and ready, but I think the shows can concretely illustrate the complexities and consequences of choices and relationships. We’re always talking to kids about sex, and less often relationships, but this show can help a young person really see how different choices can play out across time.

If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to just watch an episode of one of these shows and at the end, try naming two or three things you learned from the episode and think if you would have liked to have learned those things when you were a teenager.  If your answer is yes, which I really think it will be, you’ll see my point.

Journaling: Why is it important to me

I’ve been journaling in some form or another since I was 10 years old. I got my very first journal back then and I’ve been using this method of stress relief and self-reflection ever since then. As a kid, I didn’t always know how to express myself, but sitting down with a journal and writing really helped me express my emotions better.

Here’s a few reasons why I enjoy journaling:

  1. I find the process of taking time and writing (or typing if it’s an online journal) extremely peaceful. It’s the ultimate form of “me” time and I can be honest and write about whatever I want.
  2. Journaling allows for self-reflection- well, if you take the time to read over your old entries from time to time. Often times we have thoughts and issues in our lives that are reoccurring, yet we don’t take time to reflect on them. When you write about those thoughts and issues in a journal, you are free to go back and reflect on them and you can realize patterns in your thoughts/behaviors you may not have realized otherwise.
  3. Sometimes I sit down to write one thing and I end up writing about something else completely- sometimes you will spontaneously write about something in your journal. It may not be what you wanted to write about in the first place but often times you’ll find that it’s just as important as what you were going to write about in the first place.
  4. I can write as often or as little as I please- I make my journaling habits very non-judgmental. I have no set schedule for writing in my journal. As I get older, there are not very many areas of my life that are not on some sort of schedule, so being able to freely journal as I choose gives me a great sense of freedom.

So there are a few reasons why I enjoy journaling. If you’ve never tried journaling, give it a try! Remember your journal is your free space, so do with it as you please! Feel free to draw, write, use song lyrics or whatever else helps you express yourself!

Celebrating Three Years with Natural Hair- My Hair Story

My hair in 2012 before starting my transition
My hair in 2012 before starting my transition
My transitioning style for about 9 months was a braid out
My transitioning style for about 9 months was a braid out
My hair (pulled back with a head band) not too long after I cut it and returned it to its natural texture
My hair (pulled back with a head band) not too long after I cut it and returned it to its natural texture

Three years ago I cut my hair. For many people, that will sound like a routine thing. You might be thinking “So what? Everyone cuts their hair every now and then, so what makes your experience so different?”.

Well let me explain: Think of the hair on your head. By the time you’re an adult you probably know that hair very well. You have probably figured out how to was it, condition it and style it so that it looks at the very least, decent. -That is not the experience I had with my hair by the age of 22. Sure, I could do a little of this and a little of that to my hair , but the difference was that the hair on my head did not actually reflect its natural texture and had not done so in well over 10 years.

My hair was chemically relaxed (a process in which you use a chemical to permanently straighten the hair to varying degrees) from the time I was in elementary school. I have absolutely no memory of what my natural hair texture was as a child. From the time I was old enough to sit still in a chair in my Grandma’s kitchen, my hair was being straightened by first the pressing comb (also called a hot comb) and later the chemical relaxer.

My hair remained chemically relaxed for a very long time. I accepted this as the norm. Most Black women that I saw as a child, teen, then young adult had relaxed hair as well. It was the standard at the time and considered to be a professional, neat, well groomed style that allowed for ease of care for our hair type. Our natural hair was considered too dry, too kinky, too bushy, too time consuming, too unprofessional in the workplace, and generally unacceptable. These messages about Black women’s natural hair were passed down to us subliminally at a very young age. Our hair was described as “nappy”-a negative word that was used to call our hair unruly and “bad”. While Black women (or Black men) did not devalue our own kinky,coily, curly locks of hair in the first place, we did generally accept the straight haired standards that were popular in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

I accepted the straight haired mentality until I started college. That’s when my hair began to change from a thick mane to a thin, choppy, damaged mop on my head. I ended up chopping off my straight hair my Sophomore (2010) year of college and rocking a still straight and shorter hairdo. During that time I also discovered the world of healthy hair practices online and began to apply those techniques to my still straightened hair. This period of my hair journey (as its called in online hair communities) helped me to overcome many of the myths about my hair type and put me on the path to returning to my natural hair texture.

After allowing my still straight hair to grow back out to shoulder length and moving to Ohio to start grad school (where I trusted no one to touch my hair), I noticed that my hair was just not in the shape it used to be. I had bad dandruff and my hair was starting to thin again. Also, I could never seem to get my hair “salon straight” at home and damaged my hair trying to do so. It was then I decided I needed to transition my hair back to its rightful and natural texture. I had absolutely no idea what kind of hair I’d have, so I guessed it would be the kinkiest and coily-est of hair textures (I was wrong. I’ll discuss this in another post).

I started to research styles to help me make the planned year long transition (hoping that at the one year mark, I’d be ready to cut off the straight ends and be completely natural) and settled on one (the braid out) and started growing my hair.

One year and one month later (and a few hours before I had to be at work) I sat in a chair at a salon to have my hair cut (picture above). It was one of the biggest changes I had dared to make to my appearance and came with many surprises (which I’ll discuss in another post). Although having natural hair was a big adjustment, I knew I’d made the right decision and in the end the experience of getting to know something so personal and something that literally grows out of my scalp would be rewarding. I’d do it all over it I had to.

The moral of my story is: Don’t let the unknown scare you! Change is good!

Next Post: My hair now and my tips for transitioning