the lie of loneliness

This past weekend marked my 28th year of life (I can’t believe I am now 28, I have lived 28 years! What?!). I started the beginning of my 29th year surrounded by almost 400 people for three days.

And at one point I felt completely alone. Growing up living with 10 other people in my immediate family, feeling lonely is a very rare occurrence for me. I grew up extroverted, and have never lacked family or friends. This emotion of being lonely was totally foreign, and also a huge fat lie.

For the first time, I felt like I had too many friends. It took me 28 years, but I had this feeling of finally reaching my limit— the capacity cut off.

You know how Jesus had the inner circle of 3 disciples that he kept extra close out of the 12? I would choose 6 people. Instead of 12 disciples, I would choose 24. In fact, right now if I were to pick bridesmaids out of my girlfriends (this is how the female brain works before you get married) the closest of the close, I would probably only be able to narrow the number down to 18. And that is just females; do you know how many amazing guy friends I have? I am blessed.

Friday night I left work and headed to New Philadelphia’s yearly church-wide retreat. I made it just in time for the evening message. Since the retreat had started the day before, I felt like I did a cannon ball jump into the water instead of slowly getting my feet wet, then wading up to my ankles, my knees, my thighs (the water gets so cold at that point!), and so on. It was good, but a little disorienting.

After the message, friends that weren’t too busy serving, or drunk in the spirit, bombarded me with birthday wishes and hugs and love. But then there were so many people I didn’t get to see, it felt like I saw no one at all. We had our small group session time. I told them it was my birthday, why? Why, as humans— do we need to make everything about us? I am seriously so selfish in the flesh sometimes a lot. I want everyone to be my friend, and I want everyone to love me, and I wanted everyone to know that it was my birthday so therefore it is the best day on the calendar and please be happy that I was born on this day almost three decades ago, and love me, and notice me, and give me presents, and love me!

But, if I had seen and talked to all the people who I wanted to… would I have even had a real conversation in such a short amount of time? The next day of the retreat during the free time I wanted to hang out with everyone, but I realized that if I had done that I would have ended up hanging out with no one. I felt burdened and sad. How silly.

I am loved. I have so many people who love me. I am not alone. I am surrounded. I had great conversations with some people and I had fun jokes and quick hugs with others. I met new people and loved it. I don’t have a cut-off, I don’t have a limit, because God’s love and joy that flows through me and from me is never-ending. I just needed to realize that I need to fill myself up by spending time with him, if I want to spend time with other people and not lose that joy. I also realized that I still want to be friends with everyone, I just can’t help it. But I also want to be fully present and invest in the lives of those who invest in me. I will learn a balance. Eventually.

birthday donut
Our school loves the teachers so much, they buy the employees donuts for the whole staff on every birthday. The birthday winner gets a special heart donut, I was so excited I bit into before I got a picture, hehe.

birthday cards and cake
Megan surprised me with a cake and the K-2 grade students poured into my room singing during lunch break with a bunch of beautiful home-made cards.

rachel cake

You can tell that I had a student take the above picture^^ One of my student’s had her mom make me brownie cupcakes because she knew that I prefer them over cake. She was super super super excited to give them to me. I love being a teacher!

Image

At the retreat! Having dinner with my Emmaus girls. SERIOUSLY LOVE THEM.

I have more pictures of the retreat that I will post later; these are pictures from my phone. My students treated me like a princess all month leading up to my birthday— they were the stinkin’ cutest things ever. Being a teacher when your birthday rolls around is the BEST OCCUPATION to have. Hands down.

driving miss daisy

I lost seven thousand won today…

I have officially turned one year older since my last post. I am no longer a quarter of a century old. Though, to be quite honest, I often forget how old I am due to Koreans having a different system of keeping track of their age. They are one-years-old when they are born, and then everyone turns a year older in the new year. Which means if I were to go by the Korean system I would be 27, and on January 1st I would turn 28? Yeah, I still don’t get it… there are times in this country when someone asks me how old I am  (trust me, it happens a lot) and I have to think about it really hard, because sometimes I can’t remember.

I don’t think I will be forgetting my 26th birthday anytime soon though. Not only did fb give my secret away to my students (I may or may not sometimes have fb up during my break times at school… I am a hard worker, leave me alone!) when an invite to an event popped up and said, “Melody’s 26th Birthday!” … “Umm… Ms. Welton, I think I know how old you are.” I turned to see one of my girls smiling at me as she got out her notebook to start her morning work. MAN, I was able to keep it a secret ALL YEAR. Back to “not only did” (top of the paragraph), but I also had an amazing two full days celebrating my birthday (times zones, parties, love it), which is so cool, who wants just one day? It should be your birthday week!

There was this one summer back in college when I had to go home and live with the parents again (oh, the dorms…). I found a way to cope with my loss of independence (okay, my parents were very trusting, I really didn’t lose that much) through bike riding. I met my friend, Chris Howarth (you are so cool), every morning to go bike riding down a trail that ran through the heart of our small town.

I met him on a borrowed bike from the fam, since my purple ten-speed bike from my younger years always had something wrong with it. The day after I bought it I am not sure if a sibling was jealous or a hummingbird was really mad, but it had what could be described as sharp nail marks all down its brand new painted surface. It made me so sad to look at. It also had a flat tire for about five years and I didn’t know how to change it.

After that summer of bike riding love I took a bike my dad found in one of his empty apartments (that he rents out) back with me back to Kalamazoo with the hopes of riding more, then I realized how dangerous the area I lived in was (a gang fight may or may not have broken out over my car, men leaping, me screaming, fun times). That dream died.

Then I came to Korea. Last summer I discovered that you can rent bikes near the Han River by the hour. I made different people go riding with me every Saturday (for some reason the same people didn’t want to spend EVERY saturday waking up early to beat the crowd…weird!), it is my ultimate favorite thing to do in Seoul.

jee young and me biking along the han river last fall.

I kept telling myself that I needed to buy a bike. I wanted to buy a bike. I found the PERFECT bike. I named her driving miss daisy (I like uncapitalized names, don’t hate). I took a picture of her on my iPhone (which has successfully been returned to me! did you hear??? LOVE KOREA) and showed anyone who would look at me. This is her! And yet… I didn’t go buy her. I thought about the college loans I still had to pay off, and my next credit card bill. And so, I didn’t buy her.

THEN I GOT HER! Along with many other amazing gifts from family and friends (my awesome plaid scarf from a best friend back home who had no idea I was doing a plaid themed birthday, a colorful apron from mama k -by the way, what are you trying to say? I need to learn how to cook?!- beautiful jewelry my momma bought for me to support women who made them in Uganda, an inspirational artistic book from my sista, cards, flowers, pencil cases, magnets, nail kits… SHOOT what more could a girl ask for?).

I am ridiculously blessed!

before she was mine! I saw her hidden, not on display or anything. now she has a home.

the seven thousand won fell out of my back pocket when I took driving miss daisy out for her first spin today (it finally stopped raining!). I was looking forward to buying some pizza school pizza with that, but totally worth it ^^.