Budgeting: Atlanta

After months about my personal journey as a disabled individual, I can finally talk about my goal to travel again. I doubt that I will take extended trips as I must consider my financial, medical and time constraints.

But as I have been telling myself for months, I do the best I can. So, I am going to Atlanta! I am excited as I have never been to the South (the farthest I’ve ever been is Washington DC). Also, I will spend a week with Grace Lee–a supportive, and wonderful friend that I met in the Fulbright South Korea program. She came to New York so now, I will go to Georgia.

I wanted to share the ways I budget the trip as I am extremely conscious on my spending.

  • Housing: $50–I have friends so, I am able to stay at a significant discount. It is always wise to find a companion to share expenses, or find friend that may offer a couch. Always remember, be a clean “roommate” and send thanks.
  • Travel (Flight): $337–I am bitter about the cost. It was my fault, however, for purchasing my tickets three weeks prior to the trip. Google would probably provide better information on optimal purchase times.
  • Personal (aka Food): $200–Food. Food. Food. It is a necessity, so I am not going skim on the budget.
  • Tourist Things: $150–I am setting my budget quite high, but it is my first time going to Atlanta. I expect to spend time visiting major tourist attractions like the World of Cola-Cola or the Georgia Aquarium. I do hope to spend less than expected, but I also do not want to limit my experiences.

Total Budget: $737 (or $750)

I will say now, the budget is likely to change. I am still learning the ropes to travel, building an understanding of the general expenses and the optimal times to travel to certain states or countries. I am coming in the budget with a poor perspective, and I don’t believe Asian countries are a fair comparison. Plane tickets are expensive but otherwise, everything else is much cheaper.

So on the next update, I will bring more insight on my budget and my travels~

Just Being a “Disabled” Person

Please note, these are my own experiences. They do not represent a whole population, and a whole range of disabilities. 


Perhaps, I’ve tricked myself into believing that I am content with my current abilities and weaknesses. I have accepted my disability accommodations, and continue to walk among the “normal” people–unnoticed.

Underneath the successes, however, I feel insecure. I don’t want employers or peers to see me differently. I don’t want them to excuse me for my poor job performances, or just to pat me on my back for small successes. I accomplished everything through my sheer hard-working. On the other hand, I just want others to acknowledge that I can never be 100%. There will be days when the fatigue takes away my ability to tolerate, to articulate, or just to stay awake.
It’s a paradox. 

Honestly, I didn’t want to speak about such insecurities because on the surface, I have been doing better than others. I am a functional member of society. I have no visible indication of a disability.
Then, I encountered online dating. People often ask, “What do you do aside from work or school?”It makes me uncomfortable because the answer is nothing. When I’m not going to school or working, I am recovering. I sleep. I relax. I go to the doctor appointments.

That’s it.
I have no fancy stories about going to museums, or hanging out in bars, or volunteering at an orphanage.

I just don’t want to hide, but also I don’t want to lose anymore. The silence on the other screen hurts because it is the truth. The ugly truth that there are people who don’t want to deal with the “disabled.” We are not perfect. We are broken. We are the laughing stock of society, even when we have endured so much.

Despite the somber mood, I will applaud the ones who have handled the “breaking” news like true champions. They have commended my “optimism” (I would argue otherwise because I am a pessimistic realist), and my effort. They are not potential dates, but we’ve become friends. We speak on equal terms. There is no pity. There are no assumptions. Just words.

 

2016 -> 2017

If I was asked, “What is your evaluation of 2016?” Well, I would say that it depended on when the question was asked.

For most of the year, I was rather pessimistic for logical reasons. Foremost, I suffered from an illness that should have killed me or left me severely disabled. (Tangent: I am not exaggerating. It is true that many stroke survivors are left as mere shadows of their previous lives. The amount of rehabilitation to recover even 75% takes so much practice, and time). It changed my entire course in my life, and adjusting to that reality was the hardest thing.
I failed myself. I failed others. And others failed me.

When I was given a chance, however, I started to feel optimistic.
I started a new job and honestly, I think I like it more than Fulbright. I am working with my ideal age group, and my ideal environment. Also, I am part of a team where I feel fully involved, and supported. (Tangent #2: I was not in my ideal placement. Also as a non-white foreigner with limited Korean, it made things difficult. Am I bitter? No. I had an experience that foreigners would never ask, or seek. So, I appreciate every moment that I had in South Korea. I, however, acknowledge that my current situation would help me more as a future teacher).
I started engaging in more activities. Activities that I have dreamed about doing, but was always scared to do. First, I started learning Wing Chun. I’ve always wanted to learn a martial art, but I was so worried about commitment and physical capability. But, I decided to take the plunge and learn. Now, I feel more physically fit and I feel more accomplished. Second, I decided to mentor a HS student for her college process. It was a quite difficult task, since she was not the most self-motivated person. The most important detail, however, is that she completed her applications. And now, we want until 2017 for her letters.

2017. Soon, it will be 2017. It will be another year filled with moments of happiness and regrets. I know for a fact, however, I have no resolutions. Of course, I have goals. But I would rather live for the moment. Every word that I read on a book, or a website. Every step that I walk. Every question that I answer in the GREs (Yes, I am preparing for the GRE). Every conversation that I have with a familiar or unfamiliar person.
It is a lofty goal, but I want think more about the process.

2017. See you soon.

Releasing my Nerdiness.

On Friday evening, I wondered if I would regret it. I was alone, sick and tired but paid $75 to watch the League of Legends World Championship at Madison Square Garden. So, I grudgingly dragged myself of my bed and caffeinated myself for the games.sktrox

I was greeted by men at Madison Square Garden. It was quite overwhelming, and my society anxiety kept saying, “ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.” But, I weaved through the crowds seeking for a sign to my seat. It took about 15 minutes to go through security, and the entire building to actually reach the stadium. And when I found my section, I was welcomed by bright lights, and a great atmosphere.
I stopped caring that I went alone because I was there for me. And it was a truly amazing experience. I missed the NA LCS Summer Finals in 2015 because I went to South Korea, so going to the World Championship was to make up for that missing passion and time.

baronfightI watched the SKT vs. ROX Semifinals, which has been hailed on Reddit as one of the best series in League of Legends. And I agree on a financial perspective, I won. And I agree as a SKT fan, I watched my favorite team push aside the haters and prevail as the imminent winners.
And I would love to summarize the whole event, but I am not an analyst and I know that anyone can find a YouTube video to watch it. But, I won’t forget the testosterone-filled atmosphere, which led to the stadium smelling like sweat, and Axe-ish body spray. I won’t forget the non-existent bathroom lines for women, and the hilariously long lines for men. I won’t forget the security guard who allowed my small water bottle to pass the inspection. He probably heard my sickish voice, and allowed the water bottle to save me from the terrible coughs. He probably allowed me because I am a woman surrounded by men.

I’m extremely excited for the Finals happening on the 29th, and I will definitely be watching it. But, I’m also excited for November because I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and do things alone. I will be seeing Conan O’ Brien when he comes to NYC, and I will be watching the Daily Show live. I just needed League of Legends to teach me to enjoy life in the company of others, and alone.

Small Steps, San Francisco

Ever since I left South Korea, it felt as if the idea of travel disappeared. My fears left me thinking that I could never leave New York, but going to San Francisco was an escape and a reality. An escape from my fears and honestly, the sense of claustrophobia from living so close to so many people. A reality that I can travel, and I can remake my life from taking one step.

13987605_814989735310518_8393913797265544707_oSo, San Francisco appeared to be a perfect vacation since it mirrored that of New York City. A big city. An expensive lifestyle. A cultural and economic center.
And there were some highlights to my vacation:
Asian Art Museum. I wanted to go because Asian culture is ignored for the most part, in the US. We hear about China and Japan and Korea, but it’s just a limited perspective that we can’t fully enjoy the culture and history behind it. And also, there was an acknowledgement of Southeast Asia. It was quite surprising, seeing that it is the most unappreciated region in Asia. It brings pride to look at the culture showcased and think, We are not as uncivilized as everyone else likes to believe.
Daiso. This is a 99 cent store hailing from Japan (yet popular in South Korea). We went there because it is the best store that doesn’t exist on the East Coast. We bought a lot of useful things that you wouldn’t buy when you’re in a vacation–like kitchen goods. But we went, and we thoroughly enjoyed the cheapness and the snacks.
Weather. We went to SF during the height of the East Coast Heatwave. It was glorious to be able to walk, and not feel as if I was melting away. It was, however, too cold. But I will not complain about that because again, I forgot what is tolerable weather.

And the meh moments to my vacation:
San Francisco is mad expensive (and this is coming for a New Yorker). Food. Museum. Transportation. Everything felt so expensive, so we tried to limit our spending by doing more free/cheap activities. For example, we went to the Asian Art Museum on a Thursday because there were discount tickets on that day. We invested most of our spending on Uber because THE HILLS (and public transportation can never compare to NYC).
Haight-Ashbury. This particular neighborhood is famous because Hippie culture originated from there, and residents and stores try to glorify that history.  But aside from that history, it wasn’t amazing. In fact, it just showed more of the homeless issue in SF (Ramble: One Uber Driver noted that there is such a huge wealth gap between Silicon Valley and everyone else that unless you had a high paying job, you can’t live in SF. Honestly, it’s what I fear will happen in NY because neighborhoods are changing, and low-income individuals are being forced out). Perhaps, I went on the wrong day but I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I’d be.14066262_814989641977194_4207942709163252185_oBut I was happy in San Francisco, mainly because I had the opportunity to be a TOURIST. I did tourist things like take the Boat Tour around the city. I got to take pictures at touristy things. And I can’t do that in New York City because I know that I would never subject myself to it. I tried, really. I tried Times Square at night, and I wanted to push and yell at people. I live in the most populated city in the US, and yet I don’t like people. I did wish, however, that I TOOK THE TOURIST BUSES! Missed opportunity there.

Either way, I do hope that this vacation will remind me that there are opportunities. It may not appear in my ideal way, but they still are there.

I Have a Job!

It seems silly to declare to whoever stumbles onto this blog, “I HAVE A JOB!” But honestly, it means a lot because I was unemployed for an extended period.

I had to write my own cover letters, and attend interviews despite the fact that I had no confidence in my language. I remember on my interview with Bright Horizons, I needed questions repeated because I couldn’t comprehend them. I forgot a lot of specific language for education, and early childhood like “cubby.” And after the interview, I never heard from them.

The second interview was the same, except that my language had improved within the two month break. I was able to answer the questions with relative ease, though my censor bar is still limited. There are questions that shouldn’t be ask in an interview, and I asked it: How much do you get paid for part-time? The interviewer answered the question, though she may not have been pleased. Either way, I was not excited about the position.
I want to be a teacher in a diverse setting, but I was faced with the reality that Williamsburg is a complete gentrified neighborhood with little diversity.

The third interview was the best until the end. I went through the interview process with relative ease and then, I became honest. I told the Director that I had a stroke, and I was unsure if I could handle a 35 hours/week. And at first, she sounded very accommodating. She would offer me a part-time position, yet the offer never passed the verbal agreements. I pursued, but I never heard from them again.
It was devastating to think that I had an opportunity, but I lost it because of my stroke. It fueled the belief that if I didn’t have my stroke, I would be happier and more successful. That, however, is a lie.

My final interview landed me a position that could be considered ideal. It was located in a prestigious school with an excellent reputation, and support staff. And I received an offer within three days of being called for an interview. I was given the opportunity to work with Special Ed students, and I just finished Week One. I received training in CPR, and I helped in preparing a classroom. All of these experiences were overwhelming, but I learned so much within such a short time. The amount of time and thinking that teachers put into their classrooms is never considered, but it makes a huge impact on a student’s learning and transition.
I’m very fortunate to have been able to recover so quickly within six months, and to have been granted with such an opportunity. Though I still have a long way to go, these moments remind me how much I have changed and grown. I still have shortcomings (*cough numbers cough*), but I have learned to maneuver throughout society without anyone second guessing my intelligence or my health.

For that, Thank you to every health professional who has helped me fake it like a pro. Thank you to every friend who prepared for the hellish months of ups and downs, and stuck for the landing. And in general, thank you to every person who had some faith in me.

Ways in which my Stroke Changed Me

The statement seems obvious. Of course, having a stroke changes a person. After all, your brain is damaged and parts are likely dead (I think). But I have talked to other survivors, and have gained insight into their lives after a stroke.

'Gosh, really? That must be pretty grim...'It’s not an easy road. It’s not a walk in the park. And as I have alluded in previous posts, I went through Hell. We (stroke survivors) think about when we will have another stroke. We think about death as if it is a more real possibility.
Sometimes, we feel tempted by death. I will admit. I have thought about suicide as a legitimate option. But at the end we choose life because for a second/minute/hour/day, we felt death. And from it, we strive for things we never thought we could do whether superficial or not.

Physical. I feel like an unicorn with my purple

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I’m…pwetty?

and grey hair. And I couldn’t stop giggling or looking at myself in a way that I have never done. Seriously. I avoided mirrors like the plague because I didn’t think that I was “attractive” and I would only notice the flaws. Every time someone would comment on how “pretty” I was, I dismissed it as if they were saying it to make me feel better or if they wanted something from me. Of course, those comments were genuine. I just have no self-esteem to take a compliment.
Can I take a compliment now? Maybe.
But the greater message is that I appreciate and love my body. It is not a machine. The parts cannot be replaced. The damage in my brain and my heart are things that I will live with forever. So, I should treat myself. New clothes. New bras. New hair. It is a literal reminder that there is a different path in front of me.

Personality. Here is a clear example on how my stroke has changed my personality in oddly good

heart-and-brain-web-comic-awkward-yeti-nick-seluk-141__700

I’m…pwetty?

ways. My sister thought it was a great idea to wake me up in the middle of the night,  and stick her smelly fingers in my face. Usually, I would be extremely irritated and drag an unnecessary fight to claim that I won. But I didn’t feel the anger bubbling inside, and I didn’t want to pursue the issue. Though I did leave my air-conditioned room just to tell her that it was immature, and it is worse that she did it when I was trying to sleep. But then, we giggled.
Yup instead of being the stubborn and sensitive person that I am/was, I lightened up. I accepted that she did that and nothing will change that fact. Even punching or yelling at her. And that applies to everything in life. I have to accept the cards that I am dealt, and make the best of them. And being stubborn is not going to give magical powers to change that. I can, however, change how I choose to live my life now, and the not-so-distant future.

Because there is too uncertainty in my life to think too far, and just thinking briefly about it gives me a headache. Actually, it’s just the heat and the dehydration.
After all of this, it doesn’t mean that I have abandoned all my aspirations. No, instead I have a different way of approaching it. A way that is, overall, better for my health and my sanity. I still want to a teacher. Perhaps, not an ELL teacher since most of the foreign languages I know are partially deleted from my brain. But I started to think about Special Education. Or, I am just hoping I can get a license.
And I do want to go abroad again. Will it be South Korea? Not likely. I’ve been there twice, and there are so many countries to visit. But I still have the travel bug, and I express in just making the choice to go out everyday and exploring the city that people would wish to lived in.

I suppose I am going through a period called, “Uneasy Acceptance.” That, things will be different. And it’s whether or not I choose to accept that will make the difference.