One Smile. One Task. One Day at a time.

How many times a day do wish that something was different? How often do you wish you’d gone for a run, or woken up earlier, or saved more money from your last pay day? There is always something, somewhere or someway we wished we were. It seems to be human nature that we’re always comparing ourselves; we always think that we should be better, fitter, richer, bigger, smaller or something else.

Recently I have been feeling unhappy because I don’t feel as independent and self-supporting as I should be. I hear of friends buying houses, getting mortgages or finding new apartments, I have friends who are working in well regarded, ‘grown-up’ positions, friends getting married, having kids. All sorts of impressive, self-sufficient, life affirming things. And sometimes I can’t help but feel… well… like I’m lacking. I feel like I’m not where I want to be with work, with money, with my health, with my living situation, with my love life. I feel like I should be so much further along in my life than I feel I am sometimes. I have this idea of what I want, or what I think I want.

As I’m sure you could have guessed if you’ve read my last post, this comparison gets worse whenever I spend too much time online. This is especially the case when I spend too long on Instagram. There’s just something about all these perfect pictures and the aesthetics and the following and the liking involved in the app suddenly makes me feel less good about myself if I’m on there for too long. And I’m not alone, there are multiple articles connecting low self esteem, poor mental health and FOMO (fear of missing out). In fact, in a group of almost 1,500 young adults and teens, Instagram was voted the worst app for mental health. And while it is true that it can very well be a personal source of toxicity Instagram doesn’t have to be. It isn’t fair, or accurate, to blame Instagram entirely. It’s only a reflection of the people, and the society can uses it. Its ingrained into our societies to compare and compete, when actually we are also just as capable of supporting and lifting each-other up. And Instagram can absolutely be a tool to do that.

This week I received a postcard from my grandparents. The front of the card read “One Smile, One Hug, One Day at a time.” Although it was simple card, the message (and the design) was beautiful. I don’t need to compare, I don’t need to worry about where everyone else is up to, what they’re doing or how they look compared to me. I’m living my own life, in my own time and my joys are no less significant and important than someone-else’s. I can celebrate and be content with where I am, because when considering what is really important, my life is pretty awesome. I can be happy and proud of where I’m up to and what I’m doing. And to be honest, I am happy. I am proud. And I deserve to be. And so do you. No matter where you’re at or what you’re doing. Don’t try an count you happiness or your success in likes or follows or comments. Just think about the things that actually count. The things that made you happy. The things that made you feel like you were safe, and loved. Even if the period your in right now isn’t your happiest, or if you don’t feel loved, remember this. Take it one day at a time. That is all you need to count. Take each day as a fresh new start; an opportunity to grow and develop as a person, in a healthy way. That’s all you can do. And trust me, life gets better and you’re value isn’t in your social media presence. It isn’t in your money, your body, your job or the things you have. It’s inherent. Your importance already exists, and cannot be reduced or devalued.

And I’m going to do my best to take my own advice. I am going to take it one day at a time and I’m going to work on thinking about what is really important, and what truly makes me happy. Especially on what makes ME happy. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. I can be happy, they can be happy, and it doesn’t cancel the other out. Lets celebrate each-other’s happiness and achievements, and not compare them to our own. Both can exist and both can be equally valid. One Smile. One Hug. One Day at a time.

If you want more updates from me, please follow my account @Connieunkiga and to see more about my blog @Connieunkigablog

Why do I keep losing friends?

I don’t know why but recently going on Instagram has been making me feel sad… maybe because when I realise that people I follow who I used to be close with don’t follow me, it feels like a rejection. Like they no longer care about me. People who I counted as my best friends at one time. 

And then I realise that it’s not a rejection, it’s how life goes. We move and we move on.  And when we move, we drift apart. It can hurt to look back and wish things were the same, but they aren’t. Instead we should look at the memories with fondness, but with the realisation that they’re in the past. 

I’ve always changed locations drastically at different stages of my life. Whether changing schools, choosing universities or packing up and moving to the other side of the world. Either deliberately or accidentally, I’ve always left people behind. I never wish for my friendships to be left behind too, but sometimes they are. All I can do is try my best to preserve and maintain the friendships I want to keep and hope that others do the same with me.

But I also need to remember that friendships don’t always end because of a loss in closeness. Time might go by and suddenly you’re close again. And honestly, that feeling is so much stronger and meaningful than any unfollow.

And also, the new friends I’ve gained totally make me feel better. Apparently the human brain can actually only really accommodate a certain number of friends, and as new people enter, and new priorities arise, sometimes people can change from close friends to acquaintances. Its called the ‘Dunbar number’ theory. As life unfolds, when we change our hobbies or location, the way we use our time changes too, and our social circles change to follow suit. It’s natural!

So it’s okay for your old friends to fall out of friendship with you, and it’s also okay to be sad about it. But after you’re sad, try to make time to remember the friends you’ve kept, the friends you’ve made and what you’ve learnt from each and every relationship with them.

If you want more updates from me, please follow my account @Connieunkiga and to see more about my blog @Connieunkigablog

I need a Creativity boost.

I’ve been finding myself in a bit of a rut recently. I’ve felt like there’s something lacking. And honestly, its made me feel very depressed and stressed. There are so many wonderful things happening in my life; meeting great people, making wonderful memories, being in the place I’ve worked so long and hard to get to…

And yet I’m left wanting. I’m craving creativity, I want to make real, strong friendships. I want to be able to communicate and express myself more freely. I want to feel successful and capable and free. I want excitement and exploration, and the bravery to do it alone if I have to.

But nothing is going to change, unless I do. I need to wake up each day, thinking of what I want to do, where I want to go, how I want to feel tomorrow. And then I’ve just got to go do it.

So I’m making a public pledge, here on my website. I am going to try and be more active. I’m going to try and be braver. I’m going to try and be more creative. But I’m also going to allow myself to be human. I’m not lacking anything, well nothing that important anyway. Of course there are always thing I could do better/differently, but that doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me human. And I have to allow myself the freedom to be myself.

If you want more updates from me, please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @Connieunkiga

How to access healthcare in Seoul.

So, very specific post coming up, but because of the week I have had it feels very relevant. I’m currently recovering from a SERIOUSLY long bout of feeling kinda ‘meh’ mentally (which in actual medical terms means I’ve been fluctuation between feeling mildly depressed, mildly anxious, mildly anxious and depressed and then just kinda coping) and then this week I caught the most brutal cold which even caused me to my first ever class cancellation. But, I’m getting fed up with feeling rubbish so I’m going to post instead, as well as trying to be as productive as possible.

One thing that has really helped me this week is finally understanding how healthcare works in Korea, or at least how it works for me. Before moving here, I’d only ever known the British healthcare system, the NHS. Because of how the UK is governed, most procedures are free, appointments are free and medicine and prescriptions are either free or very cheap. The healthcare system here is completely different. I think it might be similar to how healthcare works in the USA but again, as I’ve never accessed healthcare in USA, I don’t know for sure.

Before I continue with this post, I want to take the time to thank the many MANY people who have helped me to navigate healthcare in Korea, because I know it must have been like trying to explain astrophysics to a toddler. So to my friends, my colleagues, my doctor and specifically my friend Agnes Lee, who is a doctor here and helped to get the ball rolling, thank you for your patience and your kindness in helping me figure out how I can access healthcare. U da best ❤

So, ultimately it comes down to one thing. Insurance. You don’t NEED insurance to access healthcare, however it helps a lot. It greatly reduces the cost of any procedure, consultation or prescription. With insurance you only need to pay up to 30% of the total cost, your insurance pays for the rest, which is paid through taxes. AND whatever medical bills you do pay, contribute to the tax refund you get the next year. So, if and when you get a job in Korea you should find out about your insurance information as soon as possible. It too a while for me to find out this information, for multiple reasons, and it was very frustrating for me and for those trying to help me. These reasons are also things you need to bear in mind when accessing healthcare in Korea.

Firstly, it took a while to get my ARC (alien registration card) which would allow me to officially and legally start working and live in Korea, as well as accessing the benefits of Korean healthcare. And because this took so long I couldn’t get my official contract, I couldn’t get my insurance and therefore I couldn’t get healthcare. So, make sure you get your ARC from immigration.

Secondly, because my Korean isn’t perfect (who am I kidding, it’s barely passable) I relied completely on other people who are fluent in Korean to help me find the information. This meant that I could only find things out when these people were available to help me, which of course they weren’t always because y’know they have jobs or classes or social lives. So without the help of Korean speaking friends, I couldn’t book appointments, ask questions or have them answered nor could I understand what I needed to do or where I needed to go. I really hope you can find someone who can help you to navigate the difference in language, of course try and learn as much Korean as you can, but it really important to make sure you feel you can communicate well when it comes to healthcare.

And thirdly, and finally, my job contract hadn’t been finalised or explained to me. I didn’t know what was or wasn’t included in my insurance plan, I didn’t know if my taxes were paid by the university when my wages were paid or if I needed to pay them separately. I didn’t know, so I didn’t want to do anything in case I did something wrong. Try to understand and confirm your job contract as soon as you can, preferably before you arrive in Korea. I couldn’t do that and it honestly stressed me out to no end.

To conclude, when it comes to healthcare, you need to know you can trust your healthcare provider. I’m lucky to know doctors here in Korea, and I’m lucky that I have friends and a community who I can communicate with and who can help me if I don’t understand. Lovely, kind people who offer to take me to the doctors or to come with me for support (or simply to make sure I don’t get lost). I hope that if you need to find healthcare, for whatever reason, you have people who can help you, but if you don’t I strongly recommend asking you employer for clarification and assistance, and failing that find an expat group to join on Facebook because we foreigners have got to stick together! Trust me, there will be someone who will be more than happy to help you.

Exploring Sokcho – The cut-off coastline.

Settling into my life here in Seoul has been a bit hectic. I’m still not quite in the flow of things and last weekend marked a month since I moved here. I’d started to feel a little rundown and tired… I was stuck in a rut. I felt stuck and like everything was too difficult.

Then a friend recommended that I travel to Sokcho, a coastal city on the opposite side of the Korean peninsula. Sokcho is known for its mineral water springs, beautiful beaches and water-fronts and healthy, nutritious food. It sounded perfect. So I made plans to go and stay there for a night and 2 days.

And honestly, it was trans-formative. I felt like a new person by the end of the weekends and I was rejuvenated and energetic. The scenery was beautiful and the food was AMAZING.

Part of what made the trip so meaningful for me, however, was not necessarily so positive. Whether it was the number of army bases that I passed, the soldiers I saw, the high fences and barbed wire or the food and place names, I was constantly reminded of how close I was to the boarder with the DMZ and therefore how close I was to North Korea.

The mountains, fields and lakes in the area were stunning. And I was told that the land that makes up the DMZ is of of the most ecologically diverse and abundant areas in Korea, because of its lack of human intrusion. This environmental perfection is only tarred by the hidden land-mines from the Korean war.

The beaches were equally beautiful, but these too had constant reminders of the past and ongoing conflicts. It was sad in a way, that this beautiful country still had these lasting and prominent scars of its difficult history. In fact, when we drove up to the boarder gate of the DMZ, the closest a civilian can get to North Korea without paying money or needing to pass security checks, I almost cried. We had driven through a small farming town to reach our destination, and it was like someone had just cut the area in half. The village just stopped. It was a sudden and sharp division.

However, I didn’t cry. Because I saw how the people in the local area were just carrying on. Their lives hadn’t stopped. Life hadn’t just ended. And the situation has apparently been improving. More and more beaches have been taking down their high, barbed fences and those I met were positive about the improving relationships between the two Korea’s.

As we drove away and onto our next destination, it started to rain gently, while sun still shone through. A rainbow briefly appeared and made me think of how, although the division is difficult, there is still hope. Hope of reunification. Hope for a better future.

When I arrived in Sokcho I felt empty and tired. However, when I left I was hopeful, happy and I had fallen in love with Korea all over again.

If you want more updates from me, please follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @Connieunkiga