Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saying Goodbye

I've thought about this particular post for over a year, and debated whether or not this is something I should write. In the past, I've received e-mails from other foreign teachers in Gunsan regarding specific content in my blog, and I've usually acquiesced when asked to consider removing certain information. In order not to hurt anyone involved in this particular situation, I've hesitated about talking or writing about this particular subject for many reasons. However, I find myself now debating internally as to why I should so carefully consider the feelings of the people involved when I'm continually being hurt by stories that are so completely fabricated and make me look like a total bitch, when actually certain things were the opposite of what has been said.

For those of you reading this particular post, I respect your decision to think that perhaps I should just have left this issue alone and let bygones be bygones. Similarly, I respect your decision to stop reading at this point, just as I hope that you respect that this was initially a situation between two people who, at some point, might even have been friends, and that I have a right to set the record straight and defend myself against the numerous accusations that have been levelled against me for the past 18 months now.

Friendships in Korea

I've got over my naivety of finding any real or lasting friendships in Korea. In so many ways, I wish that I could return to my first year here and never have anything change. It was a lot of fun, and I met a lot of truly amazing people who meant a lot to me. Unfortunately, that naivety has passed and I've realised just how self-serving relationships are in Korea. And yes, I'm guilty of this too. We're all friends with people who can help us or do something for us in some way. Once people outlive their usefulness, we tend to shove them aside like the pig fat used to clean the galbi grill.

To see a completely different and callous side of someone whom you think you know so well, with little explanation, has hurt more than anyone who thinks they understand what happened could possibly imagine. Even as someone directly involved, I still don't fully understand what happened or what brought about such a sudden and harsh turnabout. I also don't understand how someone who constantly professed to be my best friend could so easily cut me out of her life with nary a glance or a real explanation. But more than this, I don't understand the motivation for twisting the truth and telling other foreigners in Gunsan how it was me who completely cut her out of everything.  Of everything that happened, things that were said and not said, this last point is perhaps the one that has hurt the most.

18 months later, I still hear from other foreigners how badly I treated this particular person and how I blocked her on Facebook, email, Kakaotalk and refused to answer her calls. I also have heard, on three different occasions and from mutual friends as far as Seoul, how I am the reason that she left Korea, and how hurt she was that I ended our friendship so abruptly and without any explanation. I've listened to people talk about how bitchy I was and how I should have been the one to leave instead of her. I've also had mutual 'friends' cut off all contact with me because they 'don't think that [they] can be friends with someone who treats her friends so badly.'  All of this has hurt far more than anything that was and wasn't said between myself and the other party 18 months ago, and I'm now tired of hearing such falsities and outright lies about things I know little or nothing about.

The Other Side of the Coin

There are two sides to every story. Many people have asked me what happened last year and I've tried to be respectful and not discuss the issue.

There were many things said between myself and this friend. There were also many things that were not said. To this day, I still read the last contact I had with her and try to figure out how things ended so badly because, in all honesty, I miss my friend. I miss the good times we had together and the things we shared. It's hard to say goodbye to someone who doesn't give you that opportunity and who seems perfectly okay with cutting you out of their life so abruptly and callously. It leads to so many questions, the foremost of which is: Were we ever even truly friends? With such questions comes the realisation that many other relationships are perhaps not quite what they seem either and it becomes increasingly difficult to know who to trust and who to be wary of. For me, it's led to a steady withdrawal from the foreign community in Gunsan.

I think it's reasonable to ask someone for an explanation as to why they suddenly don't want you in their life. It's immature and cowardly to cut off all contact with someone and simply say that you 'don't want to give the reasons for this sudden change.'  Ignoring people doesn't make them go away, and it certainly doesn't stop them caring about why things went wrong. I can't understand how someone can walk away from a friendship of more than a year and not be willing to explain why or even want to try to work things out. Sure, there are many things about me that annoy, frustrate, anger, irritate and exasperate other people but then there are many qualities that I dislike in other people, too - that's still not enough of a reason to walk away after investing so much time and emotion in a relationship and not be willing to explain your reasons for leaving. It also is not a reason to twist the truth to portray the other person in a negative light by attributing your actions to them.

So, here's the truth (or at least my side) of the story. I was not the one who cut off all communication, blocked anyone from any form contact (Kakao, Facebook, e-mail, Skype) and refused to discuss things. Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say that it was, in fact, the other way around. I was the one who was cut off; I was the one who was discarded when I outlived my usefulness; and I am the one who never got an explanation for the sudden termination of our friendship. However, I'm not the reason she left Korea - we were no longer even friends at the time that she made that decision. I don't appreciate hearing these rumours repeated by people who know nothing about the situation - and, in some instances, don't even know the people concerned.

Here's what I do know: I encouraged her to hang out with other foreigners and not only me from the start. She made her own decision that the female teachers in Gunsan were too cliquey, and that she didn't want to be part of the debauchery, incestuous drinking that seemed to be the regular pastime for so many people at the time. I heard many uncomplimentary things about foreigners I still don't even know - except by name - and things that happened at nights out to which I wasn't even invited, but she attended. Therefore, I find it quite ironic how I was accused of making her feel that she could only be my friend and that once she started hanging out with other foreigners, she found that she enjoyed their company. I also find it ironic how she suddenly started spending so much time with people she had so completely and utterly lambasted and criticised prior to that. When she was in hospital last year, I received a message from a mutual friend telling me that I wasn't welcome to drop by and visit her. That comment still hurts - as does the fact that when I was in hospital earlier this year, many of those mutual 'friends' made it very clear that we're not exactly friends.

For everyone who has told me how I should have behaved differently towards her, and how they can no longer be my friend or have anything to do with me because of the way I treated her, you'd be surprised by some of things I've heard about you, too.  My pulling away from social gatherings was an attempt not to make things uncomfortable for our mutual friends, or to put anyone in the middle of an unpleasant situation. It hurt to realise that some of those friends seemed to 'take sides,' and it shocked me to find out just how much gossip there has been - even more so that there still is in some circles.


However, I don't want to dwell on the past any longer. I tried to resolve things between us, and I tried to give her the space she wanted; I tried to let her grow up. I really hope that one day she isn't on the receiving end of such an unpleasant situation. I don't wish her ill, and I never have. I just wish that I had had a chance to understand exactly what happened and, if our friendship ever really were what I had considered it to be, that she had actually cared enough to say goodbye properly.

So, since I can't change what has happened and I can only change how I respond to the situation, this is the last that I will have to say about this matter. The memories we share and the experiences we had together - both good and bad - will always be a part of me; some are reflected upon happily while others are more wistful and perhaps even a little nostalgic. They're always there and always will be. However, I am now closing this chapter of my life and saying goodbye to the characters who have played such an integral role in it. It's unlikely that we'll ever meet again, but then I've always been willing to give sequels a try.

1 comment:

  1. As a long time reader of both your blogs, I always wondered why M's blog ended so abruptly last year. Thank you for shedding some light on the situation. I hope you continue to blog about your life in Korea. Best. - anon