Several weeks ago, I got a sassy new scooter. For those of you who know me, don’t worry, I am being very careful: following Korean driving laws, wearing a helmet, and never driving after drinking, even if it is just one. WL, please tell your mother all of these things. I don’t want her to worry.
Last week Wednesday, I went to Open Mic Night with my friends K, H, and C. After a close, but ultimately victorious game of pool, some dancing, and a lot of hugs later, I walked back towards the main road where I parked Kyler.
I put on my helmet and gloves ready for the winter’s cold to seep through and freeze my hands to the steering column. I sat for a moment and let all of the things that have happened in the past week wash over me. Grief and disbelief battle for the most prominent thought in my head. Neither of which were proper driving emotions. So, I let it overcome me.
Then, I found that I really just wanted to drive. There are many people who use driving as their think time. Personally, I find it tedious and gas wasting, and unless I can feel the weather rush around me, I can’t use driving for an outlet.
So, you can imagine my surprise when that was what I wanted to do. So, I started Kyler, and pulled onto the street. As I drove, the thoughts I’ve recently repressed surfaced. Concentrating on the road and not dying were my primary concern, so I needed to logically deal with them, as opposed to letting those pesky emotions in. I needed to drive forward to pull meaning out of my thoughts. Every turn shifted things and cleared the picture a little more.
I looked at the streets passing by, and I was in awe. I forgot what Busan looked like at night time. I generally try to catch the last subway, and it had been a while since I saw the lights. There are parts of the city that are so bright with neon that it looks like daytime, and there are parts that have no light shining down.
It was late enough in the night that there were no cars. It was just the road and my thoughts. I felt like I was in a Mario Kart game. My brain shook about as the road twisted and turned. The alternating lights shaded my perception. If only I could hit a mystery box, I could get a star and be totally invincible. I could just drive through this course unaffected by anything. With that, the shells from home that sent me flying through the air discombobulated and the slightly annoying banana peels from Busan wouldn’t impact me so much. I could just tra la la along with my star, and pretend as if I might win the race.
But, then I remembered a conversation I had with K: it doesn’t matter. Even if I tried to repress my thoughts by being stoic and unaffected, the grief and anxiety will become a part of me, and I will have no idea how to deal with it.
As I passed Haeundae station and went through the underpass, I realized that life isn’t about winning the race unscathed. It isn’t about winning the race at all. It is the laps you take, the circuitry; you experience something once, learn from it, and do it better the next time. It is about knowing that you might slip on a banana peel, or get inked by Blooper, or even rocked by the turtle shells zooming every which way. One will always have your name on it. It is about the mushrooms that make you grow, or the bullet that will allow you to power through and focus on the tasks you need to do. And, yes, sometimes it is about the star, which makes you invulnerable. But, if you play the whole game like that you will never learn anything. You will plateau at mediocrity. The mystery boxes hold things that might temporarily affect your race, both positively and negatively. The star is just the middle, and that isn’t enough. It never will be.