As I sat across Danny oppa during my farewell-brunch, reflecting on this year of postponed plans, I told him I felt like I didn’t cope and respond well to this whole situation. He said I did all I could. Though I wasn’t convinced, I was comforted — it was good enough. It felt like a permission to be confused, for just a little longer.
After my “Postponed” letter three months ago, Bible School stopped classes for two weeks due to soaring outbreaks. Masks in every form and shape were sold out, church services were held at home through screens, and masked acquaintances waving at me were the most confusing part of the deal.
MARCH – APRIL
Instead of scrambling up early for 8am morning prayer before class, I went to church almost everyday to pre-record and edit stay-home services. During this time, a crisis committees were formed and there was always someone editing videos at the church office. I was infinitely thankful for my investment in blue light blocking glasses and my design teachers through the ages.
During this period of supposed slow-downs and postponements, everything seemed to escalate to cancellations. Though I knew deeply I needed to process and grieve, my mind hijacked my heart into thinking that indefinitely postponed events don’t deserve moments of silences. It felt as if I was trying to prove my usefulness with my skills and miscalculated time.
APRIL – MAY
After Easter service and mother’s day specials, Taipei City eased up. Besides, it was getting too warm for masks outside at all times — I could finally recognize some acquaintances on the streets. Trying to keep up a conversation on public transits with masks on was another learning curve. School resumed, birthday parties were celebrated, dinner hangouts ensued, and unperfect weddings were tied.
As time skipped ahead, I allowed my heart to wonder if I would be ready for this brave new world. I slowly came to the agreement that changes needed to come from within — but how? This is an ongoing battle. Will I slowly breathe in the changes that need to arrive within a short time? Will I believe that I’m not the only one going through visa issues? Could I even begin to allow myself to sink into the pool of self-compassion?
In the last weeks of Bible School, there was a heavy chunk of time spent dealing with emotional health and our inner child. A couple of terms were redefined and renamed, many tears were shed. It would take way too long describe it here so I posted my journal entry for you to peruse (or skim). These classes were gentle reminders to let go of my own agendas and closely listen to the heart of God.
MAY – JUNE
I will admit to my slow response time to my visa doom, but one giant brick wall of bureaucracy still existed. Even if I received a work permit, as someone on a working holiday visa (in their most familiar country), I HAVE TO be outside of Taiwan to process the working permit into a work visa to come back to Taiwan, despite COVID-19. If that last sentence was too confusing for you, don’t worry. Basically, I had to leave Taiwan by the end of July — work or no work.
By mid-May, hard questions had to be asked. What do I do after my year in Bible School? What do I do with my expiring visa at the end of July? Is Hungary still happening? How do I start looking for my next thing? What will I do now that everything I thought would happen, isn’t happening? Why didn’t I think of better ways to support myself financially? Snowballs tend to roll downhill.
The worst feeling in all this confusion was this pang of settling. My mind was building up to going to Hungary on 14 June, 2020 for almost a year. That was the only plan. Now that I couldn’t have it (for now), everything else felt like second-rate. I felt robbed. My visa in Taiwan was supposed to expire just in time for Hungary. Big cancellations lead to big alterations.
JUNE – JULY
I was offered a job (with a visa) that felt like absolute boredom for me. It was going to be an admin job where I knew I could put up with it and do it well, but I didn’t want to say yes to it until I was fully convinced God wanted me to say yes. After four days of tears, inner-battles, tough conversations with my nearest dearests, and a quiet prayer by the sea, I could accept this job with a peacefully grateful heart.
But applying for visas and having that process approved are two very related yet different stories. Usually when I tell this story of indecision and rejection, it takes about half an hour. I have boiled it down to the minimum word count (you can ring me up if you want the whole spiel).
After a three week wait and a denied application, I scrambled here and there for other opportunities of work permits. It became clear to me how difficult it was for me to find a job that ticked off all criteria — usually visa was the issue. There were a couple of catches here and there, but I’ll get into it when there’re more concrete resolutions.
Two updates ago, I mentioned how “privilege” is my word of this year. One update ago, I touched on how wor(l)ds have turned upside down. God started redefining “Privilege” for me. A June journal entry I scribbled goes like this:
“This year has been absolutely notorious for being the worst turn of the decade. Despite Rona, Racism, and Ridiculousness Everywhere, the world is still on a trajectory that almost seems normal — especially in Taipei City. The normalcy is only a vibe, though. Now, I tend to only ever talk about my life in result of COVID-19, there doesn’t seem to be anything else. My life has turned upside down and I wonder where my word of 2020 went. Then I have to take a deep breath and ask God, again, what the @!%$ is he thinking (yes, I beep a lot at God, He sasses back). I have no other questions by this point even though I know I’m asking all the wrong questions. By this point, I’m frazzled, numb, furious, and invalidated all at once. I’ve been overusing “unfair” a lot. It takes all my attention to remind myself that privilege looks extremely different from what I imagined back in January. Privilege is Taiwan being absolutely golden in upping their preventative strategies. It is living in a city that fully functions while the rest of the world still has unbelievably soaring cases. Privilege is finishing Bible School with the classmates sweeter than most humans I’ve met and friends I hope to always rely on. Privilege is a church full of people celebrating, even with masks on. Privilege takes shape of friends who always have my back especially when I’m having meltdowns. [. . . . ]As this list goes on and on, it’s not about what I own, but the life I’ve led and lead gifted by the Almighty.”
As I packed my bag in preparation for my expiring visa, I wondered if I should be packing for the worst or the best. Neither. I’m treating this season like Elsa singing “Into the Unknown” (I watched Frozen 2 twice and ugly cried both times).
This is not a time for me to judge my situations as bad or good but to let peace and joy that lives in me exude to every environment I am situated in.
As my fourteen-day quarantine in Korea is ending, I’m reminded modern day technology is marvelous and my homes are only a text away. I think I’ve forgotten how to interact with physical human beings, though — I’ll slowly get back on track. Let the awkwardness ensue.