Saltwater and fresh air…a day of healing

I headed home after work with the gym-teacher’s wife, who is filling in for another teacher on absence, and she asked what I was doing this weekend. I said nothing as I only have 2,000 won to my name. (less than $2.00)  So she hands me money and I tell her no I’m okay, after about 3 times of this she gives me about 30,000 won and asks me to pay her back later. My co-teacher also offered me money but I declined. I don’t like owing people or feeling in debt to them.

So I started my Saturday trying to tackle my taxes, which I failed so, I am going to pay turbo tax this year to file my state taxes since I got a totally different refund amount than them. They are giving me more money so they can keep $30.00 of mine.  After that wasn’t going well, I decided to do laundry and tidy up my apartment. I cleaned all the dishes I have been ignoring. Not the ones in the sink, I clean those daily. But all the dishes through the apartment. I probably should have mopped and did some dusting but I’m a bit lazy so that will have to wait. I walked around the track several times last night and I came back and I had a lot of thoughts in my head.


A fellow EPIK teacher on facebook posted this quote and it resonated with me. I am starting all over again. It isn’t easy, most days I can handle my thoughts. But then there are days when you are by yourself the thoughts rear their ugly heads and wage war in my mind.  Part of my journey while I am here in South Korea will be to learn to grow as a person and love myself. Starting over, fresh, some place new where no one knows me is the perfect place to do that. I can be who I want, I can learn to love myself without being reminded of the past.  Unfortunately webmd or any other online site that talks about health can do a bit of damage although it can also be eye-opening. I looked up body image and came across BDD (Body dysmorphic disorder).  I’m not the classic extreme example of this, as I am not on the thin side and imagine that I am heavy, or I hate myself so much I can’t walk out of the house. But I do suffer from a degree of it. I’m hyper paranoid about my skin and hair. And If I can see it I fear others can and they might make fun of me if I am not perfect looking in that way. I also tend to compare myself to people who are much heavier than me. A lot of the time I find women who are probably on average (50~100lbs ) more than me, prettier or more attractive. Or I feel we are the same size.  I don’t have that inner degree of confidence that I accept my body the way it is.  I always wonder why my skin isn’t as nice, or I have darker hair or more body hair than other women. Why they always look better than me, and yet I never feel pretty enough. I don’t like wearing makeup but when I put it on, I want to take it off because I can’t tell if the makeup looks better or worse on me.  So Saturday, I struggled a bit with myself and my inner demons. And I told myself to go to bed and not think about it.

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Some words of advice I found as I continue to work on myself.

With that being said, my favorite place to go when I feel upset or just like to be alone is the beach. So I knew that was where I would be headed on Sunday. I packed up my backpack and headed out around 10 A.M. It took about 45 mins or so to get to the beginning of the beach which was all rocks but still really beautiful. The smell of salt water just instantly melts away whatever is brewing inside the mind and it dissipates into silence. The ocean is vast, beautiful and always takes my breath away.  It was a perfect time to reflect on myself and realize I am okay just the way I am and it is okay to struggle with that. I am learning to love myself one day at a time. It isn’t an easy road.


The blue-green water, the crashing waves and the smell of salt water just made me feel at peace. It was warm but breezy and the perfect day to hunt for shells. If you know my family at all we have an obsession about collecting shells every time we go to the beach. Even if it is the same beach we always go to. We always need more jingle shells. Or maybe we will get a cool shell that is finally complete. Because the cool shells are always the  ones that you find bits and pieces of and think, “Oh! I wonder if I can find a whole one?” Yes you probably will say that out loud as you are searching.

The first part of the beach was really rocky but the rocks had this beautiful mineral sheen to them. They were so pretty I actually picked up a few of them along the way since I haven’t seen rocks like that before. Next on the list, sea glass. Lots of sea glass. Which makes sense as we are on the ocean so more sea glass should wash ashore. Blue, green and brown sea glass collected? Check.  Every beach has its own “typical shells.” The shells you always collect and are like these are the cool shells of the beach, the majority of the population. They very in shape, size, and color, but normally the shells you collect the most of are these. What we are after are the prized possessions.  The truly unique shells of the beach. One of the first bits I found was a sand dollar. A SAND DOLLAR?! Could it be…I could find one? Granted it was only a piece but it gave me hope that maybe I would find this elusive sand dollar whole somewhere on the beach.

And when we do find said elusive shell…we say out loud, “oooo waaaahhhhah!!!!!! A SAND DOLLAR!!!!” like a five year old child receiving candy, we have found the ultimate prize on the beach.


I was so excited it got separated from the rest of the shells as I didn’t want it to break. Collecting sea shells is soothing, because you only focus on the shells. The details of the shells, the curves, lines, designs, colors, is it partial or whole? These are the questions we ask ourselves. If we find a piece of sea glass on the beach we ask ourselves does this constitute being sea glass? Is it smooth enough?  There is something about nature, whether it is an ocean, a forest, a mountain or a field…it soothes the soul. It erases the worries of the mind and gives us a fresh start for the day.

It does not matter where you live, everyone should have a place to go that relieves their mind and soothes their soul. For me that has always been the smell of salt water. The ocean. If there was no ocean in sight or I was in a land locked area it was the nearest body of water. Be it a river, a lake or a stream. I always knew where the closest body of water is, because when I am sad, when my mind is cluttered, when I want to be alone, to clear my head of all thoughts, I go and sit by water. And I stare at the ocean, or that body of water and let whatever is bothering me wash away. I always walk away feeling better.

I have turned my life upside down and am starting new. It isn’t easy and each day is a new adventure. Every day I am challenging the old me and creating the new me. The me, I have always seen inside my head. The pretty woman who radiates confidence and is full of life, charging straight ahead after her dreams. I’m building her day by day. So there are days I fall back and those inner demons chase me, but I acknowledge it. I embrace it, if I feel like crying…I do. If I feel like laying in bed all day…I do. If I need to find water, I will. As I get older I realize no matter where we are in the world, whether you transplant yourself to another state or country, you should always know what keeps you calm. What keeps you centered.  For me that is salt water and no matter where I go in life, I know that is always the place I will go when I need to think things through or free my mind of worries.

Where do you go to clear your mind? And if it isn’t a place, what soothes your soul?


I was looking at the shells I collected today and the ones that struck me the most were the sea glass. It’s like every piece is a shard of ourselves. And no matter how long we collect it or how many pieces we have in our collection it will never be complete, it will never completely be a testament to who we are. Why? Because we are individuals and no matter how we try to define ourselves it takes many pieces to make a whole and we don’t necessarily make a uniform shape, but maybe we are forever expanding…? Forever continuing to grow and shape ourselves as our lives continue…as life shapes us one day at a time. Some food for thought.

10 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Nina, The beauty one exemplifies is not all the time service…You , my dear have beauty that you may not see, but all who know you sure the hell see’s..and we are not blind.!!!Your self esteem is a little low now, as we can understand, with you in a strange country and a few obstacles and challenges you’ve already encountered, but the hill will not always be down hill, before long you will be on the upside of life with only old memories to laugh at, and the new me to smile at.
    By the way, Nina the paper you wrote on the “gay side of life” was great..You are right ! People have closed their minds to what they feel is strange and not right…They are ignorant and very narrow minded…We will eventually be accepted, maybe not in my life time, but hopefully you will see it, and then be able to say,”my aunt’s were of the minority, they were strong and they had a great life”..(We will be together 35 years Sept.9th)
    Well, We have to say so long for now, please stay well, take care of yourself and KNOW you are BEAUTIFUL,..And yes, the ocean is also my place of sanity..

    Love, Aunt Millie & Marie

  2. You know I find it very interesting that you are looking for “The pretty woman who radiates confidence and is full of life, charging straight ahead after her dreams”, you already are this person. You cannot compare your body to others. It is yours and yours alone. I am not a perfect shape either. But what of it? It’s good enough! Find peace within and peace will follow… the perfect sand dollar is just the beginning!

  3. All my love, dearest Nina. I feel so lucky to have met you, because I saw someone I knew I wanted to know better. I saw courage and determination. Learning to love yourself may be a long journey (heaven knows I’m nowhere near the end) but it’s an intrinsically valuable process. I hope you realise that you deserve it. You deserve that love. Never forget that.

    1. Aww, thank you, Heather! I do agree it is totally an intrinsically valuable process. I do know I deserve that love its putting the belief in my head and believing it whole-heartedly. 🙂

  4. I thought of you…snorkeling at Key West…I saw..get this..a sanddollar..had to be 12″ x 12″ HUGE!!!!!! thought of you

    1. Nina, sorry I haven’t written sooner, but a lot has been going on in our lives..We had to put Chili’ down April 1st, and with Marie not 100%, it’s been hell to say the least..But, I want to tell you, I was thinking of a way to get the students attention..Here goes!!! Get a empty can of soda, put a few pennies in it, and shake it hard once, and see how they all be quyiet !! Then tell them to “LISTEN, AND LISTEN TO ME NOW! Hell, Nina, maybe it’ll work..I know you have it in you to have then pay attention, and to sit up and listen..Now, I wish when I lived in Key West in the 60,’s(owned a restaurant)I would have gotten you many SAND DOLLARS…They are beautiful and they are a lucky and a blessed symbol..
      Well, my friend, we want you to stay well, and until the next time, take care of yourself and we love you and stay SAFE..
      Love, Aunt Millie & Marie.

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