The Old Tea Shop


Despite a sizable age gap, my co-worker often asks my advice in areas I can offer little help – weight loss, romance, and career. She regularly recounts for me everything she has eaten on a given day and describes her blind dates with men that her church friends have set her up with:

“He is not very good-looking, but he has a lot of money and he buys me expensive dinners. In Korea, women like wealthy men. In America is it true that women don’t care how men look as long as they have money?”

Another popular subject is things she envies. The list is exhaustive.

“I really envy the students. Look at them. They’re always smiling. I remember when I used to be so happy.”

Given their strict upbringings and oppressive workloads, I do not understand why anyone would envy Korean children. Furthermore, I do not share in this common nostalgia for childhood. Although my younger years were generally pleasant, mostly I recall being bored, the narrow understanding of adults, and being extremely shy.

While birds flew over my head today, sipping 녹차 at a traditional Korean teahouse, it occurred to me that I quite like growing up:

  • I like making impulsive decisions that affect my life in grand and wonderful ways.
  • I derive satisfaction from going to work and earning my own money (albeit under dubious pretense).
  • I like discovering my own interests and learning merely for the sake of it.
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