Prodigal Magazine

I’m Finally Ready To Come Home

Written by Guest Contributor Archives 12 Comments

Editor’s Note: Today we have selected this story from Larry Bienz. To read other travel stories from your favorite bloggers, or to submit your own, visit our Travel Stories Blog Series page!

Years ago, I heard a sermon based around Dr. Seuss’ book OH, The Places You’ll Go.  It was in a chapel service at my Christian college, far from home. You can imagine the optimism and invincibility that flowed through my veins.

Man, those were the good old days.

I remember graduating with a yearning for what was coming next.  After being thoroughly burned out at the end of my undergrad, it was finally time to move on to higher peaks. Little did I know, those peaks were much further in the distance than I anticipated. And they weren’t in front of me, either.

If only I had known that earlier, before all this trouble.

I spent a year after school looking around for the next path. I was single, unattached, and free to roam as I saw fit. I had a date with Destiny. I looked across the country and across the globe for a new horizon to explore.  I found many opportunities and weighed the pros and cons of each…

[I'm going to skip through the boring parts of this story and just get to the climax]

…and I ended up here in Seoul, South Korea.  I began a job as a kindergarten teacher in a tourist area in the Soul of Asia.  Sounds perfect, right?  After many months of pondering the future, I was finally on the move!  Dr. Seuss would be proud…

“You’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So…get on your way!”

It turns out, Destiny didn’t get the memo.

I have learned two important truths in my time here:  1) This culture isn’t a good fit for me, and 2) I suck at teaching little kids.  There’s just no denying it.  But more than these, my father is growing ill and I picked the wrong time to fly around the globe.

Being stuck across the world in a place you don’t like at a hard job while someone you love is getting sick produces some intense emotions, let me tell you.  But I have learned a great deal from them.  Remember when I said those high peaks weren’t in front of me?  It wasn’t until I found failure in Korea that I realized something.

Those peaks were behind me all along.

I am finally ready to come home.  It would have been nice to find that out before I signed a year-long contract that will cost me over a thousand dollars to break.  But hey, life wouldn’t be an adventure if we didn’t get lost sometimes, right?

“Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.”

The past few months have been very difficult, but they have brought me along in the maturing process. A friend once told me that, by coming to Korea, I have set a precedent for the rest of my life. This is the kind of experience you look back on years later.

But for now, I’m tired of looking back. I want to look ahead. And by doing so I’ve set my eyes to the Chicago area–the place from whence I came.  After seven years away, it is time to come home. Isn’t it funny that as I am coming back, I’m also moving forward?

Maybe the whole point of this was just to help me appreciate home.

I believe in a loving Creator who interacts with and guides our lives. You can count me in that “purpose-drive life” category (man, what an awful cliche that has become). I truly feel that he brought me to Korea. And that is why this experience has made me angry at times. I’ve shouted at him and questioned an awful lately. “Why did you bring me here?”

“What the [expletive] are you doing, God?”

Well, I know one thing:  Eating kimchi and rice for several months has made deep dish pizza and Portillo’s hot dogs sound like heaven.  After spending so much time in a city of grey, I can’t wait to see Lake Michigan again.

Is that what you are doing, God? I can’t tell if you’ve pulled a cruel joke or given a brilliant lecture. Either way, I know one thing: As the time to walk on that plane draws near, I again feel optimistic and invincible. Except this time, I’ve got some brains to go with it.

And maybe, just maybe, that is enough to make this whole trip worth the trouble.

Question: Have you ever gone on a trip that was the “wrong” direction? What did it teach you? 

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  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    Oh boy, most of my 20s could be classified as trip in the wrong direction. But, I wouldn’t trade the lessons God taught me while living as the prodigal daughter. Each turn, good or bad, is used to shape us. Nice post.

    • Larry B

      Yea, I’d say several of my past years have been in the wrong direction, too. It’s crazy how they seem to add up so quickly. One day, you decide it’s time to move on, and then years later it feels like you still haven’t moved on. But you’re right, they shape us to become who we are down the road. Thanks for reading!

  • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

    I thought we were going to have a chance to move hundereds of miles away a couple of months ago and I was really excited b/c I am so bored with my life here…on the other side of the lake from you, lol. And it didn’t happen. I was depressed for awhile, and then I realized if I’m going to live here for even longer, I might as well try and enjoy it and find the positive in it. So now I’m trying to treat my home of 30 years as a vacation and exploring it.

    • Larry B

      I commend you, Caris, because I don’t think I would have the muster to change my attitude as well as you have. I got to be pretty negative like you said that you were, and from my experience let me say that you are a great person if you can turn over a new leaf without changing scenery. Thanks for reading.

      All this talk about the lake makes me eager for the dunes lakeshore in Indiana and southwest Michigan!

  • http://www.lorisprayercloset.blogspot.com Lori

    If I had it to do over, I may never have left my hometown……I was chasing something that I am still trying to recover. A hard lesson, but then again, I have met some wonderful people and had some great experiences all these years. I may never really find out if I took the right path until I get to Heaven, but I do know that if you think you can just turn around and go home, it is not always that easy. Decisions always come with consequences. Great post.

    • Larry B

      Really great perspective, Lori. As usual, it is easy to think that everything will be perfect once I move to “that new city.” The grass is always greener. Seldom do things ever turn out the way we wanted them to, and that is a lesson I will continue to learn for many years.

      You hit the nail on the head when you talked about the great people you’ve met. In my time in Korea, I’ve had some great coworkers here, and I’ve concluded that you can go anywhere and see anything in the world…but the people there with you are what makes the real difference. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  • http://leeleewrites.com/praying-boldly-takes-guts/ Leeann

    I think that from time to time, God lets us go off on adventures that are not the best for us. He knows what we want and what is actually the best for us. The wandering makes apparent what He knew all along. When we return to God and God’s plan, we also gain a closeness to our walk that wasn’t there before.

    • Larry B

      You’re definitely right, Leeann, but here’s the thing: I don’t want him to do that! Why can’t he just do what I want instead of what is best for me, you know? Is that so much to ask?

      “The wandering makes apparent what He knew all along. When we return to God and God’s plan, we also gain a closeness to our walk that wasn’t there before.” Very, very well said. Thanks for reading.

  • Allison Vesterfelt

    I have definitely taken some wrong turns in my journey, but it is usually on the trip home that I realize how much I’ve learned about myself, and about how I want to proceed moving forward.

    I love this line, “I can’t tell if you’ve pulled a cruel joke or given a brilliant lecture.” Describes the disoriented feeling so perfectly.

    Thanks for writing, Larry.

  • Larry B

    Thanks, Ally. I anticipate that this trip home will be just as memorable as living in Korea. Sorrows abroad lead to a triumphant homecoming. And then real life sets in, at which point I’ll learn yet again that life is never perfect. Thanks for reading.

  • http://www.faithfirmlyrooted.blogspot.com RCW

    Did you go to Wheaton? I enjoyed your writing. It was refreshing and the vulnerability you showed were inspiring. Good stuff.

    I haven’t lived in Chicago since 2007, but man – you mentioned some deep dish and Portillo’s hot dogs and I was taken right back.

    Keep on keeping on!

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