In the penultimate episode of the Korean drama Hotel del Luna, there’s a scene where the undying owner of the hotel, Jang Man-wol, looks back on her portraits from the hotel’s different eras.
There are no photos of any of her staff then. Koo Chan-sung, the current manager, tells her she should have taken some as proof of what the people around her were like through the years.
Back then, I thought they were just passing me by and meant nothing to me.
I had to pause to consider that statement, which was at once piercing and foreign.
For the longest time, I’d felt like a perpetual passerby, hurtling along at a pace that resisted any meaningful participation in my own life.
I visited Jessica Zafra’s blog on a whim today. She describes her book club’s latest pick, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, like this:
“[A] melancholy novel set on an island where things disappear and people are required to forget they ever existed.”
To me, it sounds like the universe laughing, somewhere in the distance.
Even my motives for running refused to be static. I’ve gone from escape to pursuit and back again. And in between, there have been long stretches when there was no motive so much as a visceral aversion to lingering — to settling.
Motion is easy, so it feels inevitable. It’s a convenient proxy for progress. Motion implies that you’re either outrunning an unbearable outcome or closing in on what you long for — that you are, in short, on the way to something better.
I admit that it’s an optimistic interpretation. More likely, there are no betters involved. Movement just happens to be easier than stopping to find that one bakery where you’ll get good bread every morning; to navigate the little quirks and frictions of long-term relationships; to do the work, that is, of making yourself a home.
It’s not all biased optimism. There’s a certain comfort in dismissing the finality from your situation. Whatever mistakes you make could be dealt with and left behind; you could go elsewhere, even if you still hadn’t figured out where “elsewhere” might be.
But an option like that is a tremendous privilege, and like many privileges, it lends itself easily to squander. Funny how motion can make somebody complacent in the end.