I took my son and wife to Incheon Airport yesterday. They flew to Shanghai, China and will spend the next five weeks there visiting family. Alas, I will stay home and hold down the fort. Am I happy or sad or both to stay home alone? Both, of course. It is tough being separated from one’s family. Last summer we were separated for almost five months. I was very glad when we reunited last July. It took my son awhile to warm up to me after that separation, because he hardly knew his father. This time will be different because our time apart will be shorter, and he’s a bit older and more aware than he was last year. Of course I’ll miss my wife too. After many years of marriage, we’re very comfortable in our relationship. We survived many periods of separation, and we survived many times when we were distracted by obligations to our son and family.
I have to admit that I am glad to have some time alone. One, I can enjoy peace and quiet. I can sleep in and not have to get up early to take care of my son. I can finish consolidating our home in peace. Our home is a disaster place right now. I am reorganizing everything while they’re gone. I accomplished more yesterday afternoon by myself than I did in the last two weeks. Between caring for my son and keeping him preoccupied, I have had very little time to manage our home. It’s nearly impossible to keep him away from the piles of stuff lying around. If there’s action going on such as moving furniture, he’s there to “help.” I don’t mind having him around, but I can now concentrate on rearranging the house without being disturbed. This is important because we have too many belongings that need to be put away, sold, or given away. In addition, when you move frequently, you need to be organized or you end up losing some of your belongings.
Secondly, I can focus more on work and community service. I volunteered for a few community activities in the coming weeks. For example, later this month I will judge Korean high school students in an English speech contest. I want to do as much volunteering now as I can so I can cut back later when my family returns. I enjoy volunteering, and it’s important for my career. However, my family takes priority over my career, so it’s best to do as much now as I can. Thirdly, I can do things now I couldn’t or don’t want to do while my family was here. For example, I can join in some of those Friday Poker nights I’ve missed or sing at a noraebang (노래방), or karaoke joint, with friends. I have yet to get together with friends here for a soju (소주) party. (Soju is Korean rice alcohol.) When I was living solo in Washington, D.C. last summer, I had a wonderful time hanging out with friends and colleagues. I wouldn’t trade having a family for the single life again, but there are simply things you cannot or should not do when you have a family. You’re much too busy to go out and socialize all the time. I can’t bring myself to leave my family home to go out and have fun. One of the benefits of separation is that it gives me a chance to socialize a bit more than I have been here in Seoul.
Tonight I went to our community Association’s annual dinner. I was elected to serve on the association’s board of directors. It is quite an honor. I’m new to Seoul and wanted to find an appealing volunteer opportunity. The Association manages substantial investments here in Seoul, including a neighborhood Starbucks Coffee and 20 extended-stay apartments. It will soon lease space to a Quizno’s Subs shop. The board position will hopefully give me a chance to use the MBA I earned in 2003. I don’t often use the quantitative skills I learned in my current position, but managing a large investment is an MBA’s dream. Speaking of my MBA, I was very happy to read that my alma mater, the University of Washington MBA program, is now ranked #18 in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. When I first started in 2001, University of Washington barely registered in the national MBA rankings, but now it’s rocketing up the charts. Once the new business school building opens, the program should rise even further up the ranks. Right now it’s housed in an ugly monstrosity disparagingly known as “Balmer High (School)” and “a model of Stalinist architecture.” I’m happy that the value of my MBA is increasing dramatically, and I’m glad I attended in the old days before tuition and minimum GMAT scores began to skyrocket. If you’re looking for an MBA, check out the University of Washington. It’s an underappreciated gem of a program, and it’s still affordable relative to other top 20 MBA programs.