In Korean, there’s a saying that can be loosely translated into: “The first time you feel lonely after you move out of your parents’ house is when you catch a cold.”
My mom said this to me constantly as I was moving into my senior year of high school because while my parents moved back to California, I had to live alone in Seoul to finish school.
At the time, I didn’t really take it to heart. I felt invincible. I wanted so badly to be a ‘real’ adult.
I was excited to get a taste of the freedom that I would have an infinite supply of — once I went to college. Little did I know, this freedom would come at a cost.
Living alone far away from my parents — both in Korea and now as a freshman at Pomona College — has just been realization after realization that what I thought was ‘self-care’ my whole life was actually my mom telling me to take care of myself.
No one’s going to be there to force me awake every crushing morning. No one’s going to make sure I eat three meals a day. And if I get sick, there’s no one sitting by my bedside with hot Korean porridge, ginseng tea, and a handful of vitamins.
Self-care as an adult has not been what I had expected. I had never truly valued my physical health until halfway into this semester when I realized I was aching from my fourth fever-inducing cold this year.
I realized that I had to take responsibility for my body and prioritize nutrition, for what felt like the first time in my life.
In all my time as a young adult, self-care only pertained to me in terms of mental health — allowing myself to be sad when necessary and finding opportunities to be happy as often as possible.
While this is still incredibly important to me, I recognize now that being a well-rounded adult means taking control of my health in every aspect. And taking care of my physical health will translate into mental well-being much more than one would expect (despite it being emphasized at every wellness lecture, ever).
The disappointing reality of being an adult — something that I had looked forward to since I was in elementary school — is that surviving comes before thriving. Before I can even think to ‘dream big’ or imagine what I want to do in five years, I have to think about keeping my mind and body fit for the task. I constantly get anxious about how I’m going to achieve my post-college goals even though I’m not even close to graduating.