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February 1st, 2007 - Nick Hilbourn

I guess you can organize your life any way you choose.

This is the way I will do it: on February 1st, 2007 I was twenty-two. I was living in South Korea at the time. Busan, to be exact. I’d taken an iPod Nano overseas from South Carolina (a trophy from a college writing contest) that I listened to when I’d go for a run or ride the bus to the beach to read or whenever I’d walk the city streets at night. The Nano was a small black box of sound with more Jason Mraz on it that I’d like to admit and the remnants of a Korean language course I’d given up on. Along with this, I’d taken the beginnings of a crippling depression and a loneliness that I still don’t fully understand; it reared its body in ways so subtle that I wouldn’t notice for two more years. I’d finished the package by carrying along the usual flight syndrome that Americans develop: I wanted to get out of a small town, but I didn’t know where to go. Drive but no destination. I had nothing waiting for me, but I imagined I did. A lot of people, I later learned, came like this: wanting to get out but having nowhere to go.

That’s exactly how I came to February 1st. On that day I had been in Korea about six months when one of my closest friends at the time refused to speak with me, sent me an e-mail that said she was through. Through with whatever ersatz romance I’d formed through electronic means. Through with being that semblance of past and home that I needed to work through. Through with pretend and my consolidation of her self into an e-mail. That’s okay. I was drawing pretend to a close, too. Things were starting to take shape in that amorphous way that scientists say they spot dark matter. The phenomena around it change. They warp and shift according to its strange logic.

All that was followed by a trek into China with my roommates. My return and the subsequent death of dear friend in Korea who was no older than I am now. By the end of March, I would be done, finished with moving forward. Not much else to accomplish except maybe go back…

…but this is about February and it’s first day. That was the start of it all. Incredible. It began with an e-mail from the once-close friend that explained the end of things, the conclusion of all fantasies that I had taken over. Later, there would be a longing for explanations from her that wouldn’t come, that didn’t exist. Lots of things would follow that, but what I remember most about that day was the eerie juxtaposition of an excitement and hope I had for China and the experience of an emptiness that has been the du jour for my life up until now. I keep waiting for its conclusion, but I get the feeling that it’s just started...

That was February 1, 2007, for me. In some ways, it’s gotten a lot better over ten years. In a lot of ways though, it hasn’t. I’m back where I started. Yet, I love it. I can’t explain it. But I love this feeling of hanging in the nothingness, of knowing nothing. Of looking for a destination and seeing only myself.

I love it.

I love it.

I love it.


Nick Hilbourn lives and works in an intentional community of special educators in the suburbs of Philadelphia. His writing appears most recently in Stoneboat Literary Review, Polychrome Ink and Word Riot. Contact him on Twitter @nhilbourn

Nick encourages you to check out two organizations: Camphill Special School (a Waldorf school which aims to create wholeness for children and youth with developmental disabilities through education, extended family living, and therapy) and Give Directly (an organization that manages charitable transfers to impoverished communities, end-to-end, using electronic monitoring and payment technology) Visit and


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