Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sudden Seniority

Several people have asked how it is possible for me to have aged 3 years in less than six weeks. On November 27, I was still 41 by American reckoning. However, when I came to Korea I was suddenly 44. How?

 In Korea, according to the most common system, you are considered one year old at birth: your gestational age from conception is rounded up to a full year. On January 1, everyone officially ages another year--your birthday may not be until the end of November, but you are already accounted as having finished a year. Birthdays are celebrated in Korea on the real date (traditionally you get seaweed soup) but you aren't really considered to "turn" a year older on that day, since everyone turns together at the beginning of the year.

Thus, I left the United States at the age of 42 on December 31, 2016, but the moment I landed in Seoul on January 1, 2017, I was 44. Looking back, this also means that according to the Korean system I turned two years old on January 1, 1975, when my parents considered me only five weeks old, and I couldn't even hold my head up, much less walk or talk. I have always been a late bloomer.

Were I to stay in Korea for a full two years, I would miss being 43 entirely...

Phineas Fogg gained a day by traveling toward the sunrise. I lost a whole year of my life moving in the opposite direction.

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