How Did I Get Here? An Origin Story

I am moving to Korea! In August! And I’m thrilled. Really.

But in thinking about what’s to come, I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I got to this point in my life.

All super heroes have their origin stories, most involving some kind of tragedy. All adventures are preceded by normal, if sometimes unsatisfying lives. (Really–Bilbo was just sitting around the Shire until some mother fucking wizard put a mark on his door and a bunch of crazy dwarves started showing up. Then there was this whole thing with a ring… LONG story short, three and a half books later, Middle Earth is saved, but first Bilbo had to come out of his hole.)

Especially if there's a TARDIS outside!

Especially if there’s a TARDIS outside!

So this is the origin story of Jessica–the type of person who goes out and drinks and talks to people she’s doesn’t know, who writes and reads her work in public, who dances, who sings karaoke, who backpacks 12 miles in and 12 miles back out (if very slowly…), who lives by herself, who sees her friends and her family, who takes vacations, and who in two and a half months will be living by herself in South Korea. Pretty big transformation from the Jessica who spent the majority of every weekend at home on the couch watching Doctor Who and napping.

One year ago, if you told me I would be well on my way to moving to another country… by myself… to live and work for one year, I would not have believed it. In fact, if you told me that one year ago, I probably would have ended the conversation with you, and gone home and cried, because some random person on the street decided to fuck with me–telling me I would have all these beautiful things that at the time felt completely unattainable.

That’s because up until October of last year, I was in a pretty bad place in my life. I was in the tenth year of a relationship that had lasted since high school and was really not working for me. AND I was about to take the plunge into making that relationship really, really permanent. I was engaged and on the verge of buying a house, two actions that if fulfilled would leave me unhappily married and cohabitating with not only my spouse, but his parents whom I would be expending a lot of energy to care for.

Some part of me knew this was the worst idea EVER, but the rest of me kept telling myself things like: but they NEED you and he’s really not that bad, you’re just being crazy/need to try harder and maybe things will be better once you’re married and perhaps worst of all you have nowhere else to go.

Fortunately for me, a dear friend of mine who had been away came back into town briefly and during his visit, staged sort of an impromptu drunken intervention, inviting me to hang with him and a couple of his friends (one of whom happened to be a certified therapist). This drunken, pseudo-therapy/Cards Against Humanity hangout did a couple of things for me. First of all, it was fun–that game is excellent! Second, it gave me independent, external confirmation that the negative feelings I’d been having about my relationship were valid and that I deserved better than I had given myself up to that point. Third, it encouraged me to be really honest with myself about why I was unhappy and what would need to change to make me happy. And fourth, it prompted me to go home and write the following list:

Things I want for myself:

  1. To be happy more days than I am sad
  2. To travel to other countries & experience other cultures, languages, foods, etc.
  3. To write more, progressing toward publication
  4. To pursue my other interests, art, crafts, gardening, etc. + reading
  5. To see my dad more
  6. To get outside more like Nick [my brother] does (hiking, fishing, backpacking, etc.)
  7. To feel like I am in control of my life and not vice versa
  8. To spend more quality time with friends
  9. To stop worrying so much about money
  10. To feel physically healthy, mentally stable, and confident that I can do the things I want to do and be the person I want to be

The next day I had lunch with another friend, and unlike in the past when I would sort of mention that something might be kind of wrong, but let the conversation move on to something else (because who really wants to hear about my problems), I kept bringing it around to this topic. At this point, Friend #2 confirmed that yes, I did actually deserve to be happy, and no, this relationship did not seem to be working for me. Further, she confided that she was not the only one among my friends who was worried about me. Further still, she told me that if I needed somewhere to go, her home was open to me.

I left my partner the next day and within the week was working on plans to get out of this country. Eventually, I landed on teaching English for a program in Korea, and have been working on getting there ever since.

(Oh, and as far as my list goes–nothing but checkmarks!)