Friday, June 24, 2011

sometimes you just need to run away

I spent a year and a half in the US during 2009-2010. Prior to that, I’d been living overseas since mid-2005. At the end of 2008, when I returned to the US, I had actually thought that I might have reached the point in my life where I’d be content to remain in the US forever – well, except for vacations, of course! However, it didn’t work out anything like I’d planned.

I quite unfortunately got caught up in a perfect storm of terrible people, bad situations, a horrific work environment, and bad decisions, turning that time into the worst period of my life. (I alluded to this a bit in my very first post, and I chronicled a lot of what was happening beginning in September '09 on what was, up until now, my super-secret blog.)

From July-December 2009, I carried my passport with me EVERYWHERE at all times, just in case things got too terrible to take. I actually set off for the airport a few times. I’ve never told anyone that before. I always turned back because I had too many obligations that I couldn’t just abandon at a moment’s notice, obligations which kept me trapped in that hell for far too long.

By early 2010, things had gotten much better. A temporary restraining order (or the small, southern town equivalent thereof – sadly, not kidding) had gotten the terrible people to (mostly) leave me alone, and I had left the horrific work environment. However, there were no other job opportunities in said small, southern town. I had one job interview, but didn’t get the job – the position was later eliminated due to lack of funding, so it didn’t really matter. My house was no longer my home; instead it was a den of nightmares, continually reminding me of the bad decisions I had made, and the horrible things that had happened as a result. I didn’t feel safe there at all. I couldn’t go anywhere – home, school (I took some college courses; what else do you do when you’re unemployed?), my mom’s house, shopping – without constantly looking over my shoulder, for fear of the aforementioned terrible people.

In spring 2010, G emailed me to ask if I would be interested in returning to her school (where I’d taught during 2006-2007), and I jumped on it. I totally fucking ran for the metaphorical hills. However, unlike my abortive trips to the airport during 2009, I had several months to get my affairs in order first: house cleaned and up for sale, power of attorney transferred to my mom for sale of said house, numerous ‘obligations’ taken care of (sorry, don’t want to be too specific) to lessen the load on my mom in my absence.

This was the only time I had ever left the US on the run, as it were. I’d always left the US seeking adventure. Home was always behind me as somewhere comfortable to which I could return if my adventures didn’t pan out as planned or when I simply wanted to return home. By the time I left, I was so stressed out (due mainly to the impending expiration of the temporary restraining order) that I truly did not expect to ever return. You know how, at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings (the books, not the films), Frodo wanders about the Shire, essentially saying goodbye to different streams and valleys and whatnot, because he thinks he's leaving for good? That was me.

Arriving in Korea as a method of escape (as opposed to seeking an adventure) was a different experience all around. I’ve always been fairly anti-social, and have never been into seeking large groups of friends, but I usually attempt to make some friends whenever I move somewhere. I didn’t have too many friends in Korea the last time I was here, although I have a pretty decent – if small – group of friends by the time I left. This time, other than pre-existing friends on the peninsula (G and her family, my friend S in the US military, and my cousin) and my co-workers (John and J), I have pretty much kept to myself. I haven’t even spent much time with them, much less anyone else. For the most part, I’ve wanted it that way.

It literally took the first few months I was here to get out of the habit of constantly looking over my shoulder. It took about six or seven months before I stopped crying myself to sleep at least once a week. Just this month I started feeling like I was finally ‘getting over’ the events of 2009. I’m not sure what the turning point was… but some time recently, I realized that the thought of running into certain terrible people no longer makes me envision hiding or running for the nearest cop. Instead, I just think: Oh, fuck off.

A couple of weeks ago I learned that if I do get the job in Seoul, I’ll have to return to the US in order to apply for my E-7 visa, and I actually feel excited by the idea of returning home for a short while. Time might not have healed all wounds, but it has certainly helped – as does being in an environment where I haven’t had to feel any stress about that whole situation.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve started wishing I’d gotten out more, explored more of the country (well, okay – I’ve explored a good lot of it on previous trips, so I don’t completely feel like I missed out) and at least attempted to meet some new people. I barely even blogged, and I certainly didn’t reach out into the ex-pat in Korea blogosphere like I did back in ’06-’07.

It’s a little late for all that now – I’m leaving in five weeks. It’s still up in the air as to whether I’ll be living in Seoul or Ukraine come September. But I’m back to being me, and whichever location I land, I’m going to get back to living life. No more hiding. (Well, okay, so I'll still have this semi-anonymous blog. I might want to tell certain folks to go fuck off, but that doesn't mean I want them knowing where I am and what I'm doing.)


Eve said...

looking forward to reading your secret blog. sounds like it's going to be an interesting story.

i think maybe a lot of us have those super traumatic events that take a long LONG time to recover from. i know i do. lots and lots of tears, fears, etc. i'm happy for you that this month marked a turning point. cool. :)

Anonymity said...

And alas, just when I feel like getting out there and getting the most out of Korea... we've got Typhoon Meari sitting on our heads making everything wet and miserable. Ahh well. It'll be a weekend with the Kindle, I suspect.