Thursday, June 13, 2013


Fragments scattered across the world
My sanity littered around the universe
Confused verses
Uttered curses
In tongues
Screaming in my brain
To drown out the thunderous shame
At the memory of what could have been
And what I chose instead
The fighting in my head
My life in tatters
Glaring daggers
At the mirror
The future's looming nearer
I am unarmed and ill-prepared
I don't dare try again what I dared
Luck was on my side
But now I hide
No confidence in my stride
No definition in my character
A smiling caricature
Ready to burst

Over 6 months I've been in the US and I have nothing to show for it but a bank account in the negative. Socially, I have yet to commit sabotage in all arenas. I still have no idea what to do with my life.

When I was married in Korea, we had a plan. Our little fusion burrito restaurant in the countryside failed, and we scrapped that plan. We moved to Seoul, I started working at Samsung, he started writing a book, and we had another plan. Two months after he started writing his book, I asked him how far he had gotten. He said, "I've written out the outline for the whole book and I'm almost done with chapter one." I said that was good progress and supported him emotionally and financially. Four months later I asked him how far he had gotten on his book. He said, "I listened to some guy's lecture on how to write a book and had to start over. I've written the outline for the whole book and I'm almost done with chapter one." A couple months later I left him. Half a year after that, we officially got a divorce because I found out that I was never going to get the work visa I'd been promised, and my ex-husband and his father had been calling my boss and me making threats. I lost my visa, my job, and my plans for the future. I was a 23-year-old divorcee with no future. I managed to scrape by for another 10 months in Korea, but that moment at the end of January 2012 is when it was all over.

I am writing this because I want to stress how important it was for me to know where my life was going, and how broken I was when it all fell apart.

After I left my ex, I started working on arrangements for a work visa so I could keep my job at Samsung. My future relied on it. I was going to work there as a global consultant until the program was over in 2015. Then I would use the skills and connections I'd amassed over the years to get onto a marketing or strategy team and continue working at Samsung for at least another 5 years. Then I'd maybe use that experience to get a job in the US and move back with my Korean husband and our cute little mixed kids (2 of them). I didn't want my children going to school in Korea because the education system puts a lot of stress on kids and they thus have the highest suicide rates in any OECD country (in all age groups). I didn't divorce my husband because he was Korean; I divorced him because he didn't work and he showed no potential for being a provider in case something happened to me. That, and he did something unforgivable that I don't want to write on the internet. I assumed I would marry again and he would be Korean and everything would work out according to my plan because it was logical. After quite a bit of back-and-forth between my contracting company and government offices, I was just a couple of days away from getting my work visa. The HR person in charge of my program told my supervisor and my contracting agent (but not me) that Samsung would not be employing anyone in my position without a permanent residency visa. I couldn't get a work visa without a contract, and I couldn't get a contract with a work visa. I was effectively fired without being fired.

After about 2 months of being basically bedridden by depression, I lucked into another job. I needed money badly, so I started spreading the word that I would be tutoring English again. My boyfriend at the time, whom I had met at Samsung just before the end, was a member of Toastmasters International. He took me to a couple meetings here and there, and I eventually became a member and attended regularly. After one meeting, a group had gone out for chicken and beer (a popular and delicious meal in Korea). I was talking to one man I knew worked in a multinational company. I told him that I was an English tutor and that if he knew anyone who wanted tutoring to let me know. The next week, I saw him again, and he said, "I think I can give you a job." I answered, "oh, you know someone who needs a tutor?" He said, "no, I want you to work for me." "Oh, you want me to tutor you?" "No, come work for my company." I loved that job. I made another plan. They couldn't get me a visa. I came back to the US with my tail between my legs.

My mother says that I should never think of myself as a failure. I went to the other side of the world, ill-prepared, alone, and made it for almost 4 years before being forced to come back not because I couldn't find a job but because I couldn't get a visa. Sometimes I think she's right. Sometimes I wonder if I had just stuck to my plan when I first started university and become a doctor if I'd be happier.

Everyone has their "what if" scenarios. Most people wonder what their lives would be like if they did something crazy like run away to the other side of the world the day after their 21st birthdays. I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn't done that. I don't regret it, and I value the experiences and relationships I gained from that adventure. But, I feel that it has defined me and now that I'm back in the US I don't know who I am anymore. I feel like a child actor the world has forgotten about.

For about 6 months after I left my ex-husband and before I lost my visa, I was hypomanic. I was great, respected, successful. I lived in one luxury high-rise and worked in another. I played piano with the lights off gazing at the tiny people below my 19th floor window walking through pools of light from the street lamps as my fingers danced to the rhythm of their footsteps. I danced salsa in the basement clubs in the hottest districts of Seoul half the nights of the week and drank in exotic bars on the weekends. I knew the spiderweb of the Seoul Metro better than many Koreans. I was classy and climbing the ladder during the day and sexy and alluring at night. I spent money as quickly as it came in and I was making more than I'd ever made before. I wasn't getting enough sleep and I didn't feel like I needed it. I was self-destructing and everyone loved me. I was happy.

And then I was sad.

And then I was medicated.

And now I'm in another foreign place and I don't have anything familiar from that Korean life that I built. I don't have medical insurance so I can't get treatment. I don't have a job so I don't have a normal schedule or money for a healthy diet. I don't have the social support I need, although I'm quickly building good relationships here, largely thanks to salsa dancing. I feel I have nothing and my essence is fading with the memories of my life in Korea. Without the social constructs I'm used to working in and without a job to define me, I don't have anything to introduce myself as. Hello, my name is Kristin and I used to be someone on the other side of the world in a country you've probably never thought of visiting. Now I'm just a wreck with no idea what to do with her life.

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