Doing it anyway

3 Feb

The year was 1999. I was 20. In my final year of a BA in English Literature and Modern History. In a mediocre relationship, that was going nowhere. And I had just been diagnosed with endometriosis. Which wasn’t that bad. Afterall, the GP I had seen initially told me “You’re either pregnant or you have cancer”. An attempt to tell me I was pregnant, I think. Even though I knew in my heart and soul that I wasn’t. And I told him and told him. Then again, what else could be wrong with a twenty-year-old student, living in sin? The next 14 hours were an absolute torment. I knew I wasn’t pregnant. I called my mother, in tears. She tried to convince me I was pregnant. Said she’d be up the next morning and would meet me after I got done at the Maternity hospital (the GP had scheduled me for an ultrasound, the theory being that I was at least 20 weeks). I told my “boyfriend”. Asked him to come to the hospital with me. He was “too busy”.  Couldn’t take the day off work (work being an accountancy internship). The boll*cks. That was the final nail in the coffin for our relationship. A friend came with me instead.

I explained that I wasn’t pregnant to the nurses. They were perplexed. I had an ultrasound. I didn’t know what was going on. An army of doctors came in. Discussed what they could see in hushed tones. Decided they needed to see it on a better machine. Up, dressed, out. Another room. Another ultrasound. No more questions about how many weeks I was. Or my last period. Just serious screen studying. And a vaginal exam. Dressed again. And a quick escape to pee (they made me drink a litre of water, so that my bladder would be full. No one listened when I said I had to pee every 15 minutes, regardless of whether I drank anything or not). Then I met with the consultant. Who told me I wasn’t pregnant. And that I didn’t have cancer. But I did have endometriosis. Which meant that the lining of my womb (the endometrium) was growing outside of my womb. And had caused a cyst on my ovary. I would have to have a laproscopy and some laser surgery to remove the cyst. Woohoo!

Later, it turned out the cyst was larger and more entangled than they had thought. So I had to have a course of injections, which would chemically induce the menopause, stop my periods and theoretically shrink the rest of the cyst. Then I would have another laproscopy to make sure the cyst was gone. Things didn’t work out that way though. Yes, I was menopausal. But my periods continued. Just like before. The medical opinion? My periods were “too strong” for the medication.

So there I was, menopausal and pre-menstrual. Trying to finish my last year. Afraid that I would fail. Hot flushes and hormones meant I couldn’t concentrate (I was on HRT too). Trying to decide what I would do with my life. With no idea. I was still living with my “boyfriend” because it was too much trouble to break up and move out. I just didn’t have the energy. Then I saw an ad on the Careers noticeboard. For a job, teaching. In Korea. “Cool!” I thought. And I applied. Knowing nothing about Korea, except what I learned from a pen pal I had in primary school. That was late February, early March. Told the “boyfriend”. He said “What about me?” The boll*cks. I told him he could come with me (knowing he wouldn’t). That was the end of that discussion. He couldn’t put his “life on hold” for a year. Me, though, he expected me to marry him and live beside his mother. Putting my life on hold, forever. The boll*cks.

Life went on. I was a bit mental for the next six months. The entire thing is a blur. I heard nothing from the Korean embassy. And I was convinced I would fail my degree anyway. I even went so far as to have a chat with my father, asking him if I could “borrow” the fees required to repeat (and get my honours degree) from him. He said there’d be no borrowing. He’d give me the money, if I needed it. But that I wouldn’t. Love him!

I did my final exams. Had the second laproscopy. And I had to wait for the results of both. I broke up with the “boyfriend” and moved home. My exam results came on July 15th. Not only did I pass, I got a 2.1. Better than I had dared even hope. I was dancing and screaming in the hall, when the phone rang. Mam answered it. It was the Korean embassy. Calling me for an interview. Still breathless from the dancing and screaming, I spoke to the man and set up an interview time for the following week.

The “interview” was really just a chat, to make sure I didn’t have blue hair or any visible tattoos. I went through a more stringent interview process to work at Burger King (where I lasted a total of one day).  They told me I would hear within the week and would have to be ready to leave by August 15th. August 15th? Gulp! That’s 3 weeks. I still didn’t have a passport. I began having second thoughts. Just a few. Little niggly ones. What if, like Burger King, I didn’t like it? I couldn’t really go any farther away without being on my way back. Was this really the ideal place for me to go? By myself? Not knowing anyone? Never having been anywhere ‘foreign’ (if you exclude a weekend in London, once). But if I didn’t go, what would I do? Living with my parents was already starting to chafe a bit. “Feck it!” I thought. I can always come back.

I heard the next day that I had the job.  I started telling everyone. With the help of my mother, who didn’t want me to go. She never said that in front of anyone else though. When the nay-sayers and the worry warts started to bring up potential problems, she always cut them off, with a “Sure isn’t she right? She’s young. Now’s the time to do it. If she doesn’t like it, can’t she come back?”  Love her. Even if she did have my heart scalded with all of the potential problems.

I hardly had time to worry though. I had to go back to Dublin to apply for a passport. Rush jobs are always complicated. Back up again to collect it. 3 days later. Must be a record. Back up again to have lunch with the Korean ambassador and sign my contract. And again to meet the consultant to make sure I was alright and ft to travel. I was. He even prescribed me some painkillers (effectively horse tranquilizers) to help me get through my periods in a foreign land where I didn’t speak the language.

Just the case to pack and I was ready to go. What do you pack to go to a country you’ve never been to, for a year. To do a job you’ve never done. And how do you fit it all in one suitcase? Those were the questions that preoccupied me. Stomping out all of the doubts. There just wasn’t room in my head for all of the conflicting thoughts. Anyway, I had told everyone I was going. I couldn’t back out now.

And so I went. The stress of the entire thing meant that I slept for the entire journey from Heathrow to Seoul. Twelve hours of solid sleep. I woke up in Korea. Refreshed, and not really ready for the wall of heat that hit me when I got off the plane. I really should have researched more. But if I had, would I have gone?

That experience, that stepping into the unknown, is undoubtedly the best thing I have ever done. It’s what brought me to where I am today. If I hadn’t gone to Korea, would I have gone to Japan? If I hadn’t gone to Japan, would I have met the hubby? If I hadn’t met the hubby, there’d be no turtle. And where would I be now? I doubt it would be Florida.

A little fear and some doubt is natural. Perhaps even healthy. Just do it anyway.

Written for Sleep is for the Weak’s Writing Workshop: 5. Tell me about a time when you ‘felt the fear and did it anyway’

(Click on the Workshop badge to see the rest of this week’s prompts).


9 Responses to “Doing it anyway”

  1. isadori February 3, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    That’s quite some experience! Thanks for sharing. I just popped over to let you know that I’ve mentioned you on my new blog, Peekaboo Me! at Is it OK if I add you to my blogroll?

  2. Karen @ If I Could Escape . . . February 6, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Wow, that’s an amazing story! Korea, Japan and I now take it you are in Florida too? Thanks for sharing it.

    • turtleturtleturtle February 7, 2010 at 8:08 pm #

      Next up, California. Which may well be the scariest of all. Things change when you have a little person to think of.

  3. The Moiderer February 6, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    that was a great read. I so admire hoe brave you were just going for it. Don’t think I could have done that. These things do tend to work out in the end though don’t they?

    • turtleturtleturtle February 7, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

      I don’t think I could right now either. Things are different when you’re 20 and under the impression that you might just live forever.

  4. marisworld February 6, 2010 at 7:10 pm #

    What a fabulous experience and as you say, brought you to where you are today.
    Loved it, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • turtleturtleturtle February 7, 2010 at 8:10 pm #

      Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. skippedydoodah February 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    My god you’ve been through so much, that’s really amazing stuff. I’m so sorry for all the suffering though… but doesn’t it just make little T the most amazing miracle? 🙂

    I want to know more – I love your writing… what happened in Korea? How did you meet Mr Turtle? MORE!

    • turtleturtleturtle February 10, 2010 at 11:07 am #

      Mr. Turtle! Hee hee! Well, we met in a bar in Japan. Drank some Guinness. Sang some Karaoke. As you do.
      As for the rest, well, I’ll do my best to articulate it one of these days. It’s hard when it seems so “ordinary”. It does now, at least. Not so much at the time. Time has eroded a lot.

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