Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How I Survived 2014

I am pretty certain that 2014 was the most difficult year of my adult life. I've made some huge life changes and I am ending the year 2014 in a way that I never would have imagined back in January. I wanted to do a recap of sorts of my life this year, but to be honest, the first four months are a complete blur. I looked back at my blog posts from the beginning of the year and I found that I didn't share any of the chaos that was my life. I don't think I was ready then, but now...now I own my story and I'm ready to tell it. Spoiler Alert: It all ends on a good note!

January - mid May
Like I mentioned, the first few months of this year are a complete blur. I don't really recall any of it. I was desperately trying to finish out the last semester of my master's degree and pass my comprehensive exams. My marriage had been on the rocks for quite some time, we'd been in counseling and finally decided to separate in February. My husband moved out of our house the first of March. Anyone who has ever experienced divorce before probably knows that you experience every single emotion possible, often all in the same day. Sometimes even more than once a day. Some days are good, some bad and some awful. The desire to find happiness again, the sadness at what is lost and the anxiety over what's to come usually roll together into one big knot and are difficult to handle at times. I'm not entirely sure how I got through grad school, but I'm pretty sure my brain was on auto pilot.

With all of the stress and anxiety I had over my divorce, I can honestly say I didn't put my best effort into my degree. I did the best I could under the circumstances I had, but I know I'm capable of much more. That I didn't struggle and find a way to do better is one of my biggest regrets. Fortunately though, I passed my exams and final classes and received my diploma. Other than meeting one of my very best friends in grad school and working with one of the best professors I've ever had, I'd much rather forget my time there. 

Graduation Day
Yes, my husband was with me on my graduation day. Part of me thinks that we are the weirdest divorcing couple ever, the other part of me is glad we are able to remain friends on some level. We both had sacrificed so much for my diploma that he wouldn't miss seeing me walk across the stage to accept it.

After graduation I needed to find a full time job. As ridiculous as it sounds I was feeling incredibly insecure about my ability to find a well paying job that I loved. I had also dreamed of studying abroad or living abroad some day, but those dreams would never have come true if I stayed in my marriage. So I enrolled in an Oxford Seminars course to earn an ESL Teaching Certificate to help me find a job teaching abroad and explore my options. This was a six week course that cost $1200 but the selling point for me was that they helped you find a job in your country of choice through their many contacts. To me it felt safer knowing they were all schools that had been vetted for me. 

I really wanted to teach in Oman because of my love of Middle Eastern history and the country is relatively safe, but there were no open positions at that time. Due to my level of education I received dozens of interviews and offers all over China and some in South Korea as well. I considered Japan, but the application process was longer and I wasn't sure it would fit my time frame. Plus I had a lot of other offers at my feet. Ultimately I chose a job teaching at a university because it aligned more closely with my recent goals and I thought it would provide good experience for my future. You can read more on my big announcement here

As I prepared to leave for China in August I needed to tie up loose ends and I wanted to visit as many local sites over the summer as possible before I left the area I lived in, possibly forever. You can read more about my summer adventures here, here and here. My husband and I spent several weekends checking places off my list. I know, we were separated and still spending time together, weird right? It was often difficult and sometimes tense, but I think we both wanted to have a few good memories together before our marriage finally ended. Here is a brief look at the places we visited:

Volo Bog

Volo Auto Museum


Black Pointe Estate, Lake Geneva, WI

Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio, Oak Park, IL

And if that still wasn't enough...I ended up having surgery at the beginning of August. A mere three weeks before I moved to China. I had an outpatient surgery to remove my tonsils which can easily be called the most horrifying five hours of my entire adult life! The nurses and staff were so condescending and just plain rude. They treated me like I wasn't even a person and my requests or concerns didn't matter. They had their own agenda and they were sticking to it regardless of what I wanted. I was in physical pain and they told me to deal with it (exact words, in a mean tone) and I was often told 'no one likes being here'. As if that were permission for them to treat me heartlessly. Here's a tip, if you treated people like actual human beings maybe they wouldn't hate it so much! Just a thought. As if I hadn't had a rough enough year, I had to suffer that indignity as well. The rest of the month was spent recovering from my surgery and a final round of packing before I left Illinois for good.

When I arrived in China I had an initial feeling of buyers remorse. You can read more about my first experiences here. Thankfully, all I needed was to allow myself time to adjust and settle into my new life. I've had some amazing new experiences that I wouldn't have had if I stayed back home. I need to give myself credit for refusing to accept less than the best for myself and forcing myself to open up to new possibilities. As terrifying as it is to make such a huge move while still processing the end of my marriage, the end of my graduate degree and determining my life's direction, I still would have struggled with each of these steps. Instead of settling and taking an easier route, I forced myself to imagine a different life by living out one of my dreams. In the end, it was completely worth it.  

Since arriving in China I've visited several cities:


Grand Epoch City







I still have moments of loneliness and insecurity, I wouldn't be human if I didn't. Overall though, my experience in China has been wonderful. There are good and bad things about living here, just like anywhere else, but I have experienced such kindness and compassion from new friends and complete strangers. It really reaffirms all of the decisions I made this year. If I hadn't experienced the awful things I did, I wouldn't be here now. And this place that I'm in is pretty good.  

It is one of my firmly held beliefs that you can not truly appreciate the good things in life without experiencing the bad things that come your way. Having suffered through the pain and sadness makes us appreciate the blessings so much more. I hope that 2015 is full of blessings for each and every one of you!








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