“I looked up and said, “God, what now? Where do I go from here?” I feel as if I had been living in denial, and reality was settling in. I didn’t hear any audible voice, and I had no one around me at that moment to comfort me, but an answer did come – Korea.”
Essay by Victor Zachariou
I hung up the phone, sat on my bed, and cried bitterly. I was trying to process the words I had just heard from a faceless voice on the other end of the conversation,
“As of May 31, 2012, your marriage will be terminated.”
Terminated? Since when is terminated used to describe the end of a marriage? But in fact, it was the most accurate word. My marriage was over, terminated, and dead. And that was what I was processing. Till that moment in time, I still had an ember of hope that it might in fact be revived. But, the words from the clerk at the court eradicated any lingering hope.
I was married for six years, seven technically, if you also count the time when I was separated. And just like many marriages go, those years were filled with good times and not so good times. As I sat there on my bed, a flood of deep emotions and tears came rushing over me. I looked up and said, “God, what now? Where do I go from here?” I feel as if I had been living in denial, and reality was settling in. I didn’t hear any audible voice, and I had no one around me at that moment to comfort me, but an answer did come -Korea.
After I separated from my wife, I moved away from Modesto, California, and moved into an old friend’s condo in the coastal town of Costa Mesa in Orange County, Ca. I decided I needed a change of scenery – one where I could establish new memories and begin forging a new life for myself. I transferred within my company and moved from Modesto to Costa Mesa, but I was still not happy. The pace, people, customers and most importantly, the expectations, were vastly different than the store in Modesto. Needless to say, I quickly began looking for alternatives. My first love was music and film, but I could not afford to do that full time so I put it out of my mind. I needed something a bit more secure, sustainable, and yes, even adventurous. That’s where this crazy idea came to me to teach in Korea.
One of my roommates told me how he was considering teaching in China, and was going to take a trip there in March to scope it out before deciding. As we talked, it reminded me that I had thought about teaching abroad, but never really pursued it. He told me about a website where I could check out jobs in ESL teaching all around the world.
Naturally, my interest was piqued, and I checked it out. I immediately started applying, and within a week I got a response from a recruiter. Since I was now at a crossroads in my life, and my job felt like a dead-end both emotionally and financially, I needed the next phase in my life to unfold. Korea was shaping up to be just that phase.
At 35, my age never crossed my mind as a factor. In other words, I didn’t feel too old. If anything, I felt extremely confident that my experience and age would suit me in landing a position. I began the long and drawn out process of gathering all the necessary documents I needed, but then everything seemed to go quiet for a while. So, I decided to call.
My recruiter was delighted to hear from me and she said she had just the job for me. She wanted to know if I would be able to go to Korea by the end of the month! When we spoke it was the first week of May. All of a sudden, what seemed like silence and dead ends for months turned into a frantic pace of preparing to leave! I told my recruiter, as long as I have a job there I would go. I could not quit my job and then find out I was not accepted. She told me to leave it to her, and that I would have a final answer early the next week. Well, the answer came a day early. I was thrilled when she said it was a go. I put in my notice at my job and started using the days running around getting everything in order. I sold things and arranged for my car to be driven and maintained while I was gone. I did all the things one imagines they should do when getting ready to live abroad.
Living abroad was nothing new for me, but this time the circumstances were entirely different. I needed a fresh start. I needed stability at work, stability in my finances and emotional stability. Now, as I approach my final month in Korea, I can truly say my experience here has been the best and the worst of my life. It’s been the best for all the aforementioned reasons and then some. But it has also been the worst, not because of Korea, but because of all the dark, lonely moments I felt while I was here processing my life. And for that, Korea was worth it all. I will leave as a blessed and enriched human being ready to take on whatever may come next. So, why did I come to Korea? – my life depended on it.
To read more stories and thoughts of those who decided to teach abroad after 30, please click here.