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My Lifelong Seven-Year Itch

Paul has had a very challenging life. He has been torn between careers and marriages.

Statue of Marilyn Monroe as she appeared in the 1955 movie, The Seven-Year Itch.

Statue of Marilyn Monroe as she appeared in the 1955 movie, The Seven-Year Itch.

My Lifelong Seven–Year Itch

It seems as if my whole life has been a seven-year itch repeated continuously since 1958. This is manifested in two failed marriages and bouncing among jobs and homes until final retirement in Thailand in 2014.

In this article, I reflect on my life in seven-year cycles from 1958 until 2007. These cycles include formal schooling, naval service and deciding on a career, first marriage, and life in Taiwan, initial happiness with family back in the United States, a mid-life crisis leading to divorce, finding happiness in a second marriage, and achieving success but still disillusioned during an overseas tour in Thailand.

Formal Schooling in Preparation for Admission to Medical School — 1959–1965

As early as the eighth grade in 1958, I had decided to become a doctor. I knew I had to be an excellent high school student to get admitted to a good university to achieve this goal. Once in college, I also realized that it was necessary to complete a rigorous pre-med course schedule for admission to medical school. However, I did not fully understand that it was necessary to do well on aptitude tests like the ACT and SAT for high school students and the MCAT for medical school applicants. I didn't think a high-grade point average was important for my pre-med courses for a strange reason.

I studied very hard in high school completing college-prep courses in math, science, and foreign languages. My reward was graduating as valedictorian or head of my class in 1962.

Due to my disappointing ACT and SAT scores, I was advised not to enroll in Honors Program classes as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. I enrolled in regular pre-med courses and took some science and math courses that were very difficult and not necessary. Average and poor grades in these classes pulled my grade point average down. I naively thought that medical admissions boards would consider the rigidity of these courses. Furthermore, I misjudged the importance of the MCAT which I did not do well in.

By the time I had applied to four medical schools as a senior in 1965, my grade-point average was lower than many applicants. The best I could do is get on the waiting list of Loyola Medical College in Chicago.

When I finally found out that no medical school had accepted me, I lost all desire in wanting to become a doctor. Since I had majored in chemistry, I applied to the University of Michigan Graduate School and was accepted for graduate work in chemistry. My seven-plus years of preparation for medical school were now history.

Author is in bottom picture standing on the right.  National Honor Society Members

Author is in bottom picture standing on the right. National Honor Society Members

Author is in the middle of the picture

Author is in the middle of the picture

Graduate School, Naval Service, and Deciding on a Career — 1966–1972

After graduating from Wisconsin in August 1966, I immediately pursued graduate chemistry work at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Less than one week after classes began, however, I realized that I did not have the interest or intelligence to earn a Master's degree in chemistry.

A few months later in November, my life changed when I received a draft induction notice during the Vietnam War. I could now save face by withdrawing from Michigan, getting out of the chemistry field, and enlisting in the U.S. Navy.

After being in the inactive Reserves for four months, I started my Navy basic training in June 1967. For an insane reason, I volunteered to train as a Hospital Corpsman after basic training. Based on my aptitude test scores, however, the Navy discovered that I had an aptitude for learning languages.

It was, therefore, a big career turning point in my life when the Navy gave me orders to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in California for Chinese Mandarin language training in September. After finishing a 37-week course and three-month security training, I was now trained as a Chinese linguist. Overseas tours to Taiwan and Japan (1968-1970) followed before I was sent back to Maryland for the last nine months of my enlistment.

I enjoyed my training and overseas tours with the Navy but I quickly decided not to make the Navy a career. The Navy had not used me as a Chinese linguist for most of the time during my assignments. Also, I hated having to always shine my shoes and stand for personnel and barracks inspections. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity of taking a five-month early out in January 1971.

After getting out of the Navy, I had already made plans to return to Taiwan In January to study more Chinese. I had wanted more to be with a Taiwanese girlfriend whom I had met right before the Navy had sent me from Taiwan to Maryland in March 1970.

Following a failed five-month courtship and losing interest in studying Chinese, I returned to live with my parents in Wisconsin in June 1971.

During the summer of 1971, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was torn between going back to the University of Wisconsin to get training as a high school chemistry teacher or getting more training in Chinese. At that point in my life, I had an equal interest in both fields. My heart told me, however, that I would be happier working with Chinese than teaching chemistry.

From February 1972 through May 1973, I took graduate courses in Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Wisconsin. I also became serious with another Taiwanese woman whom I met in Taipei before returning to Wisconsin in June 1971.

On Leave During Navy Basic Training, August 1967

Author in front of Uncle's home

Author in front of Uncle's home

Author at home in 1972

Author at home in 1972

Living in Taiwan, Teaching English, and Starting a Family — 1973–1979

I discontinued my studies toward a Master's degree in Chinese Language and Literature in May 1973. What happened next seems almost like an elopement. Under the guise of telling everyone that I was returning to Taiwan to study Chinese at National Taiwan University, I married my Chinese pen pal less than one month after getting to Taipei at the end of May.

Although I had been accepted into National Taiwan University, I never enrolled because I was more interested in marriage and family life. Shortly before Mona and I got married, I learned that she had a five-year-old Amerasian son. I adopted Mike in the summer of 1973 and by February 1, 1974, our first and only child, Charles was born.

In June, my wife and I settled in Kaohsiung. After working in private language schools teaching English, I started teaching out of my apartment after Charles was born. My business was very good and Mona and I were doing well financially.

We were, however, not completely happy about living permanently in Taiwan. Mona had wanted to emigrate to the United States. We also felt it would be better for our boys to grow up and be educated in America. Therefore, my wife filed an application for permanent residence in the States in 1976.

After Mona received her green card in 1978, I gave up my lucrative English teaching business and returned to the U.S. with my family. Although I had no job lined up, I was hoping to get work either as a chemist or as a Chinese translator.

My Marriage Day in Taiwan

Picture taken in June 1973

Picture taken in June 1973

Initial Happiness Living in the United States — 1980–1986

After getting back to America, Mona and I lived in Toledo, Ohio, until December 1980. Then, I got hired by the federal government in Maryland as a Chinese linguist. By Christmas 1983, we were sitting on top of the world. Besides owning property in Kaohsiung and Toledo, we had just purchased a split-foyer house in Glen Burnie, Maryland. My wife and Mike had also become naturalized citizens.

I was doing well at work and had just been promoted. To Mona's happiness, I had also been selected to receive one year of Chinese language training in Taiwan from August 1984 until July 1985. The government was sending our whole family over to Taiwan for one year!

After returning to Maryland, our family life was fairly good until Mike and Mona both developed a mental illness in 1986. Mike was so bad that he had to enter a mental institution in March.

My Family in Maryland 1986

Picture taken in July 1986 outside my home

Picture taken in July 1986 outside my home

A Mid-life Crisis Leading to Divorce — 1987–1993

My marriage and family life were still fairly good up until March 1986. Then, after my parents came out to Maryland to visit at the end of February, the Ides of March became a big turning point in my life. Around the middle of the month, Mike was arrested due to schizophrenia and had to enter a mental hospital. Mona also started displaying depression and signs of mental illness.

After spending six weeks in the hospital, Mike was stabilized with medication and sent home by us. Mona also got better after Mike got home.

During the remainder of 1986 and up until early 1990, I was walking on eggshells in my dealings with Mona and Mike. I temporarily made my wife happy by letting her manage all the money, sell goods at flea markets, and take yearly summer vacations. When Mike didn't take his medicine, he would have relapses and have to be readmitted to a mental hospital. Otherwise, he didn't give too much trouble when he was home taking his medicine.

Toward the end of 1989, Mike and Mona both got very schizophrenic. Mona got so bad that she was convinced I was going to hurt her. After she served me with an ex-parte order in February 1990, I was kicked out of the house and our separation began. We couldn't reconcile and matters became worse when our house burned down in March 1991. Mona wouldn't get help for her mental illness and we finally divorced in July 1992. Mike was supported by the state now and allowed to live in halfway houses for recovering mental patients. After I moved from a rented room, Charles lived with me and I started to rent an apartment in February 1992.

This was the darkest period of my life and didn't end until I met my future second wife in January 1993.

At Milwaukee Airport in 1992

Author with son Charles in Nov. 1992

Author with son Charles in Nov. 1992

Finding Happiness in a Second Marriage — 1994–2000

I wasn't able to get our home rebuilt and sold until after the divorce in July 1992. The house was finally rebuilt and put on the market in January 1993. At the same time, I met Danielle from Taiwan who was living in Philadelphia.

Since Danielle had a full-time job, we had a long-distance relationship for the first two years. I would drive up to Philly on the weekends and she would come down to Maryland on her off day during the week.

After I sold our house and paid Mona off from the divorce settlement in March, Danielle helped me find a home to purchase in Millersville. Finally, in June, I settled on a small home on Ahearn Drive and moved there with Charles from my rented apartment.

Since I was renting a furnished apartment, Danielle helped me select and furnish my new home. When we weren't traveling back and forth to see each other, we would often take trips to nearby states. We also drove to New York City, Niagra Falls, and Wisconsin to visit my parents.

In 1996, Danielle moved in permanently and got a job as a dietary aide in a nursing home. We both worked hard together and saved our money. By doing this and after she sold her property in Philadelphia, we were able to pay off my mortgage on the Ahearn house.

When an overseas assignment to Taiwan fell through in 1999, we decided to purchase a new home built in early 2000 near Ellicott City. We formally finally got married and were at the peak of our happiness.

Disillusionment, Overseas Assignment, and Triangle Relationship — 2001–2007

Danielle and I settled on our newly built home in July 2000. During the first three years there, we were very busy furnishing the home and landscaping. I enjoyed fertilizing and cutting the acre of grass on our lot. With financial assistance from Danielle, we were also able to pay off our mortgage!

My work with the government was interesting and afforded me a lot of travel to Utah. From 2000 through 2002, I had yearly two-week trips to Ogden. While there, Danielle would fly out on a weekend to accompany me. We used this time to visit Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Las Vegas.

Since March 2000, however, I had not made any trips to Thailand. I loved the country so much that when a permanent job became available in Bangkok, I applied for it in 2002. Danielle didn't like the idea but still let me apply.

I applied for the job assignment because I wasn't ready to settle down both in my office and at home. Also, since the early 1980s, I had always wanted an overseas job in either Taiwan or China but had always been denied.

In October 2002, I was approved for a three-year assignment in Thailand commencing in August 2003. In preparation for the job, I would have to learn the Thai language which I did from November 2002 until July 2003. Danielle and I also had to undergo medical processing. In July, I knew something was wrong when Danielle refused to find a renter for our house and didn't want to put any of our furniture in storage.

A few days before our departure overseas, I drove with Danielle to the nursing home where she worked. After saying goodbye to her co-workers before an indefinite leave of absence, Danielle broke down crying in our car.

A few days after arriving in Bangkok, Danielle told me that she wouldn't be staying with me all of the time. She had wanted to keep her job and continue living in our home.

The government had allowed us to stay in a beautifully furnished apartment in Bangkok very near the U.S. Embassy. The apartment, however, seemed cold and empty when Danielle wasn't there. After living alone and unhappy for more than six months, I spent more time outside and finally cheated on my wife twice.

Then, while on a business trip to Northern Thailand in April 2004, I met a younger Thai woman and started to have an affair. I had kept this relationship secret up until the government and Danielle found out in December 2006. The government punished me by curtailing my recently extended job assignment and sending me back to the United States in January 2007.

I finally realize now that what I did was wrong. My life since 2007 has been unbelievable causing Danielle to suffer very much. I will address this in future articles.

Our Home on Steeplechase near Ellicott City, Maryland

Author in front of home.  Taken 2003

Author in front of home. Taken 2003

In Bangkok, Thailand, August 2003

Author in Bangkok, Thailand

Author in Bangkok, Thailand

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Paul Richard Kuehn

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