When I was a freshman in college, my mother noticed that I suddenly had one droopy eyelid. Sure enough, when I looked in the mirror I saw that one eyelid was hanging lower than the other. So, I went to the eye doctor to get it checked out and he gave me some drops, which didn’t help at all. My right eyelid continued to droop.
Then, over summer vacation, I became very weak. I began to sleep a lot. I had to leave my job at the card store because I could no longer lift my arms high enough to put picture frames on the shelves. I went to my pediatrician, who sent me to countless other doctors and specialists who searched my brain for tumors and tested me for everything from cancer to MS. My mother, because of her fear that I was dying, couldn’t bear to even look at me.
At the same time, I was on two different medications for anxiety and depression. I had been medicated since high school. Being physically sick sent me into a downward mental spiral quickly and my depression got worse. I didn’t have the energy to get off the couch, and even worse, I did not even have a desire to.
That summer, I spent most of the time watching TV. My friend had recommended a show to me several times that I had refused to watch. I’d told him over and over that I didn’t like science fiction, but he insisted that I would like this.
The show was a then-unknown-in-the-US program about an alien who traveled through space and time, usually with a female companion. Maybe it was because of the fear that I was dying or because I had nothing else to do since I couldn’t leave the couch, but I latched on to Doctor Who like it was a life raft. (Cliché, I know.) As I watched him gallivant around the universe searching for adventure, I began to feel not so miserable about my life, and to feel some hope.
I watched the entire series (the three seasons that were out at that time) before my diagnosis came in: Myasthenia Gravis—not life threatening (at least in my case) and easily controlled with one pill three times a day. But my love for the Doctor stuck even after I was better.
The time I had spent with the Doctor reignited my desire for travel. I watched this man/alien travel to the time of Shakespeare and then to the end of the world, and to planets such as Mars and Raxacoricofallapatorius, and I wanted to go with him. I wanted to get up off the couch and go everywhere.
The following fall, when I had fully recovered, I studied abroad in Swansea, Wales (more about this later) just to be closer to where the show was filmed. The friend who had introduced me to the show asked me to take a trip to visit then-tiny Doctor Who museum in Cardiff. We were surrounded by a gaggle young children as we wandered through the exhibit. I think we were more excited than the kids.
This trip led to many others: Scotland, Italy, France, the Netherlands. And now I’m planning my round-the-world trip.
That’s how a silly show made me want to live and want to explore the world. And I am so thankful for it.
“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all, ‘Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid and that’s it.’ But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.” –Doctor Who