What getting divorced at 25 really taught me

I was 25 years old, two weeks shy of Thanksgiving with Christmas hot on its trail, when my now ex-husband told me he was not in love with me anymore. Let me explain why this was a big deal. Well, the whole not loving me thing obviously, but also that I love, love, love, the holiday season and this kind of threw a wrench in my holiday cheer. He was the first person I had said “I love you” to at the tender age of sixteen. Yep, we were high school sweethearts and we had been together up until that moment, having gotten hitched at 22. While I’m now much, ahem, older and hopefully wiser, here are some things that, that experience taught me about myself.

I’m pretty resilient. While this was going down, I was experiencing some exciting possibilities. I had always wanted to teach and I had an interview to teach English at a community college the following week. The week prior to this friendly statement, I had interviewed to work with a well-known literary agent which would help steer me in another amazing direction of becoming a published author. My professional dream life was coming together, and then, splat.

I was already working a full-time job as a receptionist to put myself through graduate school, so I had a nice full plate. I managed to go through my interviews for teaching, my eyes still puffy from the previous night’s crying and long talks to my cat, Thomas, whom I fondly named, “second husband,” but I did it and you know what? I got that teaching job. The internship didn’t quite work out as I was now a single lady and needed the income of my receptionist job. Whatever, I moved on, after a few, well a lot of angry directed thoughts towards the ex of course, but I moved on.

I’m independent. Sing it with me, “I-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t…she got her own house, she got her own car, two jobs work hard you a bad broad.” Well, I didn’t have my own house, but I did have two jobs and my own car. I was always a dependent broad prior to our breakup. I deferred to him to make decisions. I wouldn’t go grocery shopping by myself. He was in charge of paying the bills. If there was a problem with the car, he took care of it. When I was faced with these issues on my own, I realized that I was just as capable.

I’m strong. So, I can’t do a whole bunch of pull-ups or lift heavy boxes, but I found that I was able to withstand a pretty hard emotional blow. Breakups are never easy, no matter how long the relationship has lasted. We had been together for nine years, and for nine years I had believed that we were meant to be together. While I was always with him, I felt like the loneliest person in the world. While it was awesome that this bonded me to my cat, it didn’t really help my sense of well-being. But through this, he had actually opened my eyes to some major issues. We had been growing apart and neither of us was happy. We had grown so comfortable and complacent. There was no passion and no effort on either of our parts. Had he not said anything, we may still be sitting lifelessly side by side on the couch watching SNL reruns without saying a word to each other. Eventually we would have gone through this, but perhaps many years later.

Importantly, I learned that I didn’t need another person to make me feel whole. I needed this experience to realize this. It had happened, and I was still standing and I was still able to function and live my life. I had an amazing support network of family and friends to help, but in the end, it would be all up to me to decide how I was going to pull through. While it was one of the most difficulty experiences I had to endure, it was worthwhile and it shaped me for the better.

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