This is what divorce looks like at 23 and 29.
Next month, I will turn 30. I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll celebrate. But I do know that I will celebrate. I will celebrate the fact that I’m alive and, at least as important, the fact that I want to be alive. I didn’t for a while.
When my first marriage ended, I felt like my life was just beginning. I married right after graduating from a strict, evangelical Christian college, and we split during my first year of law school. I was doing well in school, had a great job with a top-tier firm lined up and a ton of new friends. I thought that, for the very first time, I was free.
When my second marriage ended, I thought my life was over. The shame of being divorced twice before 30 drained my will to live. I gave up. I drank. A sloppy, saturated, drunk was the only thing that allowed me to feel alive in my own skin.
But through a miracle I can’t explain, I quit. One day, I woke up somewhere I shouldn’t have been, and knew that was enough. Quitting booze was the first in an ongoing series of messy, confusing, and beautiful steps to enter the world again.
I’ve learned so much since making the decision to live, and I’ve devoured the stories and wisdom of others to help piece together how I got here and how to be in the world differently going forward. (My family laughs at me because I can’t go ten minutes without mentioning Brené Brown.)
I’ve learned a lot about shame, that the shame of my two divorces can’t kill me, but hiding from it might have. So I face my shame, I look it in the eye. I tell my story, even when shame is screaming at me to shut up and run away. Come to find out, shame is a coward. It will always be the first to run away from a fight.
Until recently, I was always waiting on my life to begin, waiting for the next man, job, accomplishment, or thing, before my life could really feel alive. I’ve realized that life is always there for the taking, and deferring it only ends in disappointment and emptiness. So every day, I make a choice to live.
I’ve learned that another person’s love will never make up for not loving myself. So every day, I practice loving me. Spoiler alert: practice works. Loving myself has turned into confidence, joy, and a deep sense of fulfillment that I wouldn’t have thought was possible for a twice-divorced 29 year-old. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be joyful, given my past — like I haven’t earned it. But feeling that I should accept what I “deserve” is a major reason why I ended up here. So I defiantly choose joy. To hell be damned the rest.
A lot of people awkwardly tell me, “Well, the third time’s the charm!” (I so get it. Being on the receiving end of my story must be uncomfortable.) But now that I’ve realized I was “the charm” all along, I’m a lot less worried about the third time, if, in fact, there ever is one.
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