When I was a kid, we lived in a second floor apartment that faced the street. The apartment had enormous bay windows with ledges that were big enough to sit in. Across the street from our apartment building was a dentist and a bank, and sandwiched in between the two buildings was the exit for the bank’s drive-thru. I would frequently sit in the windows, either reading a book or people watching. Sometimes, I would try to guess who the people were coming out of the bank just by what their cars looked like. The curtains were large enough in one window that I could draw them around myself to hide. I loved the windows. It was because of this love for the windows that I saw a girl riding her bicycle down the sidewalk get plowed down by a car going much too fast out of the bank drive-thru. One minute she was riding along, top speed, and the next she was lying on the ground—half in the street and half under the front of the stranger’s car.
Looking back on the experience now, of watching that girl fall to her ground and have her bicycle crushed, reminds me of life. One minute, a person can be moving along and doing the things they are supposed to do. The next, they can be completely derailed from their life path for reasons no fault of their own. 2013 has been a derailment of sorts for me, but it’s not the primary derailment. That knock was of a very different sort.
My original plan for my life had me loyally serving my husband, working fifty plus hours a week, and producing a family that fell in line with his specifications. So my goals then were, necessarily, different. Go to church, be successful in my job, have a ton of children. Make my husband proud of me. Nowhere on my goals list did bettering myself fall into my job description. When I thought about going back to school, the idea always lingered in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to support my husband if I was committing myself to school. I would always come close to enrolling, but never fully follow through.
When our son died, it changed things. The lens through which I looked at the world was irrevocably altered. The subsequent dissolution of my marriage and resulting divorce left me on a completely new path. It wasn’t even really a path so much as a landing pad, a rocky place with uncertain footing and no clear ending. I was free and suddenly able to think for myself. And I was lost. My goals changed. Enrich myself. Fit in. Find myself. I went to college. I shoved the past away. I met new people.
I got hurt.
And now I’m on another path entirely. My path has changed so many times that I can’t even begin to say where the starting line might be. I’m on the edge of this cliff where jumping off will lead me to something new. I have amazing friends in A and E, and amazing professors in D and T and N (and T). I know all of these things that I never knew before; I have made connections and I have stories to tell that are not solely sad ones.
Part of me clings to the idea that I would change my past if I could. Take a giant eraser and just rub the crud out of the events that have made me jump path to path until they disappear. But I also know that if I did that, I wouldn’t have the people and the connections in my life that I have now. I wouldn’t be where I am. I believe that going through things makes you stronger. I have gone through my fair share of things; I am very strong. While 2013 could have broken me, it hasn’t. I am one step away from graduating, and two away from graduate school. I’m in this whole new place, and for the first time in nearly thirty years, I feel like I have the opportunity to actually seize my life. My life is happening. Therefore, my goals are different yet again. They’re mine, and only mine.
Be okay. But also, be okay not being okay.
Lose a little weight. The right way.
Graduate, move, and prove that I can stand on my own.
Write something awesome. Several somethings, perhaps.
Write him a letter (whether I send it or not). And then, let him go. Let what happened go.
That last one is the most important piece, the one I want to get done before 2014 begins. He was an integral part of my life for so long, was so controlling, that I am left with way too many things unsaid. Where I don’t intend to forgive him, because I don’t believe that I can, I believe that saying the things I need to say to him is the first step in forgiving myself. And that forgiveness is the thing that I need to be okay.
I want 2014 to be the first year that he has no power in my life.
To me, this is the most important thing I can do for myself.