The Month of Change

For me, October has always been a month of change and growth. I’ve experienced my first heartache, the beginning of my marriage, the loss of a child, the reality of my parents’ mortality during my mom’s battle with cancer, the exquisite pain of the end of my marriage, and the adjustment of moving back to the states from Germany all in the month of October over the years.

It’s a transformative time for me, and this year is no different. As I’ve written about before, my move back to Arkansas is coming up very quickly, and my mind is racing to catch up with the plans I’ve made for myself. I’m ready for the change. Despite the nervousness connected to the knowledge that I’ll be completely on my own for the first time in my life, it’s time. It’s time to prove to myself that I can survive, that I can be the independent person I’ve always embraced the idea of.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was leaving Germany. More than any other time in my life, 2014 was the year that I really began to discover who I was and what I was made of. I feel like I’m equal parts older and younger than my age. Older because I’ve already been through so many experiences, but younger because until last year, I had no inkling of how I saw my future. In my marriage, I had given up my identity and lost some of the most important years of self-discovery, so I’ve learned to turn my mid-twenties into those experimental years.

Germany changed me. It was the initial push that caused me to really start enjoying writing for the sake of recording thoughts and allowing my emotions a place to rest. I began to embrace the parts about me that I previously viewed as weak things to be ashamed of. It was a pivotal moment in my life, a realization that sharing my true story, struggles and all, was the only way to truly heal. So I shared. I made friends with people with whom I knew would be loving toward me no matter what mistakes I made, no matter the battles I still had waging within me. I truly believe that last year in Germany saved me.

Coming back, I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. I wasn’t ready to be surrounded by the world that wants so hard to be vulnerable and open, but hides their real weaknesses in order to look strong and put together. I wasn’t expecting to relapse into the emotional tug-of-war, the sense that people are only willing to help when it satisfies their own needs first. That’s not the way that everyone is here, it’s just a generalization based primarily on experiences I’ve had over and over again in this small town I live in.

Perhaps it’s just a feeling that comes with the knowledge that it’s time for me to move on to the next thing. Perhaps my negative feelings of this place come from situations I’ve only got myself to blame for. Perhaps it’s just knowing that with October comes change. With the autumn comes the end of a chapter. When the leaves start changing and the world is covered in a blanket of reds and oranges, it’s a beautiful symbol of saying goodbye to everything I’ve known from the year, of preparing myself for the birth of something new and exciting.

Kelsterbach, Germany - October 2014
Kelsterbach, Germany – October 2014

listening to: Bear’s Den

Here Comes the Sun

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Five years ago, I was in the last stages of preparing for my wedding. I was excited and nervous, but ready for the next step. I was marrying someone that my family actually liked, that I had fun with, and that I believed in.

Five years ago, I was also a wreck.

For the couple days leading up to my wedding day, any little word or action was strong enough to cause tears and panic. I remember in the hours before the ceremony began, my eyes were in a constant state of overflowing.

As most brides will tell you, most of the actual wedding was a blur. For the most part, everything went smoothly, and we were surrounded by people that we loved dearly. Everything I had pictured during the months of planning worked out, and the setting was gorgeous. At the end of the ceremony, we walked out of the church to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” because I wanted to really capture the hopeful feeling we had for the future.

We made it three years.

Many people who have to deal with the pain of divorce find it difficult to remember the good times during their marriage, myself included. Far too often, I focus on the bad: losing who I was and the activities that made me feel alive, the emotional detachment, his inability to understand hurting me in the worst of ways. I write terrible poems about those times (poetry is definitely not one of my strengths) because there has to be a way to express that pain without hurting others. Despite all of that, I’ve been trying to reflect on the good this week: the smiles, the laughter, the ability to relax, just having someone around all the time. Because despite all of the ugly and sometimes nightmarish memories, no relationship is without sparks of good.

I never saw myself as someone getting married, let alone divorced. Yet here I am, 26 and almost two years divorced. Most of the time, I try to just forget that part of my life, but it was the majority of my early 20s. It shaped me and still haunts me. It taught me what to look for and what to avoid. I learned how to protect and stand up for myself, even when 90% of the people in my life wanted me to go in an opposite direction. It forced me to become far more independent and to stop settling.

So now, I think I’m finally able to embrace my past as a married woman, my present as a divorcee trying to take on life completely independent, and my unpredictable and unknown future.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Caribbean Sea- March 2015
Caribbean Sea- March 2015

Back Again

I’m moving soon. I realize I’ve declared an intention of moving before and not followed through with it, but this is a move that is 100% for me and nobody else. It’s a move to reflect the changing of life seasons, a move of growth, and a move of necessity.

In 2006, I visited Fayetteville, Arkansas for the first time on a campus tour during Thanksgiving break. I think I fell in love with the town just in the drive up there. There are all sorts of winding road for the last hour of the drive, and during that time of year, all the hills are covered in red, orange, and yellow trees. For a girl who had been stuck in Texas for five years, the idea of living somewhere where seasons existed was a dream. The University of Arkansas was the only school I even applied to when it came to college, mostly because I’ve got a major stubborn streak and was determined to only go there for school.

Fayetteville was a town I chose just for me. It’s the town where I first began to come into my own. I experienced so many firsts, both good and bad, but every first is interwoven with growth. I think there are some places that are somehow tailored to fit a person’s personality, and Fayetteville is one of those towns for me.

After my divorce, I moved back to Texas for a month before spending most of 2014 in Germany. I remember crying as I drove away from Fayetteville, not because of the divorce or some of the broken relationships tied into that, but because I was leaving a place that truly felt like home. I’ve visited a few times since then, and that strange combination of peace and excitement washes over me during every drive up there.

I’ve now been back in Tyler for ten long months. Ten months of adjusting. Ten months of struggle. Ten months of fighting that depression-monster again. However, it’s also been ten months of learning who I am. Ten months of finding what truly makes me heart happy. Ten months of growing into the person I want to be. It’s been a strange ten months, but I think that it’s a chapter in my life that needs to end as soon as possible. It’s necessary for the growth of the character, but you struggle through every word.

I’m taking control of my story. In just about two months, I’ll be moving back to Fayetteville. This week, I started back to school in the form of one online class, and in the spring, I’ll be back to going to school full time. It’s going to be a struggle. I’ve never been very good with going to class or studying or even really staying disciplined enough to complete many things, but I’ve got a long-term goal this time. I got accepted into the English department, studying a combination of creative writing and journalism, which is a perfect fit for me. Hopefully I’ll be able to translate that degree into a job in the editing/writing/publishing industry back in Frankfurt in a couple years.

To say I’m nervous would be an understatement. I’m scared of so many things. I’m scared that I won’t do as well in my classes as I hope. I’m worried that school will wear on my psyche again. More than anything, I’m terrified that the depression that has been consistently lurking in the semi-shadows these past few months will step out and try to take over my life again. However, I think that this is the best time in my life to do this, to take these chances. I’ve got nothing tying me down, no reason to keep me where I am. In any case, moving back to Fayetteville is a temporary step in the grand process of moving back to Germany. And anything that can allow me to live in Germany for more of a full-time experience has to be worth the effort.

Old Main at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas - May 2015
Old Main at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas – May 2015

Goodbye, 25.

Goodbye to insecurities.

Hello to recognizing the good in you.

Goodbye to feeling inadequate.

Hello to cultivating strengths.

Goodbye to dreading singlehood.

Hello to embracing a life wholly yours.

Goodbye to that gut-wrenching sense of heartbreak.

Hello to knowing it was meant to be for the moment, nothing more.

Goodbye to resentment and anger.

Hello to a renewed sense of patience and an attempt at better understanding.

Goodbye to misplaced trust.

Hello to learning to separate vulnerability in writing and vulnerability in everyday life.

Goodbye to a stormy past.

Hello to an unknown future full of chances.

Goodbye, 25. You’ve been a wild ride.

Hello, 26. We’ve got adventures ahead of us.

Niederrad, Germany- October 2014
Niederrad, Germany- October 2014

To the Could-Have-Been..

As mentioned a few days ago, I’ve started the second round of a writing course that’s already proven to be transformative in my life. Many posts I wrote several months ago were inspired by the last round I participated in (here, here, and here), and I’m so excited to see how much this round changes and grows my writing.

There’s been one prompt that has really struck a chord with me so far. In life, there are many moments that you can look back on and realize that the decision made at the time had the power to completely change the course of your life. I was encouraged to write a letter to a person that I could have been by now, or that I think I should have been. The idea is to dig deep and really grow to appreciate the person that you are now and celebrate the decisions that you’ve made to lead you to your current state.

This seems to be a pretty regular theme with my writing, but I’ve been pondering what my life would have been if I had stayed in Arkansas, if I had stayed married, if I had never decided to do a 180° turn in my life. I don’t have to think about it much at all to know that I made the right decision, but sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier on the surface if I had stayed in that life. When I saw this prompt, it was the opportunity I needed to reaffirm my decisions on the major life changes I’ve made in the past two years.

To the could-have-been,

Thank goodness you aren’t the should-have-been. Every day, I’m glad more and more that your existence ended on a dreary October day in 2013. 

You gave up easily. Outside forces fought to keep you living, but if you would have stayed, it would have been the type of life only sustained by life support, constantly pumped full of drugs to keep the heart beating. Thank you for fighting to get free from that half-life.

On the outside, you had it all: a husband, a new house, a puppy…by now, you’d probably have a child too. Under the surface, the person who was fighting to be free- the person who has transformed and turned into the person penning this letter- that person knew it was wrong, that you were heading to a destiny all wrong.

Looking at the surface of my life now, it might seem like more struggles. I’m constantly fighting debt, I am stuck living with my parents, and I have to rely on the generosity of others for transportation. That all may sound a little overwhelming, which it can be at times, but it’s well worth it to be free. Free from the constant drowning feeling I only now understand as the deepest levels of depression. Free from a shallow life focused on trying to achieve happiness through material junk. And most importantly, free from a relationship that should have been a supportive partnership, but instead was an oppressive that stripped me (you, us?) from the excitement that a life full of growth can provide.

So, you tragic could-have-been, I’m more that just happy that you dissolved from reality that day. If you had continued to exist for much longer, I’m not sure you or I would be here today.

Winged Victory of Samothrace- The Louvre, Paris, France (July 2014)

listening to: Florence + The Machine