There are moments that compel you to stop and absorb the details. It’s like something tells you “you’re going to want to remember this moment.” I had a couple moments like that last week, and I haven’t felt the same since.
Blast From The Past
Two weekends ago I had to go back to Chattanooga to check on the old apartment since my old roommate was moving out and my name was still on the lease. It just seemed like the responsible thing to do. What I wasn’t ready for was how I was going to feel when I walked inside. Just standing on the porch waiting on him to get home was weird enough, but when he opened the door and I walked inside, the smell of the apartment caused a weird rush of feelings and memories I wasn’t ready for. Most of the apartment was packed up in boxes. It all felt a little different, and yet so familiar in the worst way.
I felt like I had been transported to what seemed like a distant memory from the past, yet altered in some way. It was obvious that my old bathroom had been used a bit, and not cleaned in a long time. Things had been moved around or rearranged a bit. Dirt had collected. Most of the bedroom and bathroom was completely empty. All that remained was a few tokens from a past life in a space that had been invaded by strangers.
I stood in the middle of the apartment by myself for a few moments, the way I might stand in a room full of broken glass, just looking down at all the pieces and wondering how it got that way.
I gathered the things I had forgotten months ago that had been collected for me in the closet, packed it all up in my car, and I left.
For the rest of the day I experienced what I can only describe as feeling outside of my own skin. As though I was viewing everything from this third party perspective. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself.
On the morning of October 6th, I awoke before the sun, anxious and contemplative. I had stayed at my parents house the night before. They took me out for dinner and a movie as a sort of “pre-celebration” type of event. Not so much the type of celebrating where balloons and confetti and presents are involved, but more like the solemn, quiet celebration of the heart that one might experience after winning the war, or narrowly escaping death. It’s the deep reverence felt for a life spared; a life worth stopping to take in and be thankful for. The war had been long, draining, painful, and there certainly were casualties. But today was the day that it all came to a final and legal end. D-Day. Thats what my inner monologue had been calling it for months. Divorce day.
I took a shower, packed up my overnight bag so that I could head back to Nashville right after, and left for the courthouse. I arrived 10 minutes early. They told me to wait out in the lobby area of the court room. As others gathered for what seemed like a much more significant and important matter in the court room, the clerk pushed her way through the tiny growing crowd and asked me to follow her. “We’re going to the Judge’s quarters. This shouldn’t take long,” she assured me.
I entered this old room filled with book shelves that stretched to the ceiling. They held large legal books that seemed to collect dust. I wondered what he did with the books that were on the top shelf. Were they up there just for looks? Maybe a tactic of intimidation. Because even a latter would barely reach them.
The clerk asked me to raise my right hand, and I felt like I was in a movie, as she swore me in right there in this dusty old room. The judge sat behind the awkwardly large desk and asked me a series of questions. He asked me if I wanted this. He asked me if I was ok with where everything stood.
“No.” I thought.
“Yes sir.” I answered.
I watched as he wrote down some instructions for the next person. For filing purposes, I assumed. He then uttered the words. “Your request is granted.”
Part of me wanted to scream. Part of me wanted to inform him of what I had been through. “Don’t you know what happened?! This has been the worst year of my life! I’ve experienced more pain than I thought was possible! My request is granted!? THAT’S IT?!”
The last form you sign is called the “Final Decree.” I wanted it to feel like a real decree from the olden days. “Hear ye, hear ye!” That sort of thing. It sure felt like this moment was a moment worthy of such a declaration to the masses.
After about 30 seconds, I was shuffled out of the room and told to go to the top floor where we originally filed months before and hand them this file full of instructions and paperwork. I handed it to them, they made me a copy, and I was done.
It wasn’t until I walked out the front door of the courthouse that it hit me. I had to stop and take a deep breath as the gentle voice of the moment whispered in the stillness.
Wait. Take it in. You’ll want to remember this.
I looked up at the clear blue sky, felt the chill of the morning resting on my face, sliding down my shoulders, back, and arms, and let the air fill my lungs and exit slowly. Again, I looked down at the pieces at my feet. The shattered pieces of memories past, the pieces of me that I was consciously leaving on the ground in front of that courthouse. The pieces I won’t be taking with me. I gazed upon all of it and I said my goodbyes.
“Alright then,” I said under my breath, And I walked to my car. That was it. No commemoration. No eulogy.
It was over.
The Post-War Life
“How did I get here?”
I’ve thought this multiple times over the last year. I never thought I’d be where I am. I never saw myself as a divorced 30 year old. A mild stigma from the perspective of what’s happening in the world and what people endure, I admit. But a stigma, nonetheless.
I never wanted to be here. Who wants to be divorced at 30, right? I just never thought I’d be one of them. It was a little shocking to realize that I was going through it all over the last year. Yet, here I am.
After everything that has happened, there’s no way I wanted to go back. There was no way I could accept what was happening and live with it, so I know ending it and moving on was best. But I guess there have been moments where I didn’t really want to move forward either.
When I mentioned that out-of-my-skin feeling before, I think what was happening was pure and complete introspection. I think I finally was realizing how far I had come, and that I’ve arrived at an unintended destination. It took me 30 years to get to this place, but I got here by a lack of intentionality. It’s what happens to all of us, right? If we aren’t intentional, we slowly change course, and we end up missing the mark entirely. This is how I would characterize my 20s. I anticipate that my 30s will be quite different.
So I move forward with direction, with drive and spunk and a seasoned, weathered heart. I hope to take what I have experienced and let that be the framework for paving the road towards the character my story calls me to be. It isn’t like there’s no hope. I’m still young. Thankfully my story isn’t over.
I often have to remind myself of that.
My story isn’t over.
The last couple of weeks have been emotionally taxing on me. Much more than I anticipated. But I move on from it looking back at the last three years and how I’ve grown and learned so much. I don’t think I could’ve been able to access the part of me that wants to really love people unless I was broken and torn open the way a bear rips into its prey. I was malled by my circumstances, and I survived. But I’m no victim. I am simply someone who used to be a terrible person, and it took someone else being terrible to me to break me of the things I was hanging onto that was covering up my vulnerability with detachment and disassociation with others.
This week reminded me to stop, examine what is painful, remember the good and the bad, and carry on with what is useful to the healthier self.
Cheers to the story ahead.