Not Okay? Not the End

I was eleven years old when I found out my parents were splitting up. To say that I was blindsided is an understatement. I grew up pretty sheltered, never being exposed to problems between my parents. To me, we were living a great life. We had moved from New York to South Carolina just a couple of years prior to have a more suburban lifestyle. We had a beautiful home. We made friends. We were surrounded by Palm Trees and golf courses. Almost every day was a beach day.

So when my mom told me my parents were splitting up I sat in my room with my head spinning. Was it over one little fight or was this a long time coming? Did they just stop loving each other? Did I do something to cause this? Are they really going to go through with this? There was no way that they would stay mad at each other long enough to get a divorce, right?

I was in complete denial. It’s almost as if time had stopped for me while the whole world spun at rapid speed. Sure, divorce is very common, but by eleven I thought I was safe. See, when you get to an age where you realize some parents live together and some live apart you judge your family’s stability on what it is at that time. You don’t think it will change. The unlucky one’s parents are already divorced and don’t know any better, but I was the lucky one, right?

Wrong. Almost overnight I went from a beautiful big home with a movie room and a golf cart to a two-bedroom condo. It was scary, painful and sometimes maddening. I internalized my feelings and despite wanting answers, I was not ready to ask the questions. The split was hard on my parents too. It totally changed their financial landscape and I watched each of them struggle on their own. Sometimes their frustration fell on me. It only made me retreat even more.

The changes were tough not just in terms of logistics, but also because it causes people to ask questions. My parents had both always been very “hands on.” They both attended school events, did pick ups and drop-offs and were involved in play dates. So when they started coming places separately or at different times my friends started to ask questions; questions I didn’t want to answer, nor did I know how. I had a hard time admitting to even the closest of friends that my parents were getting divorced. I was not ready to throw the towel in, always having the universal hope that they would get back together. This made me even more hesitant to let people in.

Going through a divorce is not easy. I was a kid who was at the center of so much change, with no say in it! I let it take up a lot of my headspace for many years. I can’t say that it doesn’t affect me to this day. But it’s up to me to choose how I will let this divorce affect me as I transition into an adult. II choose to find the silver lining and remind myself that I have survived every horrible situation that I’ve faced so far and that means I can survive whatever awaits me in the future.

The older I got, the more everything made sense. Things that had once felt so wrong in my life ended up working out just fine. I learned how strong my parents are without each other. I watched my dad learn how to pack school lunch, carpool, and paint nails. I watched my mom learn how to pump gas, put air in the tires and be financially independent. I had two homes that both offered me different things. I had close individual relationships with both of my parents, who both relied on me for different things. Instead of missing one parent on holidays looked forward to celebrating twice. I looked at the glass half full because being pessimistic took too much energy that didn’t bring any benefits.

Ten years after my parents divorced i can finally say I’ve made peace with it. I learned that being divorced does not make us any less of a family. And that I didn’t need to feel ashamed, as though it makes us less than. I am proud of my parents for gaining the strength to let go of something that wasn’t making them happy and learn to stand on their own. I remind myself of my strength and ability and wear being a child of divorce as a badge of honor.