Today I applied for graduation. In just a few months I’ll be graduating from one of the top Universities in the country. The past few years have been a whirlwind of change, and I could not be more grateful for everything that has gone wrong, because it made a way for everything to go right. For a future I can be proud of. For a future I deserve. And for a future where I can put myself first and make an impact in an arena I’m passionate about. I was not prepared for the level of emotion that would overtake me when I hit that submit button. Years of abuse. Years of sorrow. Years of loss. All culminated together to propel me towards my purpose.
I was so incredibly unhappy in my marriage. One of the main reasons being sacrifice. Sacrifice was everywhere. It came in the form of missing family milestones, friends weddings, holidays with aging parents, lost memories and most importantly my own goals as an individual. I sacrificed who I was at my core, who I wanted to be and the impact I wanted to have on meaningful ideals and policy. My codependency in a toxic relationship ultimately led me to sacrificing my dreams. I put everything I had into my spouse. Into what he needed. Into what he had to do in order for us to get to the next level. In order to prepare us for after deployment, after this duty station, after getting out, after, after, after. I never stopped and put myself first. It was always what ‘we’ wanted to do. And by ‘we’ I really mean him. He wanted this house. He wanted this lifestyle. He wanted this education. I went so far as to even write his entrance essay, complete his resume and cover letter and rewrite an explanation letter for him when he couldn’t get into school due to his own prior failures. I took on his pain, his failings and his flaws as a human.
And what I learned in all of this, is that it is not selfish to put yourself first. In fact it is the exact opposite. I was so bent on keeping the balance. Keeping the idea in my head of what our marriage could be, while never seeing what it was. Seeing the highlight reel I had created, without seeing the day to day misery. I have learned to take a relationship for what it is in front of you. For how your partner treats you each and every day. Sure, there’ll be some bad days in there, but what are the patterns? What does life look like without the rose colored glasses? And the most important lesson I learned from my marriage was to take responsibility for myself, my thoughts, my actions – even when it was reactionary to his abuse. I am always responsible for what I decided to take on in our marriage and what I thought was necessary at the time to survive.
When I left my spouse, I gained my life back. I was an empty shell of a human the day we said goodbye. I could not remember who I was without him. The trauma blocked the memories of a life before him. Slowly – painfully, I started to piece myself together. I found what interested me and me alone. I found what I was passionate about and it slowly developed into my career. I built the foundation of me back up and when I did, good things kept coming in waves. This degree I’m achieving in a few short months is all of the lost pieces of me coming back together. It is the celebration of purpose over pain. It is the visual of choosing to wake up everyday, no matter how hard it is, no matter how many tears flow, and deciding to just keep going. There were days I didn’t think would pass. There were days I spent sobbing to my incredibly understanding mother, my sisters, my friends – anyone who held a space of grace and hope for my hot mess. There have been months where I didn’t want to get out of bed. Where I didn’t think I could see a new future. Where I didn’t think hope existed. And through it all, I came alive.
What looked like darkness, loss and utter destruction turned out to be my search for life again. Those days, weeks and months are what got me to success. There weren’t huge milestones, but rather small acts of self love each day until I decided to get out of bed again. To eat food my body deserved again. To go on adventures to places that brought me happiness. To allow love back into my life, rather than meaningless one night stands. Because I deserve better. I deserve happiness. We all do. No matter the pain. No matter the heartache. No matter the trauma we have faced. We ALL deserve to find what sparks joy at the end of the day without it depending on someone else’s goals or emotions.