November 25th, I turned thirty-five. This was a special year. Instead of the normal presents I would ask for or even get for myself, a trendy outfit, a gift certificate for a massage, dinner at a nice restaurant; I decided to ask for something completely out of the ordinary…a divorce. The reasons why I left my husband aren’t important. Well, they are or I wouldn’t have left him, but they don’t matter for the purpose of this blog. The important thing is that on the day of my thirty-fifth birthday, while my family was trying to rally around me asking if they could take me to dinner or make me a cake, I sat in my room crying wondering where it had gone all wrong.
Was it when my friends went off to big universities, but I had to stay behind at the local community college? When I got in a car accident that forced me to drop out of school and quit my job? Should I not have married my now-ex-husband? I sat cataloging and second guessing every major decision in my life. I had just abruptly ended my marriage of almost eight years. I had no job. No idea where I was going to live. My self esteem was in the crapper. I was thirty-five and single again. No, this was not the life I had planned.
No, the life I had planned…well, wait a minute. I guess you would have to be specific about my age at the time I was planning it. See from the time I was six until I was about 11, I was certain I was going to be a model or an actress because that’s what Olivia Newton-John and Christy Brinkley were and I was going to marry Kirk Cameron, John Stamos or Jeff Renaud, a boy in my class. Whoever asked first would be the lucky one. He would propose with a Batman or Superman ring and we would live happily in my parents’ basement.
By the time I reached 7th grade, I was no longer pining over Kirk, John or Jeff. I had moved on to Jon Bon Jovi, Johnny Depp and an older boy that went to school with me. He was an 8th grader. I remember my best friend, Renee and I had it all worked out: By the time we were in our twenties, we would be working at our dream jobs; I would be a movie director and she a hairdresser to the stars in California. At age twenty-three, we’d have met our soul mates, just gotten married and be well on our way to living happily ever after. We would have our first kid by the time we were twenty-five and be done having our fourth and final kid by the time we were in our early thirties.
Oh, how naive and stupid we were. At twenty-three we could barely take care of ourselves, never mind a husband. When our twenty-third birthday approached and neither of us had met our knight in shining armor, only some idiots in knockoff tin suits, we modified our dreams a bit. The age we would get married got pushed up and became more of a ballpark number. We started focusing on finding a guy we would actually consider going out with on a second date. The number of kids diminished, greatly. She decided she wanted to own her own salon in Michigan. I went from wanting to direct movies to hoping to regain enough of my vision to be able to go back to school and complete my psychology degree.
Now here I was, thirty-five and divorced. Once again, my plan was getting modified. I ran the gamut of emotions. There were times I felt completely alone even when I was surrounded by people. Other times I felt angry, hurt and confused. Mostly I felt scared, unsure of myself and like a big huge failure. I mean look at all of my family and friends… and that’s when it hit me. For the most part, we’re all in the same boat. More than half of my friends are divorced. A number of them (and the rest of the world, for that matter) just lost their jobs and have no idea what they are going to do either. Most of them didn’t end up becoming what they thought they were going to be when they were six, sixteen, twenty-six or even forty-six. And you know what? That’s okay. I don’t love them any differently or think any less of them because of it. Here are some things that I’ve learned over the past few months:
1.) You can’t have a future if you’re living in the past. You have to let go of the person you thought you were going to be and learn to love the person you are;
2.) It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your life. Most of the people I know that seemed so focused and chose a major and career right out of high school hate their jobs. The good thing is you can always change it. My sister’s brother-in-law was a licensed CPA. When he was thirty, he decided he hated being an accountant and wanted to be a lawyer. Everyone said he was crazy. He wouldn’t graduate for eight years making him forty. His response was, “In eight years, I’m going to be forty either way. I’d rather be forty with a law degree than without one.”
3.) Never let other people decide your fate. Others will always have opinions on what you should do with your life or how you should handle your relationship, but you’re the one that has to live with and deal with it. Make sure your decisions are your own, and if you’re involved, discuss them with your partner;
4.) Never take advice from someone whose life you don’t respect. Have you ever noticed the first people to hand out financial advice are the people that don’t have any money? If you do want advice on how to handle your financial affairs or about your relationship, ask someone that has a bank portfolio or a relationship you admire;
5.) Never hold others responsible for other people’s mistakes. Your new love is not your old love. Your husband is not your father. Direct anger where it belongs. Just because someone else hurt you, doesn’t mean the next person will;
6.) Love is always worth it. The reward is always so much greater than the risk.
It has now been several months since my divorce. I still don’t know exactly where my life is heading, and I’m happy about that. After all, how boring would that be? I have wonderful family, great friends that love me, I’m dating…at least I think I am. Still trying to learn how to do this whole dating thing- Texting, facebook-ing, whatever happened to the plain old telephone call? But that’s another blog. I’m no longer on an emotional rollercoaster. I am happy, calm, a little nervous about the future, but more excited than anything. Most of all, I feel a sense of peace.
Life hardly ever turns out the way you planned it. Thank God, for that because being married to Kirk Cameron, raising our four kids and shooting movies all while living in my parents’ basement could have gotten a little crowded.
Shannan Mix always had an interest in writing, but became serious about it when she wrote her first nonfiction on the topic of chronic pain titled, "Pain, Pain Go Away..." The book can be downloaded for free @ www.chronicpainbook.com. She has just finished her second book, "Why Am I Still Single?" and is currently shopping it to publishers and agents. Read excerpts from the book, along with humorous weekly observations on her blog: After Wife found @http://shannan-afterwife.blogspot.com.
I'm an author/screen writer with two blogs - Minddribbles, which are random musings on random topics & The "I'm a Couch potato" blog, which documented my cold turkey effort to give up TV for a year. (I went 11 months TV free.)