Words by Rachel Perkins
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in Issue 6 of Holl & Lane. To read the whole issue, pick up our digital pack in our shop.
I fell in love. I got married in my 20’s. Settled into a beautiful condo with our pup, Miss B. I had a great job and my career was in full swing. Life was going well and on track for greatness. Then, in a flash, or so it seemed, it all came crashing down.
I got laid off. Our love faded. I was sleeping on the couch. I closed my Facebook account. I was packing my things to move out and signing on the dotted line. I was divorced at 30.
Like most divorces, mine did not end on speaking terms. Reality was, it was draining, unhealthy, lengthy, but it was the best thing that had happened to me. A silly thing to say right? Not until you hear my story.
Shortly after moving out, I found myself living on the floor of my grandparents' attic and was a huge disappointment to some of my Catholic family members. I was working part time, which made my living situation limited and living in our condo was NOT an option.
Cucumbers became my best friend since my eyes were so swollen from crying. My dog became my only sanity. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have left my room or gone outside much. She kept me moving and got me out, even if it was for a short period of time. My grandparents kept me company when they called me down for dinner. My friends called often to add their support, but I felt like a burden on their happy, harmonious, married and unmarried lives. I was the “Debbie Downer” of our group and felt like I was a failure. Yes - since my marriage was failing, I was failing at life. In all honesty, I was embarrassed, because I held marriage in such a high light and now that light had gone out.
Soon, depression set in and the “heartbreak” diet was in full effect. My life was at a low and I didn’t have anyone who could relate to what I was going through. I was too young to be going through this and I thought that keeping distant from everyone close to me would give me an excuse not to talk about it or face the reality of my divorce. Boy, was I wrong.
Talking about it and accepting my situation became the best medicine to heal my broken heart. My mom was at the forefront of my turn around, calling me daily, and pushing me towards a new life. She said, “One day you will look back and ask yourself, ‘Who was that girl?’ and being divorced is not the end of the world.” I would roll my eyes when she would say it and just give a monotone response, “Okay, Mom.” In the end, as most mothers are, she was right. It was not the end of the world and I was not going to let it be.
Baby steps, forgiveness, and being surrounded by loved ones. That’s what it takes for anyone to move forward in a situation like this. The first step I took was accepting that divorce was not the end of my life or the end of me. It was a new beginning. A time for me to start fresh and get back to finding who I was and what I loved. A time to get back to life for what it was worth, which was a lot.
The second step I took was seeking therapeutic help. I needed to talk to someone who was on the outside and who could help me deal and reaffirm what I was feeling and going through. I needed someone who could be honest with me, even if it was not what I wanted to hear like, “It will take a good year or so to really be able to heal from this” or “This isn’t about the other woman. It’s about you and him and moving on and finding your self worth again.” It felt like a couple punches in the gut, but it proved its truth a year later.
The third step I took was more of a leap. I began socializing with friends and getting back to doing things I loved. I had a love for the outdoors and grew up an athlete, but in the past few months the most athletic workout I got was walking my dog or rewinding the ending of Sleepless in Seattle, crying in joy for Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ characters with the hopes that would be me some day. Not sure if it would take part on an Empire State Building, but something along those romantic lines. After seeing friends and sharing laughs, I realized that staying in a dark room doesn’t get you far. It keeps you where you don’t want to be. Depressed.
The first outing I took was to New York City. Best part, it was my 30th birthday and what better way to get out of a funk than with friends? It wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to go. At one point the darkness crept in and I considered keeping my week old sweatpants on and thought that staying home would be just fine. Fortunately, with the pressure of my NYC friends and my grandparents, I put one foot in front of the other and headed out to the big city to celebrate being me. The leap turned into a jump in the right direction.
My efforts led to other baby steps that turned to big steps towards more things that I loved. New Year’s Eve was around the corner and I didn’t have plans, but I made a point to get back into running. A local running store was having a New Year’s Day run and what better way to kick off the new year than with a dose of endorphins? While on the run, I met another runner who became my training buddy and friend. She and I went on to do more races, meet new friends, and enjoy some beach time. The year continued with saying yes to after-work happy hours and making plans for a snowboarding trip to Colorado. Each step was getting easier and easier. I was getting back to becoming myself and really living life again. This time on my own terms.
After about a year, I found myself in a suit, standing tall, and ready to face what lay ahead of me at the court office. Along with my lawyer, I sat outside wondering if he would attend the divorce hearing and wondering how I would react. I was confident, calm, and ready to move on. As each minute went by and I waited, my name was called. I looked around and sat down at the table. He wasn’t there and I knew he would not be coming. With a smile on my face, I knew I had made the right decision and I was ready. Funny thing is if it had been a year ago, I would have been angry, sloped down in my chair hiding, or slumped over in despair. Instead, I was calm, cool, and ready for what was ahead of me. It was at that moment that I realized what my next and final step would be. Forgiveness.
I signed the papers, shook my lawyer’s hand, smiled at the judge, and went home. My grandparents hugged me, I called my mom, and sat down with my pup in my lap. For the first time in a long time I let out a sigh of relief. It was over. It was finally over and I had survived the ordeal. At the time it felt like hell, but now it felt really good. I felt strong, light on my shoulders, and at peace. Looking out the window I saw a new, wonderful life that I had embraced and more was waiting for me. As I backed away, I caught my reflection and saw a woman of strength, happiness, and confidence. One who could ask, “Who was that girl a year ago?"
Rachel is a true "Jersey" girl, but not MTV's the Jersey Shore kind, born and bred in a small town in New Jersey. She has an undergraduate degree in Business and Communications from Albright College.
Her love for writing began in high school and continued in college as a writer for the school newspaper, The Albrightian. Her successful career began in sunny California, in the sports marketing world, and now continues in Pennsylvania. Her successes include working for The Association of Volleyball Professionals; The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; Princeton Partners Agency; WHYY, Inc.; McCardle Associates; QVC, Inc.; and JEVS at Home.
In her free time, she is a dedicated duathlete, runner, triathlete, field hockey player, and Alzheimer's Advocate.