Today was my kids’ last day of school. I now have a fourth-grader, a first-grader and a pre-kinder kid. My baby-years are officially over. So what do I do to celebrate? Monday is MY first day back at college.
It’s odd to find myself again in a time of making big-decisions. We usually attribute (and I did too) those times to our younger years. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to major in? How will you chose a partner or spouse? I thought the Deciding Years were far behind me. Ha ha! Joke’s on me!
I had my 10-year marriage, my three kids, my second home. Sure, I never finished college, but I gave up my outside-the-home options when I got pregnant with my first child, and never really looked back. When I joined the church, my domestic aspirations were underscored in every Conference talk and Ensign article- and I felt righteous. I felt like a Mormon Woman. I conveniently ignored the council to get an education, as those years were clearly behind me. Ha ha! Joke’s on me!
Divorce. Divorce changes everything.
Today, I stand as the sole guardian of my three children, my houses are gone, my marriage is gone, and my title of Domestic Goddess is about as useful and shiny as a tinfoil crown. As I look around the brokedown palace, I suddenly find myself making decisions again. Big decisions. Not just what color to paint the kitchen, or when to put up raspberry jam for the summer. Decisions about what I want to be, who I want to be, how I’ll get us there, how I’ll support my family, and will I do it alone or with a new partner? Of course, I don’t get to answer all those questions- but even facing them at this intersection of life is a surprise.
The thing is, the only difference between me and most of my friends is the choices of our spouses. Many of the women I know made the same decisions I did- they gave up their career, never finished school- and if their husbands suddenly opted-out, they would stand right next to me on the same shaky ground. This is a scary truth of a woman who gives up her identity outside the home. It’s hard to look at. This awareness has been brought into keen relief as I have seen some friends pointedly drift away. Most have stayed- but a few, I saw in their eyes, were too afraid to be my friend anymore. I don’t blame them.
It’s been eighteen years since I sat in a college class. Eighteen years- just about half my life. That means the kids I will be sitting next to were likely busy being born about the time I was in Professor Bruce’s American history lectures. Back then, the internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye, you registered for your classes by standing in-line or waiting in a phone queue, and your only option for textbooks was the school bookstore. In gathering my assorted transcripts from various schools (because I was nothing at 19 if not flighty and inconsistent) I somehow amassed enough credits to get myself admitted to a real university. A great many of my classes transfered, lo these many years later, and I am entering with my minor complete, and a sizable chunk of required units. I was as surprised as the next guy. Maybe the joke’s not on me after all.
So Monday. Monday I will grab my backpack, my laptop, my books and my new University ID card and will head off to school. I’m going to be a teacher when I grow up. In two short years… As for the rest of it? Who knows what will happen. Life is so rad.