The last time I took a picture like this it was a very different situation. I was 27 and off to visit my best friend in New York because my marriage had ended. Just like here I snapped my suitcase and handbag on my bed all ready for me to drive down to Heathrow, full of excitement, trepidation and shoes.
I didn’t write much about what was going on then because really… what do you say? I didn’t quite believe myself that a 9 year relationship was coming to an end and even if I tried couldn’t tell you what I was feeling. My whole adult life had been spent with one man; we’d grown up together, had two children together, built a life together yet had become increasingly unhappy together. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that – I was distraught, confused, heartbroken, scared. I needed head space so I made a last-minute decision to visit one of my oldest friends in the states.
Boarding that plane felt strange. I’d been tied to someone for such a long time – emotionally and legally – and I didn’t know if we would still be bound in this way once I got back to England. It was the first time I’d been on a plane alone or travelled alone and it felt like it was the beginning of me getting to know myself.
As it turned out that trip was the making of me. I arrived scared and wary of what might lie ahead but somewhere in the steam and skyscrapers of New York I found who I’d grown up to be in that past decade. My joie de vivre and sparkle returned and I came home knowing what was about to happen. Not just knowing; at peace with the decision. I knew our story would end in divorce.
It’s been two and a half years since that trip and it hasn’t been easy. It’s been overwhelmingly surprising to discover how difficult divorce is. Who knew, right? Divorce isn’t one long Caribbean holiday!! What an awakening.
I expected the devastation to ease off over time but that’s not how it works. In a situation like mine that was so amicable it can seem quite senseless and take a long time to get your head round why this is happening to you. Don’t get me wrong – we did the right thing and having my time again I would always choose the path of divorce – but the lack of having someone to blame in the situation has been harder than you might think. There’s been foot stamping, crying, happy days, sad days. I might have uttered the phrase “it’s not fair” once or twice. It gets better, it does.
And so a week ago I boarded another plane. It felt only right that for the occasion of turning 30, another seminal life event, I did it in the place that was previously so important in helping steer my destiny. But I didn’t buckle up feeling lost, wounded or unsure this time. This was a whole new (American) ball game.
Divorce leaves many things in its wake and I can truly say now, two and a half years on, that over here contentment and happiness is one of them. Because of what I have been through I work harder, am less selfish, love more, sleep less (sad face), am braver, more thoughtful. It really is all good. It’s a pain in the arse situation to have to go through – love is supposed to be for life, not just a decade – and the paperwork is insane ;) I will forever be heartbroken that my children will grow up without their father living in the same house as them but nobody plans for this to happen. This time travelling to New York I knew exactly who I was going out there and who I was going to be coming back (horrendously jetlagged for a start…).
You’re not getting off with me turning 30 this easy – there will be many more reflections coming your way in the next few days. But for now just be proud that I’ve written 700 words about divorce and growth that began with a photo of a suitcase and haven’t once referred to my emotional baggage.
I thank you.