Years ago, I lost a box containing my highschool yearbooks and journals. That box was found a few weeks ago. Frantically, I searched through the diaries to see where my marriage went wrong. Out fell a note I wrote to myself on April 27th, 1997. I was nineteen years old, in university, and living with my parents while earning my degree.
This is to be opened at the end of 1997. Jennifer Wilson must choose between who she is and who she wants to be. She wants to be emotionally strong, physically active, mentally up-to-par. She must, in 1997, find the DRIVE she lost; Jennifer must find all qualities that made her whole before those ignorant of their actions stole them away.
Jennifer, remember: THIS IS YOUR LIFE. NO ONE WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU → THAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Don’t allow the actions/voices of others decide your happiness.
START THINKING OF YOUR OWN HAPPINESS FIRST AND FOREMOST. You must be able to read this in 1998 and claim that all this has been achieved. This is the year of change; don’t hesitate, as hesitation leads to years of regret. It is better to make bad choices and learn from them, than to never make them at all, and thus never learn life’s lessons. STAY TRUE.
Yo, that’s some deep stuff right there. I want to tell Nineteen Year Old Me to chill out. I don’t even remember what “ignorant actions” a person or people did to me, so this seems very melodramatic given the trauma was probably a frenemy kissing a boy I liked. My family life suffered physical and emotional violence, but I suspect the letter wasn’t about that.
In reality, I needed this note again years ago. When my self-esteem plunged. When depression kicked in. When I repeated over and over that I needed to work harder on my marriage. When I was too scared to leave and the timing was better than it is now. When I lost my identity and morphed into someone unrecognizable.
I’m trying to be my authentic self by getting out of this marriage. That whoever I meet sees the “real” me, not the one I was to keep peace in the house.
At the end of December 2019 (so blissfully unaware of an upcoming worldwide pandemic and I shopped at Target like a mask-less princess), I sat in my car one night because I didn’t want to go in yet from running errands. My husband and I have wounded each other in many ways while building our dead bedroom. I had just discovered he went to massage parlors for over a year to get “happy endings”. Another nail in the coffin called Marriage.
I cried hysterically and Billie Eilish’s Everything I Wanted played on the radio. I sobbed harder. Like my teenage self, I made a vow: I would not hear that song on the radio in December 2020 and cry over my marriage for yet another year.
This time I meant it, unlike the vow I made in April 2018 that I will have improved my life by April 2019. My bad.
While this pandemic is cockblocking me from progressing forward, I’m making baby steps with my husband who clings to the hope that we’ll be romantic again. We’re working with a divorce counselor who actually wrote the book on parenting marriages (I went straight to the expert to help the cause). She’s working with him on the childhood issues that cause him to have daily meltdowns months after I told him I was done. This counselor is also working with us jointly to navigate this emotional separation while living under one roof. Basically, what my actual regular marriage was anyway but this time without the responsibility of the Wife title.
When I wrote that letter, I felt like my soul was ancient. I look at pictures of myself and feel sorry for that girl, burdened by family trauma and too scared to tell anyone her truth. I’m finally trying to live my truth now, despite that I’m absolutely terrified of the pain this will bring to my children and I feel guilty for my husband.
I made a promise to myself twenty-three years ago and it’s time that I honor it.
Previously published on medium
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