Written by Karen Jerabek
I had always dreamed of the white picket fence lifestyle. I thought I’d meet the right man in college or shortly thereafter and then we’d get married, buy a house, get a dog and then add a couple kids to the house. And my dream started off just fine. I met a great man when I was 24, we had a whirlwind romance and he asked me to marry him. I loved him and despite it being fast-paced, I thought as long as we had love, we could conquer anything together. Several of my friends who had been in relationships for varying lengths were also on the cusp of getting engaged and getting married. We were deliriously excited planning our happily ever afters.
What I never considered was the idea of divorce. That thought never factored into my dream. So, on our 2nd anniversary, when my husband came home to tell me our marriage was over, I felt like my life was over. And in fact it was. The life that I had planned, the life that I had dreamed, it was over, completely over. My identity was stripped naked and I was left wondering who I was and what kind of life I was going to have.
As often is the case, when you’re stripped naked, you’re left feeling completely vulnerable and overwhelmed. I fought the idea for a year and tried more strategies to save my marriage than I can count. But at the end of a year, I was exhausted and no closer to having my husband back. When I fully accepted that I was clinging to a dream that had long died away, I made a choice. I chose to embrace this new opportunity and all the scary, wonderfully delicious things it had to offer.
Moving into my own apartment with barely more than our two dogs; I left behind my husband, most of our stuff and walked deliberately and passionately toward a brand new beginning. I hadn’t focused on myself in years so I relished this time in my life where I could totally do whatever it was that I wanted to do, if I could only figure out what that was.
Luckily, I had made some online friends who had also been stripped naked and were going through their own divorces and self discovery so we were able to support and encourage each other. We actually decided to write a book together, Young, Divorced and Fabulous, about our experiences and how we created our new lives, so we could offer a light at the end of the tunnel for women going through a divorce. Even though it was a heartbreaking time of my life, it was also a great time of exploration. Sure it was scary, terrifying in fact, but it was also thrilling to answer to no one and to do whatever the hell I wanted. I found that I love to write, hike with my dogs, make fruit smoothies and spend more time with my mom. I found that I didn’t like the level of isolation I felt while married and I began to rebuild friendships and start new ones. One of my friends who was also divorcing, didn’t even know what kind of food she liked as she had only bought her husband’s favorite foods for years. She had a blast at the grocery store buying all kinds of new things. It was evident that the more our marriages had crumbled, the more we lost track of who we were. The road to self discovery wasn’t just in the couple months after our marriages ended, it still goes on today. Learning to take time for ourselves and to give ourselves the ability to grow was one of the most valuable lessons that came out of our divorces.
I would have to say that getting stripped naked has been one of the hardest but also the best things to ever happen to me. It let everything that wasn’t working in my life fall away and gave me a chance to create a life that actually fit me instead of one that I was trying to fit into. And, it showed me a side of myself I would have never known, and I really like the new me. So, if you feel like your life is upside down and you’re stripped naked, embrace it, run with it, throw your arms around it. Try new things, take a class, read a different type of book, make a new friend – all of these things will help you get back to the core of who you are. One day, you’ll look back at this time of self discovery as one of the best times of your life.