So, the last time we “spoke” I had just left my husband of 15 years on a gray snowing December day. It was December 30th, 2008. The kids and I moved into a cold crappy rental house that would never feel like home…we would only stay there for six months because the landlord was a drunk who liked to call me and try to extort money from me at all hours of the night.
I had quit my job right before Christmas. An attorney I had scheduled a free consultation with had told me that I would lose my kids because of the crazy hours that I worked (4 am to 11 pm and up to 55 hours per week). My parents, who are the best any girl could ever ask for, had put up the deposit on what we called the “poopy brown house” as well as a retainer for a lawyer and had promised to help me out if I agreed to go back to school.
I love college!
Now, I already had a college degree. I had earned my bachelor’s degree back in 1999. In fact, the day that I graduated from college was the day that I found out I was pregnant with my baby boy—he is almost 17 now, and I like to talk about what a cute baby he was in front of him just to bug him. Now if you do the math on that from Episode one, you will figure out that I didn’t do college in four years, but rather my college career spanned the better part of 9 years. I do love college!
Buh-bye law school.
After graduation, I had applied to law school which was always my goal and I was accepted. By then I was very pregnant, working full time and also had a business with a direct selling company that was bringing in almost as much as my corporate job. Gary liked that we were financially secure and that I was able to put up most of the down payment for the house we were buying from my side gig. He did not like the idea of me stopping all of that to go back to school or the concept of leaving him with a baby most nights to go to class. He said no to law school. And I probably cried about it for a minute but I let go of that dream because my focus was my family and building this life together.
Yeah! Screw him!
So, sitting with my parents in a bar after signing the lease on the poopy brown house my Mom asks me what I want to do since my degree in Sociology and Social Work had never translated to anything more than a line on my resume. Paralegal, I said. Yeah, the next best thing to being a lawyer…but I was so disgusted by the lawyers I was talking to who wanted to help me “screw him over”. I just wanted to be nice! I figured maybe I would get over that and find my legal career after all.
Late one night shortly after we had moved, while I procrastinated going to sleep in an empty bed, a commercial came on TV for a college nearby. I called the number and set an appointment with the admissions rep. His name was Brian and he changed the course of my life—no we didn’t fall in love at first sight or anything like that. Jeez, people ! I went to see Brian on January 2nd, 2009. He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up (ha, I was 36). I told him I wanted a job that was recession proof, that I never wanted to have to worry about finding work. He suggested I look in the paper and see what the postings were. So I bought a Star Tribune and went home and opened up to the job ads. There weren’t many, but under the medical section, four ads for medical assistants jumped off the page at me. There was only one for paralegal and they asked for three years of experience. My decision was made. I called Brian back and January 6 th I was sitting in class, starting a journey I would not regret, learning to be a medical assistant.
So I was in school. Which meant that I had to get my kids up and on the bus every morning and then get myself out to class, and then get back to be there for them when they got home. In those early days, Gary didn’t always come to get the kids when he was supposed to. There was at least one time when he forgot completely…did not meet them at the bus, and my seven-year-old had to break into the house through a sliding glass door that didn’t lock right (very reassuring for the single Mom living in the poopy brown house in the boondocks, let me tell ya).
If you’re happy and you know it…
From the outside, I was doing just fine. All of my friends were so proud of me. And when my kids were home or awake, I am sure I looked happy. I refused to bury my nose in school books while they were home and just tried to be normal. But when they went to bed, and my homework was done…the darkness would close in and I would cry myself to sleep. On days that I didn’t have class and they were in school, I would stay in my pajamas until a half hour before the bus came, then frantically shower and get made up so they would see that everything was fine. On the weekend that they went with their Dad (and spent it at Carol’s even though her own husband didn’t know yet that his marriage was over) I just stayed in bed all weekend.
Don’t wallow…start online dating!
I was living a double life…or a life, and a half-life or something… And I knew it couldn’t last. So I told myself that I could wallow for a full 30 days. I signed up for a dating website. I had really strange online conversations with a few guys and then spent a weekend that the kids were away chatting with one guy in particular. And on the 30th day, I went on a date.
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And we’re back.
Epic mistake #376
Okay, now in the long list of epic mistakes that I have made in my life, this won’t even rank in the top 10. But holy crap, what a mistake that was. Don’t get me wrong, he was sweet. And probably one of the most normal guys that I have dated, especially from online dating. He was very cute. Very very cute. Only just a little bit boring. And he had a fantastic body. Nothing terrified me more than being with someone new after 18 years with one man. So, of course… I slept with him on the first date. (twice) It was pretty terrible (both times) and I had to shove him out the door with moments to spare before my kids were dropped off the next morning. Afterwards… He called! We set a date for later that week…and then he vanished off the face of the earth. We will talk more about dating in another episode but if you have ever read the book “He’s just not that into you”, you know exactly what I did and how I rationalized his tragic disappearance. I’ll tell ya later!
So, with that out of the way, I felt better. I had lost about 40 lbs over the past few months since my life imploded (and Gary found it, ha ha) and I was looking pretty good. So much so in fact, that when Gary came to get the kids one night as I was preparing for a date with a new online guy he gave me the up-down. You know, the look you up, and then look you down again up-down? We joked about something (things hadn’t really gotten ugly yet) and I asked him if he was ever going to apologize to me for ruining my life. He asked me if I was ever going to thank him—because he said he had never seen me so happy. Thank him! Can you believe that crap? Thank him…but yeah, I guess I was kind of happy. I loved my classes and was making new friends. I had just started a part time job that I could just work when he had the kids and I had made a couple new friends there too. My date that night was taking me to a fancy place for dinner… I kind of laughed and told him the thank you cards were being embossed. I still wanted him to apologize. He was still an ass.
And slowly I started putting one foot in front of the other.
That relationship didn’t work, because he said I was “not damaged enough” for him—we stayed friends. I had met the two girls who would be the kind of friends who would help a girl move. Twice. They are my best friends to this day. I still have that part time job. I still love it. The building blocks of the new foundation were laid. I was starting to feel like I was going to be okay. I wouldn’t stay feeling that way…but I would feel that way again, eventually. A story for another time. Until then.