I got divorced when I was barely 23. I don’t “regret” anything, but, to understate the situation, Mistakes Were Made.
Everybody makes mistakes. Even smart people. Even big mistakes. My mistakes were just… extremely public. My mistakes opened my life up to scrutiny and judgement and gossip.
In the months following this event, I heard (and heard of) people assuming and speculating details, saying negative things about me and/or my ex, questioning my dating life and new relationship. I’m sure it wasn’t a huge topic of conversation (I’m not that important), but it’s something I carried, and it didn’t feel super great.
I could usually have a sense of humor about it all. And being young and divorced in Utah is surprisingly common (hmmm… so weird! such a mystery!!!!), so I knew I wasn’t really alone in this.
But sometimes I’d get a sneaky feeling that I needed to somehow prove to the world that I was still the same happy and healthy person I was before. I was not a trainwreck or going through some weird phase. I was still someone worthy of friendship and support and respect.
But hey self, guess what? This feeling is a very stupid feeling. I can’t, and am not obligated to, explain myself to everyone. To myself and to the people who matter, I am not defined by my past mistakes. All I can do is be kind to myself, laugh off the snarky comments, and continue to live my most badass life.
Everyone, including myself, deserves to feel like they can move forward and past their screw-ups. This mistake might be public, but that doesn’t mean anyone else’s assessment of the situation is in any way relevant.
This whole experience made me way less judgmental. Gossip has never been a huge vice of mine, but I’ve definitely been guilty of performing my own personal speculations and assumptions about others. Now I know that I seriously can’t know a situation unless I actually know it. It also taught me that I don’t need to prove myself according to the obligations, expectations, or parameters of anyone except myself. It’s given me the guts and the confidence to make many other decisions that have brought me closer to the kind of life I want to live.
Basically, living is a hell of a thing. I don’t believe in destiny, or that things happen for any particular reasons. But I do believe that the mistakes we make and the crappy things that happen to us are all part of the experience of living, and we take what we can from them.
This all sounds very cliche, and if you asked me to read these words as a teenager and try to take them to heart, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes. I don’t think it would have been possible for me to learn these lessons unless I actually experienced this, so for that, I am thankful.