In May of 2010, my now ex-wife basically insinuated that she wanted a divorce, while I bullheadedly decided she meant separation, not splitsville. It was me reading between the lines that weren’t actually there.
She went home, then told me over facebook that she didn’t love me anymore (ouch) and eventually decided she wanted that divorce via facebook chat. (triple ouch)
I was devastated. I kept holding out hope that she would change her mind and that we would figure it out somehow. But a part of me was happy to be free: the entire marriage didn’t work, and we both truly wanted different things, and to be treated differently by our respective partners as well. Our strengths ignored, our weaknesses magnified, we weren’t going to work out without a lot of compromising (also known as “settling.”) And that compromising was going to take a lot of work, work neither of us prepared for or frankly wanted to put in. I think we both knew, at least by the time May 2010 rolled around, that it was over between us. One of us was much more sure than the other, but someone always reaches that epiphany first. It took me a long time to realize a lot of these things.
Right when we split, I got word that JetBlue was doing an All You Can Jet event, allowing you to purchase for $500 the ability for one month, the ability to fly unlimited JetBlue flights. It was the best deal of all time, and to me it felt like a sign. My friend Brian had posted on facebook about JetBlue’s anniversary sale, selling one way tickets for 10 dollars, and that’s how I sent my wife back to her parents for the last time. Now they were offering me a tailor-made walkabout.
A walkabout is a journey that the male Australian Aborigines would take as a sort of rite of passage, so they could find themselves. This was my walkabout. But for me, I didn’t realize that the walkabout would have me travel so far, or last so long, or have me confront things that had nothing to do with my ex-wife.
I went to Greece with my parents and siblings, and we reconnected as a family. My ex never got close to my family, save for my then 14 year old brother. My mother tried desperately to connect with her, because the relationship I had with MY in-laws was borderline magical. Every person who complains about their mother in-law didn’t get mine, that’s for damn sure. That woman was the nicest or just about greatest person I met the whole time I was with my ex. My mother of course, took my relationship in stride and tried to force a connection with my ex, who felt smothered. So with all that strain out of the way, we headed to Greece, a family of five once more.
While the details of that trip are recorded in the obscene amount of photos that I took over the course of two weeks, the feelings I felt on that trip are hard to put into words, so bear with me. I remember talking a lot. Now, I’m a talker but when I talked on this trip I downright gushed like a broken fire hydrant. And of course it was “my ex this” or “my ex that” and how could I forget “[insert bitter as fuck thing about love]?”
I remember talking about my ex, incessantly, to complete strangers. A bus tour where I became friends with everyone (or so I thought) and exchanged contact info, and none of the people ever contacted me (good choice guys.)
I remember looking at a lot of girls, entering a girl-crazy phase that I hadn’t been in for probably my entire life. I remember learning to deal with the fact that I didn’t have to feel guilty about looking at other women anymore. That I actually felt terrible and felt a deep sense of loss. That I needed to learn to be alone, to be an individual again.
That I thought that “it takes time” was a bunch of bullshit advice. You were right, 1000s of strangers, don’t you feel vindicated?!
The hardest thing I had to deal with over these now-almost-three years since we filed for divorce, was dealing with all of the “what ifs.” I just wanted to know the reasons why she treated me so badly, did she ever love me, what I could have done to make it work.”
It took me over two years to realize that I needed to get over the fact that I was never going to get the closure of knowing the answers to those questions that I had. Nope. My ex wasn’t going to give them to me, and I wasn’t going to find them anywhere else. There wasn’t a time machine I could hop into and fix everything. I was never going to know why she did any of the things she did, good or bad. One day I woke up and I realized I no longer cared about getting the answers, and wasting any more time wondering about the what-ifs couldn’t change anything now. That was the hardest thing to get over: not the way I was treated, but that I couldn’t care about why something happened, why it played out the way it did. Instead I needed to know what I was going to do with my life now. If I wasn’t going to get the answers to those questions, why didn’t I go learn from the one person who was going to be around for all of this crazy journey? Myself.
I thought the walkabout would be for that month, and it would be about learning how to be a single person again. I was completely wrong. I first flew to New York, a city about a year before I had spent time with my ex showing her the city of my childhood for the first time. I had a lot of fresh memories of taking her to do all these touristy things. But this time, I was doing all these things by myself. I saw some friends in the city, and realized I still couldn’t stop talking about her. It was still too raw, but to their credit, they all listened to me.
I went to Costa Rica, and Colombia, and then flew to Seattle, seeing places I had never seen before, and having a blast before turning around and flying to Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh is where I went for my undergraduate years, and ironically the last time I had been there was right after I met my ex for the first time. I walked around the city thinking that this was the crazy thing: I had always thought I would be taking my ex here to see the campus and regale her with stories of my misspent youth. Now I was returning to my past: untainted, unspoiled, undamaged with memories of her, and it was soothing but superficial. I realized then that the personal growth I hoped to experience wasn’t there, even as I flew around North and South America in search of it. And I wasn’t going to find it there. I was going to find it at home.
Home. The city that I shared everything I knew about with her, the outsider. The place I desperately tried to sell to her. The place I chose over staying with her and moving back to the East Coast. How could I avoid her ghost? More than anything I needed to reclaim San Diego for myself.