I was divorced on a Thursday and less than three weeks later I had my entire life packed away in storage and two bright blue checked bags. They say that in life, change is the only constant. So when life threw me change, I threw change right back at it.
A Tantalizing Fellowship
While my ex-husband and I were still working through our conflicts, I came across a prestigious fellowship in Morocco that interested me. At the time, I didn’t know if my marriage was going to end in divorce or not. But I did know that this fellowship was a great fit for me professionally and personally.
During my separation and divorce, friends advised me to stay true to my values and goals. Divorce has a way of shaking up your life. Staying on track with my personal and professional goals helped me to preserve a sense of sanity and control over my life. So along that vein, I decided to apply!
The application process was rigorous, requiring several essays, language tests, and recommendation letters. But the process of putting everything together helped me to feel a sense of tenacity. Whether or not I got the fellowship (or got divorced), I was proud to be putting forth my best and to tackle an ambitious goal.
With the application before the committee, all I could do was wait. Similarly, I was also waiting to see how my reconciliation efforts would pan out in my marriage.
Nine months later, conflict in my marriage was coming to a head and the acceptance letter popped into my inbox. But it wasn’t exactly a happy day.
I had just got a bizarre threat from my landlord and an upsetting message from my husband. So overwhelmed, I really didn’t feel any joy when I got the letter. I flagged the acceptance email in my inbox and left it at that.
Weeks later after moving away from my landlord and finally hiring a lawyer for my divorce, the reality of the opportunity ahead of me started to sink in.
I had worked incredibly hard on my application for the fellowship and it had paid off. This within itself was healing.
In my marriage, I felt like my efforts evaporated into the air. No matter how many conversations, counseling sessions, or books I read on overcoming marital conflict, the divorce was imminent. It made me feel like a failure. But this fellowship instilled in me a sense of efficacy and pride. I decided to accept it.
Divorce Granted, Tickets Booked
Our court date came. The divorce was granted. And I had about 100 things to do to get ready to leave the country. The busyness of the season was a good distraction from all that had just happened.
I wasn’t numb through the divorce—in fact I had felt it so deeply that it was a welcomed reprieve to have something concrete and exciting to work towards.
The emotional work of preparing and accepting a divorce is not really visible. You can’t track progress and see a difference like you might see a plant growing stronger and fuller with water and sunlight. It’s all internal work and no one really applauds you for doing it.
But moving to Morocco? Well this was a very real, very tangible change.
A Change of Scenery
I got to Morocco and my new life began, starting with orientation with my cohort of fellow teachers and researchers.
Meeting my colleagues, I relished in knowing that no one knew about my divorce. It felt empowering to own my story and be able to introduce myself and my journey as completely independent of this major life event. After all, a divorce is life-changing but it’s not your entire life.
After a long day of workshops and meet and greets, we ended the day with a visit to a Moroccan Kasbah (an old fort) to watch the sunset over the Atlantic.
As an American East Coaster and avid traveler, I was excited to see this side of Atlantic for the first time.
We snaked through the white and blue kasbah on pedestrian roads so narrow that you could barely see the sky…the path was so uneven and rocky with cobblestones that all I could do was focus solely on the ground beneath me.
All of the sites, smells, and people were new. There was nothing to remind me of past pain. Being immersed in a new culture, intensified the sense of being in a whole new season of life.
We arrived at a gate that led to an open plaza overlooking the ocean. In the distance sat a small lighthouse and the sun majestically setting over a huge canvas of blues and pinks.
This day, I watched the sunset from a new vantage point. I felt overwhelmed by all that had gone into this moment . . . the paperwork . . . the immunization . . . the gusto to apply to the fellowship . . . the humility to accept the divorce . . . each step and decision brought me to this serene moment.
No one gets married planning for it to end in divorce. And no matter how civil the divorce is, it shakes you to your core to accept the end of a relationship that you truly believed would endure forever.
Moving abroad didn’t take away the pain of that loss. But it did remind me that my life was not over. My marriage was over, but I was still a tenacious and strong woman. While one piece of my life was ending, a new life was beginning.
But more than that, it made me realize that the divorce had not changed who I was. I was always strong, always moving forward, always fully alive, even if I didn’t feel it.
As I settled into life in Morocco, I experienced a new world with new-found independence and strength. Each time I overcame a cultural obstacle, it showed me how truly resilient I was… and how small divorce was in the grand scheme of my life.
Moving abroad may not be an option for everyone post-divorce, but I can say that pursuing new experiences and tackling new challenges may be one of the best ways to heal.
When I got the fellowship, I hesitated to accept it, questioning whether I was prepared for the challenge. I was tempted to believe that after my divorce I needed to be insulated by staying in the same job and the same community. I thought minimizing change in my life would be the safest bet.
But in the end, taking a big leap and tackling a new feat was a huge confidence boost.
Whether it’s moving abroad, running a marathon, or going back to school, throw change right back at life when it throws change at you. After all, it’s when we take risks that we see how strong we truly are.