9 Good Ways Divorce Changed My Life
Of all the things I am grateful for — and there are many — believe me, I’d never have anticipated a divorce to be part of that list. How could I, when all I saw when I got married at 23 were the rainbows and flowers? It took me years to realize that dark paths often lead to light.
It’s been 12 years since I navigated the murky waters of a nasty divorce. And as I stand on the other side of the shore, I can’t help looking back with gratitude. Why? Because the tight squeeze of divorce left me with more fruits in my basket than I would ever have if I was still married.
1. A life in one of the most beautiful cities in the world
Good things often come wrapped in sandpaper. Though it never seems so at the time.
At 25, I was a jobless and newly divorced woman, desperate to get my footing back to the game of life. After months of hunting for a job in my country of birth, and failing miserably, I packed up and left. I needed to shake things up a little bit and try my luck elsewhere. I continued my search for a job in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Little did I know I would end up pitching a tent in this beautiful city for an entire decade. I was ‘pushed’ into a luxurious lifestyle. It was here that I got to enjoy the summery beaches, great infrastructure, a lively nightlife, great shopping, and a vibrant economy.
Not bad for a young, divorced woman trying to carve out a start fresh start at life.
2. A chance at my dream job
Dreams do come true.
I always remember this. At the tender age of seven, my teacher posed the famous question to the class, ‘what would you like to be when you grow up?’ I was young, but I knew exactly what I wanted to be; a flight attendant. I told her and the class as much.
What I didn’t know, was that my divorce would be the flap of the butterfly that would eventually fly me to my dream job. I had to get divorced, leave home and find a job in a new country. The job I landed was precisely what I had wanted to do all my life. And what I told my class at grade seven.
As a cabin crew for one of the leading airlines in the world, I was privileged to set foot in over 80 countries. That’s pretty big, considering most people never leave their home town.
Had I never been divorced, this amount of travel would have been nothing but a figment of my imagination.
3. An opportunity to build my financial capital
Starting from nothing is incredibly hard. You’ve got to grind for hours on end. But the greatest complexity is creating a launching pad with no money.
I know it all too well. More so because this was my biggest challenge when I landed in a new country. Before I could even settle down, I had to hit the ground running and secure a job. Fast.
My first job just about covered the basics; food, a roof over my head and clothes. With a tight budget, I found myself struggling to keep my head above the water as far as money was concerned. I craved to have a measure of financial freedom so I knew I had to make a plan.
Besides, nothing changes unless you do.
This was the beginning of creating my little empire. I started by making some spending adjustments. I picked up tips and nuggets on saving money. I pushed for a better job. Little by little, my finances started to shift. Sure, it didn’t happen overnight. But I did manage to save some cash after my expenses were covered.
Then I knew I was onto something. I liked that.
So I did more; I began to unearth information on investing. Because if you desire to get somewhere, you’ve got to take a step. I didn’t have much money, but I knew if I kept searching long enough, I would stumble on something that suited me.
Eventually, I did.
I went ahead to set up a long-term investment plan that did not require heaps of money to kick-start. This insight was everything. It became the building blocks upon which I build my financial capital. It is not much, but it has afforded a measure of freedom. I can now travel freely. I am less worried about the future because I know my financial umbrella is set up in case of a rainy day.
The fact is, had I not been squeezed into the tight wedge of a divorce, this freedom would not be my reality.
4. International exposure
Stepping into new territories only enriches our experiences. And yes, it can be scary, but it is exciting and worth it.
I have had a chance to experience this first-hand. As I worked on creating a new life after my divorce and trying to get back on my feet as fast as I could, it opened up my world in a manner beyond anything I could have anticipated.
I made a life in a new country. I learned new laws and regulations. I became exposed to new forms of religion. I was also able to understand the different perceptions of sexuality.
For the first time ever, I went from associating with individuals of my nationality when I was still back home (and married), to connecting with persons from different countries.
Also, my job as a cabin crew in a cosmopolitan environment enriched my social life in a great way. I forged friendships with people from diverse countries — some whose names I still struggle to pronounce. But who taught me a thing or two about their heritage, traditions, and way of life.
But here’s the interesting part.
The more I got to understand people better, the clearer it became; we are all woven from the same fabric. Yes, we may look, talk and act different, but we really are all the same.
I stumbled on this truth only because I was brave enough to step out and see what the rest of the world had to offer.
In the words of Wendell Berry, no one could do this for me.
“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”
5. Finding myself
It takes a while to know ourselves. In fact, I will take it further and say, it takes us a lifetime to figure ourselves out. That’s the simple and plain truth.
On top of that, it gets even messier when life throws you a curveball and places you at the back of the line. Only to start afresh. Then it takes a really long time to find yourself. Unfortunately, not many do.
My divorce was the curveball that left me lying underneath a pile of broken dreams and aborted expectations. And while it was one thing to secure a job and get the wheel of my life spinning again, on the inside, I had barely scratched the surface. I was far from where I wanted to be. My emotional wounds were far from healing.
There was plenty of internal work to be done. I had to learn not to allow the failure of my marriage to define who I was. This one was tough I must admit. It was like tearing my skin off. I had to learn how to be okay with all of it. The mistakes. The misjudgment. The betrayal. The pain. The regret.
Not to mention the ugly face of stigma and stereotype that kept rearing its head in the wake of my failed marriage. I had to teach myself the first lesson on how to be unflinching. As a matter of fact, I had to learn and unlearn a whole lot of behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs.
It was absolutely necessary if I was ever going to find myself again.
I threw in practices of self-love, meditation, affirmations, and gratitude in an effort to arrive at my place of healing. My joy. My peace. My self-esteem. My confidence.
And there was more.
I had to unlearn my old married ways and mannerisms. I liked this part. A lot. It was effortless and liberating.
I no longer needed to consult before making decisions. My Sundays were no longer spent entertaining boring in-laws. I didn’t have to compromise, over and over again. I could now utilize every inch of space in my closet. I was free to go out and stay as long as I deemed fit. I was free to roll in the hay with anyone I wanted. That felt good.
6. Discovering my true support system
Real friends are like masts. They support, strengthen and stand by you even as you brush against the harsh waves in the ocean of life.
My masts were revealed to me in the darkest season of my life. When the hum in my marriage started fading, I too started spiraling downwards at a very fast rate.
With my internal lenses way too blurry to see my true sense of worth, I was headed for big trouble. Were it not for my mother and my four best friends, I would not be writing this now.
They stepped in with emotional support, companionship, financial help, guidance and a shoulder to cry on. They pointed me to the light. To the shining star of hope. At times I only needed a listening ear. And I always got it.
For me, these were the masts that kept my dhow from capsizing.
When life gets tough and our lenses become foggy, it takes a real friend to remind you of the gem hidden in you. My divorce provided the right atmosphere for the litmus test that separated my true friends from those who were in my life just for the ride.
From where I stand now, I know the wheat from the tares.
7. Finding real love
Nothing lasts forever, except true love.
I never once believed I would fall in love ever again. I had gone through enough pain and emotional turmoil that that door was tightly shut, never to be opened.
But no circumstance is carved in stone. After several years of peeling off the layers, I started to think I really could open that door again. It was still possible.
Sure, I admit that I am still cleaning up internally. The work never stops. I am always dealing with something. There’s always a thorn piercing my flesh. And I am OK with that. It keeps me human.
But, no matter how far off I had fallen from the cliff, there came a time when I started to feel ready for the warmth that love offers. There was space on the inside for something new and fresh.
I didn’t know it then, but now, I am truly convinced that love has a way of finding us. Because once I opened that door, love did find me. And it was true love; the kind that sees beyond the cracks.
Sure, it took me a while, years in fact. But I needed that time and space to fill my cup which had been emptied by rocky marriage and subsequent divorce.
When love crossed my path, it came at the most unexpected time and place. When I met him I did not need convincing. This was it. I knew it. He was the one. My heart felt warm and his eyes said it all. It didn’t take us long. In three months, from the day we set eyes on each other we got engaged.
The rest, as they say, is history.
8. Improved body image
I don’t recall making conscious decisions to upgrade my body image or the quality of my life for that matter. Most of it happened by default. When I became a divorced woman, I found myself with too much time on my hands. The gym seemed like a good idea. So I signed up.
This was something I had not done before. Ever. So I was not sure if and how long it would last. But I showed up for the first week, second, and third. I kept at it.
Then everything else started to shift.
My body started to change. I noticed curves I didn’t even know existed. And while that was a good thing, there was something else that kept me going back. It was that great feeling that stayed with me long after I’d left the gym. It left me pumped-up and enhanced my productivity.
I wanted to keep it that way.
So I cultivated the discipline to propel me toward a fitter, healthier and stronger version of myself. I started to watch my diet. 12 years after my divorce, exercise and fitness have become an integral part of my life.
And it has brought me huge rewards. I feel better. I look better, I dress better, I feel fitter.
9.Birthing my story
I wouldn’t be writing this had I not gone through a divorce. It’s obvious, but it’s also true. Sure, there’s no knowing where my marriage would have taken me had it not withered away. It’s like most things in life, I will never know.
But for now, this is what I have; a story that (I hope) inspires many to see the rainbow in their cloud.
For a long time, I have known that everything happens for a reason. I knew it back then when my marriage was ebbing away. Not to say that it made it any easier. But I am more convinced of that now that I have made it past my divorce.
I say that because the woman I was then, fades in comparison to the woman I am now. So much of me has changed. I am wiser. I am confident. I am resilient. I am beaming with hope for the future.
If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that we are all connected. Our challenges are never really unique. They might present at different times in our lives, but they are similar. Somewhere along the corner is someone else going through the same rough patch I went through.
Hence there’s always something to glean from each other. Something which if shared, can help us pull each other out of the darkness. Because dark times come to all of us.
Fortunately, they don’t last forever.
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