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23 February 2011

My Life's One Great Love - Part 2

I started grad school 18 months after we got married. As a teacher in NYS, I needed to have a masters’ to maintain my certification. I started taking classes and started meeting people who loved the same things I did: books, movies, adventure, and excitement. I quickly made fast and close friends with a couple of girls from my grad classes, and I enjoyed hanging out with them. All of them had significant others, and I thought it would be perfect to get Todd and I out of the house and socializing. Well, come to find out, Todd didn’t like going out to because the smoke bothered him. And it was too loud. And he just didn’t like it. (How I didn’t know this before is a mystery to me.) He and I agreed that, since he didn’t like going out, he wouldn’t make a fuss if I spent time out with my new friends. It wasn’t ideal; I wanted him to be involved. But I also wasn’t ready to sit at home in front of the TV every night for the next 50 years or so.

During this time, I met The Doctor. He was a professor of mine in a required lit class that I had zero interest in. He was young and good looking and smart and funny. But I was married and he was my professor, so there was a DEFINITE conflict of interest. I still enjoyed his company when the whole class went out for a pint after class. But I also knew what the situation was. He mentored me and suggested that I pursue a PhD in my desired field (American Literature) because I showed promise and potential. I had never truly considered that before (despite having dreamt of it in my early college years) because there weren’t any really good programs locally for me to attend. I couldn’t move because both my husband and I had good jobs.

In my second semester of grad school, my dad went through a pretty major health scare. It was a really rough time for me and my family. We really thought that he wasn’t going to make it, and that completely wrecked me. The thought of losing him still makes me tear up. I remember going home to bed and just sobbing until my body was sore. And my husband never reached out to hold me or console me. He laid next to me in the dark, listening to me cry, with his back to me. At that point I began to question what I had gotten myself into. How could I have not seen this? Was asking for comfort and affection that much to ask? I began to wonder if I could spend the rest of my life with someone who couldn’t comfort me in my darkest times.

After my dad made it through, I realized how short and important our lives really are. I decided that I needed to pursue my dreams and my desires. I wanted to travel. I wanted to see the world. I wanted read great books and talk to people about literature and authors and all of the things that drove me. At some point I decided that I wanted to pursue my PhD. I prepared myself to apply to a “local” school and, under the advice of The Doctor, to schools in Massachusetts and North Carolina that were known for solid literature programs. But this meant a heart-to-heart with the husband about what I wanted and needed out of life.

Well, that conversation didn’t go well. It boiled down to the fact that he never wanted to leave Upstate NY and was content doing what he was doing for the rest of his life. He even told me that he had no real desire to travel when I told him how important it was to me. The conversation continued, and I told him upfront that pursuing my PhD was something I really wanted, and it would require us to move to either Massachusetts or North Carolina (the “local” school had rejected my early graduate application). His response to me was, and I quote, “If you really want to move, I’ll go but I’ll be miserable the whole time.” To which I replied, “Then why don’t you just not go.”

That was pretty much the end. We toughed it out for a few more months, but it was obvious that it wasn't going to work. We were too different and had different aspirations in life. I couldn’t see myself giving up on my dreams at such a young age (23). Abandoning your dreams is something that old people do. Not those in the prime of their lives! After a lot of fighting and discussion and more fighting, he moved out in the spring before my second year. He left me and my puppy in a big empty rental house. I stayed there through the summer, but I knew I needed a new place for the coming fall when I had a new job in a different district and another year of grad school.

Our marriage lasted for approximately 3 years. It clearly wasn’t a match made in heaven, but it did prepare me for the woman that I was to become. 
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