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The Secret to Happiness

June 30, 2015

I don't exactly remember when my dad left.

I'm assuming I was pretty young. Young enough to not be able to understand the circumstances.

Maybe it was late into the fall, when the leaves were turned orange and yellow and brown, when he and I would jump into the mountains we had made with those leaves, and afterwards he would even let me have a bit of his cider from the mug.

Or maybe it was in the summer, and he drove away in his sticky car, the air conditioner cranked up enough to house a couple of polar bears.

Or perhaps winter, when frost covered the window panes of our house, and we would snuggle underneath  a blanket and watch Christmas movies all day long.

Even though the exact time and reasons why my dad left have escaped my mind, I still remember growing up without him being around. I would see him occassionally, but not at all as often as I would if he'd actually lived with me.

By the time I was around the age of 12, my classmates had begun to notice that only one of my parents ever came to our school plays, or our recitals, or any type of activity that required an audience. And of course, they were curious. They took interest in passing the time asking about my parents, and why I only had one, and where was my dad? Where had he gone? Was he away on a business trip?

No, I would say. My mom and dad don't love each other anymore.

I will never forget the looks of utter shock and disbelief that they took upon their faces.

And I would pretend not to care, of course I would.

And I continued pretending for years to come.

But by the time my teenager years, oh, the wonderful years of hormones and crushes and so many feelings, the pretending went away. The topic of my mom and dad seperating stood powerful in my mind as I began to meet more and more people who were in a similar situation. And looking back, I would have liked to say to those people, I'm not okay with this. I want my parents love each other again. But I said nothing, because the other kids seemed to be fine with their parents being apart, which confused me.

And then I understood. Most people, like me, do not enjoy talking about this topic to other people face to face. I tend to tear up in some cases, and other times I just have the strong urge to slam a door in their face and scurry away. But of course I kept all these feelings hidden beneath my skin. But they were always there, pushing against the surface, trying to explode out of me and curl around walls and door frames and just suffocate me. Because it hit me hard, seeing all my friends with their parents, going to their houses and sitting on their couch, squished together like one big family.

And I would get these looks, ones filled with pity. I'm so sorry, you poor little thing, they would say. My heart would sink at those words, each one piercing my skin and hurting me. I hated being pitied. I still do.

Then, one day in eighth grade, my best friend approached me and told me an unpredictable thing. Our coversation went something like this:

Her: "My parents are getting divorced."

Me: "Wait, what?!"

Her: "Yeah, I'd known for a while, but this time they're really doing it."

Me: "Does your sister know?"

Her: "No, I'm the only one. But I think they'll tell her nect week."

Me: " week's her birthday."

Her: "Yeah...I know."

That hit me hard, too. They were going to tell her sister on her birthday week? What were they, crazy?

I wanted to hug my friend, tell her it was going to be okay, that I knew what she was going through.

But I did nothing of the sort. I just sort of stood there, my hands in my pockets, and said, "I'm sorry."

Because neither of us knew what the other was going through, and it was wrong to assume so.

To be honest, I never liked the word divorce. It's such an ugly word, and the usage of it is by far more hurtful than one can imagine.

And I never, ever thought that my parents seperating would change me as a person. But it did.

It taught me empathy, one of the most important qualities to a person. Being able to feel for another is a very powerful thing, and it comes to good use in your life.

It taught me that just because someone seems okay on the outside, doesn't mean they are on the inside. Someone might seem cheerful to the naked eye, but inside, they just need a shoulder to cry on. And they might not like talking about things. Don't pressure someone to take on a topic that might prove uncomfortable to them. Again, be empathetic.

And, maybe the most important thing this experience has taught me, is that a person just needs time. They need time to grow, to flourish, to blossom. At the beginning, I was trapped in all these feelings of self-pity, sadness, hunger for a father figure who lived with me 24/7. I mean, dads protect their daughters, they hate boys who are possible "boyfriend material", and they are the ones who daughters look up to most of the time.

But once my dad remarried and had a beautiful baby boy with my stepmom, I let go of all my pity. Because now I have a brother who I love and who loves me, my brother who is almost unhealthily obsessed with trains, and my brother who doesn't eat anything but pop tarts. I love him. Maybe I'm not happy, but I'm content. And that's all I could ask for.

"People cry not because they're weak. It's because they've been strong for too long."


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  • Sam Everage


    over 5 years ago
  • Jenneth LeeD

    Wow. This is really good. I've never heard anyone talk about divorce so openly before. It's really eye-opening and well written.

    almost 6 years ago