Meet Tina, a 31-year-old education professional. Tina moved back to her hometown in North Carolina from California following her divorce and the onset of the pandemic. We talked about the way that experience changed her professional plans, personal ambitions and her relationship to her own future. Here’s our conversation edited for length and clarity. Tina is a pseudonym to protect her identity.
I’m not one of those people who just jump and then figure out things later. I need to plan. Sometimes I get to the point where I plan and plan and plan and I never do. It could be fear of failure. I don’t know, I like to stay in a place where I feel safe.
And then when you add in divorce. That was my support structure. So then it’s like, okay, I can’t really take these risks. Like I don’t have anywhere to fall or anyone else to fall back on.
I was a little more adventurous and ambitious when I knew I had someone there to support me.
When the divorce happened I was actually pursuing coding and learning a new skill to completely change my career trajectory.
I had gotten accepted into this data analytics course with coding on the side. I was working on that full time, learning how to code in Python, putting together these giant data charts and all the stuff. And it was really interesting to me.
I’ve been working in training and education all of my adult life and that’s what I do in the tech world. Now I do instructional design and it’s awesome, but it’s not challenging. I feel like I can do it in my sleep. So I really wanted to get into a field that challenged me. But that had to get put on the shelf when I was like, “Okay, I need to leave”.
As soon as the divorce happened, I’m like, “I need to just find the best paying job in my field with the skills that I already have.”
Like there’s no time for me to be learning and doing all of these things on the side. I need to survive.
I know for other women it may be different, but I come from a family where no one’s going to be able to help me. Him and I, we had to build our own structure. We had to do everything by ourselves. And so then when you remove that – It’s a scary thing.
I didn’t tell my family I was getting divorced until almost a year after I had figured out everything – like I had already moved out, I got a new job. So I had done all of these really big things by myself, dealt with it by myself. That was super hard. And then when I finally shared it it’s like, “Oh, okay, that’s sad”. But there was no support. Like no one actually asked me, “Do you need someone to talk to?”
And then you add on a pandemic which happened like two months after I moved into my apartment by myself – maybe that’s why I’m crying.
I had to rebuild basically from the bottom again and no one to talk to – it was just a lot. I’ve probably been around way longer than I should have anyway. And I think a lot of women do that.Everyone’s surprised when someone leaves and it’s like, “Oh, it’s been in the works for years,” you know?
I had been out there with two incomes my whole life, so this is the first time where I’m like, “Okay, I can’t just like scrape by or pick up the first random job.”
As soon as the whole divorce thing happened, your brain starts going a million miles per hour. It’s like, “Okay, where am I going to live? What does that look like? What furniture is he taking? What furniture am I taking? What about my car and bills and all of these things.”
And then, like I said, the pandemic happened, so it’s like, “Okay, now my job looks different. How do I cope with this?” And all of that change and turnover – and then of course I moved cross country.
I’m just trying to live and not plan too much. I’ve done a lot of planning in the past and I’m a little tired.
I think when you go through a divorce, it’s really like a fight or flight type thing. And it takes a while for you to come down from it – especially depending on your family situation. I know people who had great parents and they were able to move home and just figure out life and that’s great. And so maybe you’re able to get back to the things that you love faster, but not me.
I’m at the stage where I’m just taking my time and loving on myself. I’m in the do whatever I want phase. I just got back from a week in the Dominican Republic, so taking vacations and just sitting in this moment where I know I have a stable income now. I built back up my savings. I don’t have debt.
I even asked a friend the other day, “Does grief give you amnesia or something? Like I have forgotten what drove me, like what put a spark in my heart?” And I was asking her to remind me.
She was like, “Girl, I don’t know”. But yeah, I swear I have amnesia. And so I sit here and I’m like, what the hell do I want? I just want peace. Like I really don’t know cause it was always a touch to another person. It was joint goals. And then I had the stability to start pursuing my goals as well.
I think now I have a fear since it’s just all on me. Like, do I have that space to go for dreams?
I don’t know. And I think that comes from being married young. I got married when I was 21. So I don’t have a reference for life outside of planning with a person. Most of those goals were attached to something dealing with him. I don’t have a lot of the things that my friends are thinking about. And so it feels like I’m sort of in limbo.
I sorta like being in this space where I don’t have to wake up and worry about children or another person, but that is another thing that just isolates me even more. I just know I don’t want to work forever.
Do you have a story to tell about how ambition has played out in your life — for better or for worse? Let us know in the comments.
If you like this weeks’ diary, you might also like these reads:
Plus this podcast episode on how to rebuild your finances after divorce.
Image: Delmaine Donson/E+ via GettyImages