Once upon a time, when we were newly arrived in North Carolina by way of two years in Alaska, I was frustrated and stressed and we were out of money.
See, when we left Alaska, I resolved to myself that I would no longer teach. Teaching was something that didn’t bring me joy. It brought stress and frustration, but it also brought money that was much needed.
And so, when we got to NC, I didn’t apply for teaching jobs. I subbed, but my focus was elsewhere – I was looking for something else.
One day when I was at a store trying to squeak through our grocery money without sliding past my mental budget, I saw a pendent – a cheap little DIY necklace thing – that just said HOPE.
And that is what I needed during that time.
I used a tiny bit of saved up change and bought it, and wore it, trying to infuse HOPE into my core by osmosis.
I held it when I applied for a job at the rec center. A job that would be part time and low pay but would allow me to still do the fun parts of teaching without the politics and the mandatory testing and would get my foot into the door to a more full time job with benefits.
I held it after my interview.
I was holding it when the school that Brandus worked for called me, and offered me a teaching job. A job with benefits and good pay and would allow me to be at the same school at him.
I had taken it off by the time the rec center called and offered me the job.
I felt betrayed. I felt that the HOPE I had been hanging on to so hard had turned around and stabbed me in the back.
That was years ago, and the memory still stings a little. I threw that little necklace away shortly after.
But a few weeks ago, a friend gave me another pendant. She held out a little bag and I swished my fingers through a small collection of tokens, and when I drew out my hand I was holding a tiny circle that just says BRAVE.
I strung it on a blue cord in honor of the woman who gave it to me, but I’m not wearing it. I carry it in my pocket sometimes where I can pull it out and hold it and remind myself of what I am and can be.
Because again, by osmosis, I’m hoping this sinks in beneath my skin and wraps itself around my backbone.
I need to be BRAVE right now. I need bravery, and hope, and a little weakness, too.
Because on June 26, 2015, when thousands of people were rightfully celebrating their right to marry being honored, I was sitting in my car and thinking about divorce.
Divorce is a hard, scary word. One that gives me images of crying children, lonely evenings on the couch, and me reaching for a phone to call and share something funny – but stopping, because I no longer have that right.
Scrolling through my social media that day was both wonderful and painful.
Wonderful, because so many of my friends could now legally marry the people they love. And so painful, because all I could think of while so many families were beginning, was how mine was ending.
I’m sad and hurting, and still so angry, although I’m trying to move past all three of those into acceptance and distance.
Please be patient with me, universe. I’m still working things out in my own head. But I will make it through. This sucks so epically on every level, but I’m going to be just fine. Eventually.
Because I carry some strength with me, through my family, and my friends, and the little token in my pocket that reminds me that I am BRAVE.