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A divorce is not necessarily the end of your family

June 22, 2014
Photo by Justin Wan | The State News

T he odds of coming to Michigan State with a set of divorced parents are 50-50. An even split, right down the middle. I had simply lived under the assumption that they would always be in my favor.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, divorce became an official word in my home.

Up until then I had always considered myself to be a “go with the flow” type of person. Not much bothered me, I lived my days believing that everything happened for a reason, and I kept myself emotionally distant from my academic, professional, and even my personal life.

For some reason the signing of the divorce papers flipped a switch in my mind. Seventy-five miles away I struggled to come to terms with what was happening back home.

I got distracted emotionally, pulled myself away from the life I viewed as “falling apart.” If I wasn’t at work or in class, I was at home sitting in bed, door closed and locked, refusing to talk to people. I stopped dancing, something I had always enjoyed.

If I was at work, I was distracted from my job, failing to do the one thing that I still enjoyed.

If I was in class, I was fidgety, forgot assignments, struggled through exams and managed to earn the lowest grades I’ve had in years.

After a while, I learned to distance myself, physically and emotionally, from the situation. Eventually I found myself back on track.

I asked myself whether I would have changed my reaction if I could have, if I would have tried to remain emotionally detached from the situation from the beginning. I always come to the same conclusion: I would have done the same thing. I would have let myself fall off the tracks momentarily, so that I could take something away from the experience in the end.

Maybe at times it felt like the white-picket-fence family was disappearing, or that I was losing something that I could never again find. But now, looking back, I realize it was the exact opposite.

My family was doing nothing but moving to different cities and extending itself. My support system was going nowhere. The only difference is now I have to make two phone calls instead of one, I spend the holidays in two different places — everything simply doubled, and nothing disappeared.

Was my life seemingly a mess for a little while? Slightly. But going through the experience made me realize something that I once again live by. Things will happen in life that can’t be changed. People will move away, lose touch, get divorced or die.

The first time something major happens in your life, something that completely upends a portion of it, it will probably affect you more than you want it to. But the key is to not let it happen again, and to learn from it and to accept that change is inevitable. But a change in one aspect of your life shouldn’t make you struggle in other aspects. Instead, it should let you grow.

When I turned 19, in the middle of the divorce, I accepted my fear of needles and did the unthinkable — I got a tattoo. When it isn’t covered, people always ask what it says or why I got it. It’s from a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson titled “In Memoriam A.H.H.,” after a friend of his passed away. My tattoo is a part from section 27, stating “‘Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all.”

It emphasizes that love is an emotion that needs to be felt, because it’s so powerful. Even if it doesn’t work out in the end, the experience of something is what matters over the success of something.

I had a solid 18 years with a whole family and all of the experiences that come with it. It’s something that can never be taken away, even if a family becomes fragmented.

Memories might fade, but they will remain in some capacity. Driving to Pennsylvania in the summer to see my grandfather, taking a day trip up to a cabin with my cousins, and taking a family vacation to Grand Haven for a weekend or stripping off the ugly wallpaper in the kitchen of our new home are all experiences of togetherness with my family that I will someday be able to write into a memoir.

I might live in East Lansing, my brother might be in Metro Detroit with my mother and her boyfriend and my father might be in Sterling Heights with his girlfriend. My cousins and extended family might be around the country. But they’re still my family, and they’re individual pieces of a larger puzzle that, when placed together carefully, make me whole.

Danyelle Morrow is the Photo Editor at the State News. Reach her at dmorrow@statenews.com.

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