Chapter 33: 30AF & Permission to Change

I’ve turned 30. 30AF.

Yes, the inevitable day came when I outgrew the title of my blog. *sigh*

And that day came just last week. I’m no longer ’20something and divorced’.

I’m ’30 and still divorced’.

Not as catchy!!! But it’s prompted me to re-visit my blog and the WordPress world. It has been two years since I last posted.

In that time, I’ve had two draft posts on the go, but haven’t had the time or inclination to finish them. I do, however, still love to read what other bloggers post. I’ve also whole-heartedly appreciated [more than words can express] the emails from my readers; it still amazes me that my blog found an audience five years ago and that it continues to find new audiences today.

Crazy.

Turning thirty has been an inevitably reflective experience. I’m writing this as I sit on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. I know from my last travel chapter that travel does good things to my psyche. So, to celebrate my 30th birthday, Hawaii seemed like a good idea…!

I planned to sit on the Hawaiian beach and say, Goodbye, twenties! You were defining. But, thank God, life keeps moving. Time ticks by.

One of the main reasons for not returning to blogging sooner is I am all too aware of how much has changed since I last regularly blogged. And that, for so long, felt negative. I could feel changes happening and, whenever I look at my blog, I find many things I wrote – nay, raved!! – about in earlier chapters have run their course. So, if you’re a ‘happy ever after’ seeker, stop reading now. The truth is…

  • The job I wrote about lasted three years before the wind changed direction and took me with it. It was undoubtedly one of the highlights of my life to teach there and I had colleagues who turned into firm friends, who now feel more like family, but the fairytale of “miraculously landing in an amazing school” turned out to be “only a short-term season” kind of thing… And now I’m at my third school.
  • The church I waxed lyrical about (‘my church of quirks’) is still a place I appreciate and value, but I’m not a regular attendee and I’ve sadly lost contact with the wonderful people I used to hang out with there. Nothing happened in particular. But, to be honest, there’s no where I feel more single than at church. I’ve tried a zillion times to get there on a Sunday, but it doesn’t happen. Rocking up solo is hard. And it’s so easy to feel lonely in a crowd.
  • Several of the other friends I raved about in earlier chapters, I rarely see now too. I mean, sure, I would be thrilled to pass them in the street and catch up, but I guess we have drifted apart. And sadly, that’s because the truth is that our realities do change. In my experience, a big one is when people get married and have babies. And that’s partly it. But also, my own career and postgrad study focus has also contributed.
  • Six years of living the divorced, single life… and I’m still exactly that: divorced and single. And I think maybe I’m so stuck in my single ways now, I don’t even know how to be in a relationship?!
  • Ice skating competitively was an absolute highlight of my life, but hitting 30… I’ve had to hang up my competitive skates and focus on my career. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put 100% into teaching while going to the rink several times a week before dawn.
  • Oh, and I now have wrinkles. Gahhhhhhhhh.

I think I’ll always be the kind of person who struggles with life’s chapters ending. When life doesn’t look how I want it to.

And yes, there is so much about my story that still – six years on – that still sometimes makes me cry… (oh, and I get pms now which really doesn’t help)…

But…

Here I am – 9,176km from home – on Oahu’s North Shore, listening to the Pacific Ocean send waves back and forth onto the beach and arranging a horse-riding tour for tomorrow morning when I spotted a familiar family… a family from my first school… a family I – unbeknown to them – blogged about!!!!! Two children, mum, dad and grandma.

I was hiding tactfully under my large sun hat and oversized sunglasses as my brain caught up to my eyes.

They knew me as ‘Ms Bell’, and I no longer use my married surname (we’ll bookmark that for a future blog post). It had been five years-ish since I last saw them. Five years since a family in my class gave me ‘The Trust Mug’ (Chapter 30). Back then, the children had ‘randomly’ picked a mug as a ‘random’ gift for me, their teacher. And they brought it in for me ‘randomly’. But it was the day my divorce was finalised. The families at school had no idea that was my reality.

Fast forward to North Shore, Hawaii. Five years on.

At [the gigantic, generous, scrumptiously American buffet] breakfast… waffles, anyone?… I was sitting with my travel buddy and skating sister, when the family I’d recognised approached me.

‘…Ms Bell!’, I heard them excitedly exclaim.

Bare in mind, we are a bunch of South Australians having a ‘chance encounter’ on Hawaii’s North Shore, having not seen each other for years. And this family was not just any family. They were the ‘trust mug’ family.

We sat together for a short chat. They knew nothing of the battles I was facing when I taught at their school. And I wasn’t about to off-load it all to them in that moment. But I did ‘casually’ mention I still had the mug they’d given me, and I also gently [without getting too deep and making it awkward] explained that the ‘random’ day they’d given it to me was actually a very difficult day for me and their timing was magically impeccable. The mother gave me an expression of interest and comfort, but of course the children were just keen to tell me about their snorkelling and kyacking plans for the day.

Somehow, though, I felt my heart grow ten sizes that morning.

So much has changed. Sadly.

And so much still makes me sad. (I didn’t want to blog that…)

BUT…

I believe God never abandons us.

Most days, I can confidently define myself as a teacher. A daughter. A granddaughter. A figure skater. A friend. A traveller. A lover of Saturdays and quiet time. A watcher of Big Bang Theory and I dream of Jeannie. Going for coffee with friends. A collector of Duchess Kate’s shoes. And a life documented by Pandora charms.

Other days, I’m a divorcee. I’m livid with the unfairness of the whole shebang. I struggle with it. And I feel like I can’t escape it.

And – this is now nearly SIX years since Mr Ex revealed an affair and walked out. If you had told me six years ago that – going into 2019 – I’d be single and still sometimes struggle with how life has turned out, I think I would have collapsed in grief.

But, I’m giving myself permission to be OK with all of that. To recognise that that may always be the case. And to even embrace that.

Because…

  • The three different schools I’ve taught at have shaped me into a passionate, education change-maker, on a mission to change the world of education for the sake of children everywhere. I have met colleagues who have sharpened me, challenged me and grown me (whether they realise it or not). I have spent each day with children – curious, capable, creative children – who remind me what it is to be truly alive. And, each of those schools have truly felt handpicked for me by God Himself.
  • Church… well, I think a major problem of my married years was the feeling that people HAVE to go to church. As if He’s only found there. I now think my view of God was far too small. Finding God in the most unexpected places is what I currently enjoy. And, with my class of 6-year-olds, that meant taking magnifying glasses to a nearby creek and finding God in the beauty and wonder of the tiny little insects that live there. And singing Rend Collective’s My Lighthouse [complete with actions] at Chapel does something for my soul.
  • I have family and friends who love me. They see me at my best – defined as a teacher, a friend, a traveller. And they see me at my worst – defined by baggage, cranky, putting up walls. And they still love me. I maintain I experience God most profoundly through the people in my life.
  • I still ice skate for fun with my skating friends who feel more like family. I have also started ballet lessons. For me, skating always felt spiritual. And ballet somehow comes close too.
  • And finally, yes, I do still believe. I believe this magnificent, mysterious universe and this mathematically impossible planet we live on together is not a cosmic accident. I believe this world was purposefully crafted by a loving God who wants to be in relationship with us. And I believe everyone is a loved Child of God.

And ‘the Trust Mug’ from Chapter 30 [surprisingly!] continues to teach me that…

IMG_4047.JPG

 

Twenties, goodbye. I may never be able to shake you. But I accept that and keep moving.

Thirties, who knows what you’ll hold.

God is still faithful.

It’s good to be back, blogging. I’ll write again soon.

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