I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was a unreasonably warm night in Warrnambool. I crossed Liebig Street, there was no traffic in either direction, but it felt as if my body was floating a little ahead of me. I was in a state of disbelief, frustration and utter bewilderment.
I had just lost the Under 16s Speech and Drama Aggregate. By two points.
Five years of competing at the eisteddfod and all I really wanted to do was win. For two days it had been between another girl and I (yes, I know her name, and yes, she will remain nameless). I’d be ahead. Then she would be. And then I’d… you get the idea. And it was a great eisteddfod. Some of my childhood friends were still competing and my grandparents and great grandmother came to watch. It was awesome.
But, oh man, how I wanted to win. I’d won an aggregate before at a different eisteddfod, but this was my home town, and damn it, the home town girl should have won!
Which is exactly the same way I feel, or felt, about my marriage.
I have been boy crazy since I was 11. When I was 15 I started reading books about courting and marriage. I’ve been engaged three times, and only the third one stuck. I love love. I have read hundreds of romance books, if not a thousand or more. When it comes to love, I thought I had it figured out.
I still think I have it figured out, if I’m honest.
In some ways I feel a little bit cheated. Just like I did when I lost the aggregate.
The rest of the story about losing goes like this.
I crossed the street, and somehow felt like my body and my mind had caught up with each other. And my thought was, ‘well, that was it.’
I thought that because it’s true. It was the last chance I’d have to compete, the section ended at U16s. Whatever memories I had made over five years, and there were some notable ones including questionable costumes, interesting poetry choices, some good friends and whole afternoons spent hanging out in the green room doing homework, the window of opportunity had closed.
For some reason I had lost the shotgun lottery, and I had to sit in the backseat. My brother never had a good memory about whose turn it was to sit in the front, but tonight he remembered it was his turn. Typical. I was waiting for text messages that never arrived. The ride home sealed my fate, and I wouldn’t compete the same way ever again. If I’m really honest, as soon as I stopped entering eisteddfods, I stopped a lot of other things. Less discipline, less friends, less self control.
And, again, for me, leaving the marriage has meant that I have to apply all of those things again — discipline, self-control, finding and forming my village (and kicking people out of it). It’s been hard. This whole thing has been hard, and horrible, and it’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I don’t feel alone, but the silence from some people speaks volumes. People’s judgement does the same thing.
That night when I lost the aggregate, something within me changed. I honestly think I made a lot of bad choices for a five year period. I didn’t make good choices in school (though I did finish). I didn’t make good friendship choices, and I lost a couple of good friends because I was trying to be someone I really wasn’t. I became very religious, and not necessarily in a Christlike way. None of those things were because I lost the aggregate, or because of what happened in the days to follow. The blame was on me.
And now, in comparison, the blame falls on me. I left, and to me, that says that I am strong. To other people, that makes me weak, but I know otherwise.
My life wouldn’t have changed had I won the aggregate. I still would have got swept away with the Jesus Freaks movement, and without that next eisteddfod to work towards, I would have given away Speech and Drama anyway. Do I wish I had won? Yeah. All the time. But I came so very close.
And I wish I had won on the marriage game as well.
The thing is with competing in eisteddfods is that often the people who win are good. They appeal to the judges. They are usually very well trained. They are usually well spoken, well read, well rehearsed. I have only very rarely been surprised at placings and I have watched many of them.
But marriage is different. People who shouldn’t win do, and people who should win don’t. Marriage is hard work, as I have been reminded often lately, but you can work all you want, and your result may not improve. In marriage there really is only winning or losing, it either sticks or it doesn’t. And it didn’t stick, and I am sad, but I also remember what that night of losing felt like.
The door had closed, and, more than anything, I wanted a much better one to open. The life I thought I wanted is gone. And this life, that I have now, is only going to be fun and exciting, and restful and eventful if I make it that way.
As I said before, that was it. And this is now. Now is awesome.