Sunday, January 6, 2019

At a crossroad

Definition of crossroad
1: a road that crosses a main road or runs cross-country between main roads
2: usually crossroads\ˈkrȯs-​ˌrōdz also -​ˈrōdz
a: the place of intersection of two or more roads
b: a small community located at such a crossroads : a central meeting place
c : a crucial point especially where a decision must be made 
A long time ago—back when I only had one child and I was married to someone else, I came to a place in my life most people would call a crossroad. It was about 16 years ago. I was moving from Columbus, Ga. to Savannah, Ga. My daughter was about 2 years old and I’d been married about 6 years. I was an Army wife living that Army life--that’s the reason we were moving again.

I didn’t really know anything about Savannah but apparently that was a good career move for the Army at the time so that’s where we went. While he was busy doing career stuff, it seemed the best for me to drive out to the new house and get there a few days before the movers were supposed to show up while he finished tying up loose ends at work.

The night before I left Columbus, I looked over the map to make sure I knew the best way to get across the state. Columbus is on west side of the state—just touching the Alabama border. Savannah is almost touching the Atlantic Ocean. I would need to make my way through some rural areas and small towns to get to I-16 which would lead me all the way to Savannah.

I would know I was close to where I needed to go when I hit I-95. I traced my fingers along the route and hovered over I-95 for a while. I-95 goes north to south—if I took it north, I could take it all the way to Boston. That would be a little more than 1,000 miles away from where I supposed to go. The idea of going somewhere else, somewhere secret, was the first time I was a little excited about the move.
What if I just got on I-95 and went north and kept driving until I couldn’t drive any farther? It would be days before anyone would realize I didn’t make it Savannah and who would ever guess I would leave like that—of course I would tell my sister about the plan once I made it but no one else would know. No one in Boston would know me and I could just blend in and start a new life.

At the time, I’m not really sure if I knew how miserable and lonely I was. Thinking back, I know I wasn’t very social at the time despite living in a housing area on Ft. Benning that was a cluster of row houses linked together in a circle with a large playground in the middle of that circle. You could walk out your back door everyday and see just about everyone you were supposed to know and hang out with. It was an instant play date just about any hour of the day and for stay-at-home moms, that may sound like the perfect place to live.

But I felt watched and judged and I mostly stayed to myself. My daughter had major surgery to reconstruct her hips and legs and spent most of her time there in a body cast. Going outside in the circle meant I had to endure the sad looks and the constant, “let me know if I can do anything…” I had a few friends who “got it” but it was hard to really be consistent in my social time especially with all the doctor’s appointments and therapy and the feeling that I just really didn’t belong anywhere.

But Boston, that could be the answer. That could be the change I needed. A new start.

I went to bed that night envisioning driving to Boston. Thinking about how much money I could pull out in cash to live off until I could find another way to make money. How long would it be before anyone knew? How long until my husband realized I was gone? He’d probably be a little relieved in the end to finally just be done with it all so he could go on to the do the things that seemed to make him happier than being stuck at home with us.

He had already gone to work that morning by the time I loaded everything in my Jeep and pulled out of the circle for the final time. I drove out the front gates of Ft. Benning with the plan to head to Savannah. I looked in the rearview mirror to see my daughter in her car seat. Her baby doll wrapped in her arms and a smile on her face.

Looking back on that year in Ft. Benning, it’s no surprise I was unhappy. My husband had decided that he would spend every day working on his boxing in hopes he could join the Army boxing team or somehow go pro. It meant going to the boxing gym downtown every night, no matter what. I needed help at home but on the nights I insisted he stay home and help, he made everything so miserable I would eventually just say, “you know, I’m fine. Really, go ahead and go to the gym.” Even after my daughter’s major surgery in Atlanta, he had his mind set on getting back to Columbus that day so he would work out—despite my gut instinct and the nurses’ advice, we packed up my daughter and took her back home even though her oxygen levels were very low.

Leaving to drive north on I-95 seemed to be the best way out. If I told him I was unhappy, it would have been a fight. If I said I didn’t want to move to a small city with no children’s hospital, it would have been a fight. I could make it work, I always had. And besides, you don’t just walk away.

Between the stops for diaper changes and food, I hit I-95 almost 6 hours after I left Columbus. The signs started popping up about nine miles away from the turn. My heart was beating faster and faster as I got closer to the exit. I kept looking at the rearview mirror wondering what my daughter would think of me one day knowing I had taken her away on my own to live in some unknown place. I almost laughed at the absurdity of the plan. The only thing that kept me wanting to make that exit was the thought that somehow leaving might make him realize I didn’t want to be married to him any longer. I hated our life. I was beginning to hate him. I hated it when he was home and I hated that I depended on him for almost everything.

Before I knew it, I took the exit for I-95, but I stayed in the right lane and went south toward my hotel. I would not be going on an adventure to gain attention from a husband who seemed to not love me anymore. I would do what I was supposed to do and show up at the new house and welcome another group of movers into my new home and start a new life again with strangers in a town I had no connection to.

That crossroad on I-95 would continue to haunt me for next several months as I drove around town going to appointments and trying to discover this new place that was my home, wondering if I had made a mistake. I kept the secret from everyone, even my sister. Until about four months after the move when my husband and I got into a fight. He told me how miserable he was, and I did the same.

“You know, when I was moving out here, I saw the exit for I-95 north and I thought about getting on it and just driving as far away from you as I could get and starting a new life.”

The shock on his face was unexpected. He was hurt. I think he was so consumed with his unhappiness in our marriage that it had never occurred to him that I was planning to leave him. It changed something in our marriage, and we started trying to work on our relationship. I got pregnant with our son and he eventually quit going to the boxing gym every night. Obviously, it didn’t last long, but we tried and for a while I think we were probably really happy, and I didn’t think about driving 1,000 miles to get away from my life until many years later.

But I take those crossroad moments in my life a lot more seriously now and right now I think I am once again at one of those moments--only this time I’m not trying to leave an unhappy marriage. I’m trying to take that leap to the next stage in the career I’ve been trying to build since the divorce. That leap that takes me a thousand miles away from where I am now even though I have no roadmap and no idea of where that next destination is—all I know is that this place right now is not where I am supposed to be and I can keep driving in the same direction or I can take the next exit and drive until the road ends somewhere totally new.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing Kim!

    I completely understand where you are. I am there or almost there. I am at a place of what- where- and how am I going to move forward into retirement. Whatever does retirement mean? What is it going to look like? Where do I really want to be? What anchors do I want to have in place? (if any) Will those anchors suck all of my energy? What activities can I really do that will take me forward to fulfillment and contentment? I still have not found the answers. I am in the process of unloading any and everything that I do not want, need or desire. I am finishing up projects around my house so if selling and moving are the route- I will be ready. Working on getting myself as healthy as I can so I will know where I am physically so I can know what I can really do comfortably.

    Knowing that age will change will change my abilities but I do not need to do things that will hasten my inability to be physically active. Going on the idea that my next 20 years are probably my last years of being physically active in what I love to do so much now. And that 20 years is not that long.

    Enjoy your journey! Time goes by quickly.