True Story: My Parents Divorced When I Was in College

I think most people look back on their college years with nostalgia, wishing for the sunny football Saturdays, the insane parties, and even the long weeknights nights spent in the library. I’m no different, of course, having had a similar experience with every other American college student. However, my memories are shadowed with another powerful memory: that of my parents’ divorce. I was 19 and in my sophomore year when I heard the news.

Whatever age you are, wherever you are in your life, hearing that your parents are getting divorced kinda rocks your world (not in a good way). I felt like my family was breaking. What’s worse is that I had no idea it was coming. I lived on campus at my school, which was a six-hour drive from my home. I talked to my parents often on the phone, but the kind of things that hint at divorce don’t really get translated during a bi-weekly chat. It was almost as if I was six-years-old again; too young to understand the situation, excluded from all the arguments.

The day I found out was one of the rare occasions when my mom and my sister came to visit me at school. They were there to pick me up and take me on a road trip to my Aunt’s house, just one hour away. I finished my classes, packed my bag, and watched movies with my friend until they arrived. I didn’t immediately know anything was wrong until I got in the car. The mood was tense, false…what was supposed to be a relaxing family weekend already felt uncomfortable and forced. Soon it was out – my parents were getting divorced.

I felt attacked. I felt like it was my fault. Why didn’t I see it coming? Most overwhelmingly, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do – I didn’t live at home anymore and I didn’t even know the entire situation. My mom and dad could have been fighting for months and I wouldn’t have known. I felt like my entire family had been hiding this from me and I resented them all. As childish as that sounds, the feeling persisted for several months. I stopped calling home as frequently and my relationship with my mom in particular (who initiated the divorce) deteriorated to the point where I no longer shared anything with her. I was quietly furious and, since I had no way to vent my frustrations (either physically or verbally), my attitude kept getting worse.

After a while, I got tired of being angry. I saw how futile it was for me to be upset about something I couldn’t have prevented or even really guessed at. Maybe I was growing up or maybe through my own experiences, I realized that relationships sometimes just don’t work out. My parents live separately now and my mom has remarried. My sense of “home” has changed radically – I now call my grandparents’ house home and spend most of my holidays there.

Other than that, I can’t feel any big differences. I still live away from home (in fact, now I live farther away than ever) and I talk to each of my parents as often as possible. I guess if I don’t really think about it, things are the same as ever. The love is still there. My family somehow seems closer than ever because of our shared experience.

The big question is:  did my parent’s divorce overshadow the golden memories of my college years? Of course not. Home life and college life operate on two separate planes (at least for me) and nothing could make my time at university anything other than what it was:  pure awesomeness.

Anyone else out there deal with a divorce in college? How did you handle it?

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