In October, Amanda Gilbert celebrated her one-year anniversary to her second husband. Fifteen years ago, she was a nervous bride walking down the aisle for the first time, to a man she wasn’t quite so sure about. Below, Gilbert — a program coordinator at a cancer research and treatment center in South Carolina — pens a letter to the 27-year-old woman she was back then.
I’m writing from the future. You are now 42-years-old. (Ah, 42 — the answer to life, the universe, and everything. If you don’t know that reference, you still need to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) The man you are about to marry is not right for you and will bring you to a point where you feel you have no other option but to divorce. You make the decision eight years into the marriage.
After you get the courage to make the break, the following five years will be a living hell. You’ll go to court over and over until you feel you’ve again reached your breaking point. You will try, and fail, at nursing school and surgical tech school. Your own mother will question your decision to divorce with such young children (ages 2 and 4).
That’s the bad news…
Now let me give you the good news…
You are 42. You have an awesome job that you love, working with really great people and in an amazingly interesting industry.
You’re re-married to a great guy that currently you wouldn’t give a second look to because he doesn’t fit the physical “musts” list you have in your head. But really, you are a perfect match for each other.
Your kids are 10 and 11. They both play violin. The older one is in a middle school of the arts (a very difficult school to get into) and plays soccer. The younger one is an amazing singer (just like you!) and her self-esteem is high, which makes you eternally proud.
They have you and your husband. You both are amazing influences. They also have their father and his wife who teach them life lessons on their end.
Yes, you still have to deal with your ex but because you have emerged so much stronger after divorce, that’s really easy to do now.
And now for some advice on dating after divorce because you’ll need it before you remarry: Get a hobby now, one that is fun and helps you concentrate on something other than the feeling of being lonely. Ballroom dancing will work really well for you; it gives you the romance you need without the obligation to date the men with whom you are dancing. It also teaches you that even the ones you wouldn’t think of approaching because they don’t have the right look can be so awesome at something that it blows you away.
At 42, you are in a great place with a great house and a car with a butt warmer for chilly mornings. You were a bookkeeper for a while so you’re good at stretching a dollar. You live in South Carolina now and love it. Warmer weather and palmetto trees are the greatest thing. Another bonus? You’re in a choir for the oldest reform synagogue still in use in the United States and you are their main shofarist.
If you’re thinking at some point in this letter I’m going to tell you not to marry husband #1, I’m not. I wouldn’t change a thing. If you didn’t marry him you wouldn’t have these amazing kids and this amazing husband and this amazing job and house and friends.
So, take care, 27-year-old me, and know that this too shall pass.
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