By Quinn Pierce
I was very proud to be sitting in the front row in my pretty new dress, listening to the speaker praise us for our accomplishments and hard work. I had spent two years taking classes at night while running a business from home and taking care of my two children. There were nights I would be so tired after a three hour class that I would have to pull over and rest my eyes for a few minutes during my hour long commute home late at night.
Most nights, I would come home to a relatively calm house, the boys asleep, my husband watching tv. But, some nights I would return to find invoices that need to be entered before the next day, or estimates that needed to be typed so my husband could deliver them to clients in the morning.
I remember thinking it would be a miracle if I didn’t fall sleep in front of the computer. After a while, it was a routine my body was used to. I woke up early to get the boys ready for school, tried to clean the house a little in order to clear a path to my office, spend the day alternating between business work and school work, then pick up the boys and get ready to head out for my classes once my husband got home and settled.
On the weekends, I usually had to complete school requirements that were assigned outside of class, or group projects, so I tried to schedule those around the boys’ sports and social schedules. So, to say I was looking forward to completing my program is an understatement.
A Lonely Accomplishment
But, as proud and happy as I was to be sitting there waiting for my name to be called, I was weighed down by an immense sadness at the same time.
As I looked around at the families and friends gathered for the graduation ceremony, I felt an emptiness that was almost paralyzing. I always pictured my boys at my graduation, excited and proud to see their mom finally complete this program that took her away from home so much in the past two years. However, I knew I would not see their faces among the crowd. I knew they were probably confused about not being there, or maybe they didn’t even realize I wasn’t just “at school” like every other night.
It all depends on what my husband said to them. And I’m guessing he didn’t say anything positive, if he did mention it at all.
A Turn of Events
We had been arguing for months. It had reached the point where I had been asking him to move out for several weeks. He was so enraged by this show of independence and my utter rejection of him after 14 years of marriage, that he began his campaign of rage and paranoia.
So, here I was, sitting alone, trying to figure out how this man who started out with complete support of my continuing education, sending me flowers and bragging to everyone about my schooling, had changed into this monster who refused to take my children to see me graduate and closed the door with a menacing scowl as I left the house.
I didn’t want to argue with him before I left. The boys had witnessed enough of that lately, and I didn’t want to be leaving the house after an argument; I was afraid the boys would be scared that I was leaving them. At the same time, I didn’t want to let him take this accomplishment away from me. As difficult as it was attending my graduation alone, it was important to my sense of self-worth and dignity.
Confronting the Bully
My husband was on a campaign to hurt me as much as possible, and I was not about to let him use intimidation to prevent me from moving forward. I had lived with a bully long enough.
About a year later, he finally moved out of our home, kicking and screaming all the way. But, before he left, he made one last insult that still echoes in my head today. Not because it hurt me as intended, but because it was so absurd that I was actually speechless.
We had been arguing about all the unfinished projects and broken promises that remained around my home. He looked at me with his stone cold eyes (how could I ever have thought they were loving and beautiful?) and he said it was just like me to always want everything turn-key and never get my hands dirty.
Never get my hands dirty? I had just spent ten years running his two businesses from home while raising our children, and for two years, going to school at night and working on the weekends. I took the boys to every doctor’s appointment, every soccer game, every birthday party. I took care of the house as best I could. All I did was get my hands dirty.
While he, on the other hand, criticized, blamed, accused, and insulted me. He told me I was crazy, depressed, and the reason he didn’t come home much. The reality was, I was finally healthy, and I was aware of his sociopathic behavior. I could see him for what he was. I was a threat-soon to become the enemy.
I remain the enemy to this day, and no doubt for the rest of my life, to my ex-husband. He has no more control over important events in my life. And that is unacceptable to him. For me, it’s the greatest gift I ever gave myself.
This past winter, I completed my master’s degree in education. I was extremely proud of my accomplishment, and I felt very special as I received my degree while wearing my fancy robe and my advanced-degree hood.
But nothing will ever compare to looking out into the crowd and seeing my family- the love of my life, who encouraged me with continuous love and support from the application to the graduation, and my two precious boys, my treasures, cheering and smiling, right in the front of the crowd.
And in that moment, I will filled with more love and gratitude than I ever thought possible. In the past two and a half years, we had all gotten our hands dirty, and this degree belonged to all of us. It represented more than just an education earned in the classroom. To me, it was a symbol of healing after years of living with an abusive sociopath.
We have all worked hard on this journey toward strength, and we earned this accomplishment together. Our home is now safe, happy, and best of all, healthy.