Collateral Damage II — Learning to Live Without Regret: A Story in Seven Parts

From the NARSOL blog

Part II: Before the storm

By Daisy

The massive earthquake in my soul took place in the summer of 2003. I had just graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science degree, and I was ready to take on the whole world! My husband, whom I will refer to as Alan, had returned to college in 2002 after a chronic illness derailed his undergraduate career in engineering for two years, and he was now well on his way to finishing his studies. Alan and I had known each other in high school as good friends, so it wasn’t a surprise when we began dating in college. It was even less of a surprise when we got engaged just six months into dating. We dreamed of a fairy tale wedding to match our fairy tale love.

Alan was my knight in shining armor—the perfect gentleman—and he was incredibly smart. In fact, when we first met in high school, I was immediately attracted to his remarkable brain. He was an astute student and often brought up challenging questions during class. He was a science and computer whiz—sometimes a bit arrogant with his young knowledge—who seemed to truly know his direction in life. I believed that he knew what he wanted and knew how to achieve it, especially since his equally smart older brother was working toward a PhD in computer science at a very prestigious university. I just knew that Alan would follow in his brother’s footsteps and accomplish amazing things.

I felt like I was an appropriate mental match for him, being an equivalent nerd at the top of my graduating class as we competed with each other for the best grade on our exams. We were just friends at that time, but deep down I knew that it would be foolish for me not to pursue something beyond friendship. I soon grew to see him in a new light as he revealed more of himself to me. He was more than just a good brain—he was warm, sweet, caring, and generous. He had a terrific sense of humor, he didn’t take himself too seriously, and he was a good listener. He was polite to others and considerate about his actions. He was everything my parents and society told me to look for in a potential husband.

When I fell in love with him, I fell hard—and likewise for him. We were kindred spirits. As a sophomore in college, I literally could not bear to be without him as I shirked the responsibility of attending my own classes while I boarded plane after plane bound for his city almost a thousand miles away. We were in love. Absolute, unconditional love. An I’d-walk-to-the-ends-of-the-earth-for-you kind of love. A you-only-see-that-in-movies kind of love. I was happily and ignorantly living the fairy tale love life with all of our plans for success just on the horizon. I could see them: the amazing jobs, the completed degrees, the big house in the ‘burbs, the two-car garage, the growing family, the soccer games and swim meets, and the financial success. We were full of so much hope for the future.

So, there I was with my degree in hand and ready to move into the professional world working somewhere in the field of natural or social science. I was going to be a geologist or environmental scientist or an archaeologist or an anthropologist or a linguist—some sort of “ist.” I just knew that I was going to be something! I was going to earn a doctorate, become a professor, write books, and do incredible research around the world. Why wouldn’t I expect that of myself as someone who graduated at the top of my high school class? Why wouldn’t I expect that as the wife of a super-intelligent man who clearly had a good head on his shoulders as he made his way to success? If anyone from our peer group in high school would have achieved success, it would have been we. I realize that this sounds like a self-centered and self-aggrandizing way to look at it, but it was how I felt as a young, arrogant, entitled person at the time. I erroneously thought that opportunities in life would simply be handed to me because I was one smart cookie.

Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong.

Part III: And it all came tumbling down will post next week.

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