Moving to Morocco, Part 2: Departure
“I’ve opened a new bank account and signed a lease on an apartment.”
This is how I learned of my separation. 22 years of marriage ended in a text message. My hands shook as I tried to type a reply. I barely got it out:
“So you’re leaving? You’re just leaving us?”
“Us” was my son and me. And our house and mortgage and college to pay for. And my pathetic teacher salary that wouldn’t even support me in a 1-bedroom apartment, let alone a whole house and a dependent. (I could rant on and on about the tragic state of teacher salaries in the U.S., but I digress…)
The rug had just been pulled out from under my life. The rug and the floor beneath it. I felt it leave from beneath my feet and I nearly stumbled. Thoughts raced through my mind faster than I could get hold of them. They ranged from anger to fear to relief and back again, like a dog chasing its tail. Round and round and round.
A month later, he was gone, moved into an apartment a couple of miles away. It was all so…ordinary. Once the reality of the text message sank in, the floor finally re-appeared in the form of a promise of financial support despite the separation, and we went through the motions of Handling This Like Adults. We were civil, calm, rational. We said it was For The Best. That we would all be Happier. And to an extent, this was all true.
An energy had been building up between my husband and I over the previous few years which can only be described as black and sticky. It was molasses energy, and it seemed to stick to everything we did, to every experience we had. It covered up who we really were. It masked both perfection and imperfection. It flattened everything. Eventually, it became too heavy to bear, and so when he finally moved out, the lightness I felt was palpable. Molasses had been replaced with whipped cream. The black that had been sticking my lungs together was gone, and I could breathe. He could breathe.
With all this breathing came a lot of time to think, to dream, to re-imagine a future which was now shattered like so many shards of wedding crystal. Every vision I had had for my future was now gone. As I swept those shards into the bin, I had to replace them with something new. The extent of possibility was terrifying and exhilarating. But it hinged on one, stark and glaring fact: whatever I decided, it was 100% up to me to get it done. I had no helper, no partner. Whatever dream I constructed from this whipped cream energy of mine would have to be made real by own hands. Never in my adult life had I been faced with this much of a challenge to my own strength. Could I even do this without a spotter? Or would this barbell come crashing down on my neck, cutting off my airway, leaving me unable to even cry out for help?
Some days, I just couldn’t think about it. I couldn’t lift that barbell. Other days, I went round and round with possibilities, none of which were particularly appealing. Staying at my current job was not an option, as the pay was far too low. I could try for a job at the larger school district—this would mean better pay and benefits thanks to the teachers’ union. It was a safe and sane option. I could also venture into Corporate America, where the pay would almost certainly double and I could definitely support myself and my son without needing anything from my soon-to-be ex-husband. That option was scarier, but also made sense.
Staying in my field and working at the district was the obvious choice, even though I had not once heard a teacher tell me how much they loved it. Rather, they complained about the dysfunction, the shuffling of jobs, the overbearing administration, the lack of respect, and the systematic way that teachers my age were being pushed out. It wasn’t a cesspool I was particularly excited to jump into. And Corporate America has never been my jam. It has never appealed to me in even the remotest sense, and the idea of joining it made my soul tighten up and shrink like a popped balloon.
But there was a third option, one which I hardly dared let myself think about. After all, I had Obligations. The third option was to finally fulfill a lifelong dream of teaching abroad. My son was about to go off to college…could I also “go off” to somewhere far away? The idea seemed as absurd as thinking I could take a trip to the moon. This dream was always Out There. It was a dream, something that I would forever long for, but not something to actually do. Right?
I let the idea go, as my mind tail-chased options incessantly, making me dizzy. One day on my way in to work, as my mind continued this ridiculous chase (you’re never going to catch it, it’s your own damn tail, just stop), there was a voice, like a steel knife cutting through the noise of the Chase. “It’s time to go.” Wait, what? “Go. It’s time to go.” I knew exactly what that meant, and the revelation nearly knocked me off the road. My dream was not meant to just be a dream. It was meant to be real, and this was the time to do it. It was time to go. And from that moment on, I knew exactly what I had to do.
Three months later, I was signing a contract for a 2-year job at the Rabat American School in Morocco.
Six months after that, my plane touched down at Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca.
And 3 hours after that, I walked into an apartment full of cockroaches.