I’m a single woman in my 60s. Ever since I was little, I’ve had one belief; it was a sort of give and take. To be specific, I believe that if I studied or worked hard, I would get back as much effort as I put in.
This applied to interpersonal relationships as well. If I treated others well, they would be good to me too. Thus, even after I got married, based on my beliefs, I thought that if I was nice to my husband first, he would also be nice to me.
These days, a woman is not expected to sacrifice herself too much for others, but during my time, the world wasn’t like that. So, I sacrificed myself willingly for my husband and my children. For the rest of my life, I never doubted that my sacrifices would be rewarded later with a bundle of happiness. However, neither my marriage nor my child turned out as I had expected.
I would get up early in the morning for them and work busily on their behalf, but they would complain more often than not about things I forgot or mistakes I made. But at that time, I thought that all other households lived like that. I used to think that I should be satisfied if my husband went to work diligently and if my child studied hard at school. In retrospect, no one told me to live like that. I was an ordinary person who wasn’t that noticeable, but just because my age was considered suitable for marriage, I married my co-worker who was four years older than I was. It was considered a perfect age spread to marry.
A year later, when I gave birth to my daughter, I quit my job and became a full-time housewife. Even after quitting my job, I didn’t have any regrets. Usually, at that time, it was customary for many married women like me to quit their jobs and live for their family. So, I thought it was a natural course to take. That was foolish. Even if my life wasn’t glamorous like in some TV dramas, I thought I had an easy and stable life. I naively believed that I would continue to live that way.
However, around the time my daughter was in ninth grade, my misfortune began. My mother died suddenly of a heart attack. I was deeply mourning the loss of my mother, but before I could heal from the grief, my husband cheated on me. I was dumbfounded when I found out. His wife was mourning, but the man called my husband found joy in having an affair.
My husband was not usually affectionate, but I believed that he was a responsible person who cared strongly about his family. Yet, he had abandoned his family completely and was only devoted to the woman he was having an affair with. At that time, he didn’t care about the shock I would feel from his betrayal. He became a completely different person. Not only that, he became violent in ways I hadn’t seen before and finally asked me for a divorce.
“Are you saying you want to get a divorce because it is not even enough that you had an extramarital affair? What about our Michelle? Please wake up. Why is getting divorced so urgent, and should you act like that now?”
“Oh, I don’t even want to hear your voice and the way you weep every day. I hate to see you like that. Don’t think about using Michelle as an excuse and just sign the divorce papers. Then I’ll give you some money.”
“Are you really a father for you to say it like that? I’ll never divorce you. No, never.”
“Is that right? Then do you want me to make you want to sign it first?”
My husband harassed me so much that I felt like he was suffocating me. Being divorced is not a big flaw, but back then, it wasn’t like that. Even a husband who was so irresponsible and mean, I didn’t want to be divorced. Even thinking about it now, it was so stupid of me. However, I had a daughter who was watching what was going on from beginning to end. Even though I refused to get divorced, I was also very miserable. I couldn’t find the answer to whether I should still let a father who is such garbage live with us.
In the meantime, my father came to visit me. Unfortunately, it was during an argument with my husband over our divorce. We got caught by my father, and my dad told me that he would get me a place to live. He suggested I should just divorce my husband and leave with my daughter. My dad, who lost his wife overnight and saw his only daughter in an unhappy marriage, left with heavy shoulders laden with worries.
I felt that it was pointless to try so hard to hold on to my marriage. Following my husband’s request, I signed the divorce papers. In exchange for that, I left my husband with the three thousand dollars in cash he had given me. My dad leased a two-bedroom townhouse for me, where I started to live alone with my daughter. In my head, I was sure that I would have to work hard to raise my daughter.
I was fearful that people would point their fingers at me for being a divorcee with a daughter. I couldn’t do anything for a while, and the timing was when my daughter was going through puberty. She was lost, and I was struggling to find a way out of the darkest tunnel with no end in sight in my life all alone. Also, “Mom, I want to buy a pair of jeans, so please give me one hundred dollars.”
“What kind of jeans are so expensive? Why does a student who wears a school uniform need a pair of jeans? Do students always wear school uniforms?”
“Never mind. Everyone else wears brand-name jeans, but me. You only buy old-fashioned things sold in the flea market. This is all because of you. Divorced dad, Michelle. How could you say to your mother? Now, I don’t care. It’s just so frustrating. Why do you have to suffer so much because of mom and dad? If that’s the case, why did you have me? If I get bullied for being poor at school, it’s all because of you, Mom.”
“Even though I knew my daughter said that because she was immature and upset, I was too weak mentally. I broke down easily at those words. However, I couldn’t remain like that forever. I decided to get back on my feet, vowing to care for my one and only daughter.”
At first, I just wanted to find a decent job. However, with my age, divorced status, and the responsibility of raising a child alone, no company was willing to hire me. I had no choice but to work two part-time jobs a day, along with some freelance work at home during any spare time I had. I worked hard as if my life depended on it to persevere.
Time passed, and my daughter became a senior in high school. Even though I didn’t have enough money to enroll her in any after-school programs, she studied hard and got excellent grades in school. She found her own way to survive by excelling academically so that no one could look down on her for not having material things. I wanted to send my daughter to a good
university, so I worked even harder. Eventually, my daughter got into Harvard University, a prestigious institution. Despite my financial difficulties, I couldn’t be more proud. She was living proof that all my efforts hadn’t been in vain. However, she began to change in college. She was still an honor student, but she distanced herself from me. I felt like she was avoiding me. I was deeply hurt by her behavior.
During her summer break, she brought her boyfriend home. I was shocked when I saw him. He was from a well-to-do family, and it was clear from his appearance and attitude. I felt uneasy. After a few days, they told me they were getting married. They didn’t ask for my opinion or consent. They just told me as if it was a matter of fact. My daughter said they would continue their studies and that she was pregnant.
I was so surprised. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me. I couldn’t believe my ears when my daughter told me she was getting married at the age of twenty-one, without my consent. I was even more surprised when she said she was pregnant. She was still so young. Of course, I wanted to support my daughter, but I was worried that she was rushing into things. I felt helpless and anxious about what the future held for her and the baby.
During her pregnancy, I tried to be supportive. I wanted to be there for my daughter, even though I didn’t fully agree with her choices. I helped her financially and emotionally as much as I could. However, it seemed like she was more focused on her new family with her husband’s support than on me. I felt like I was being pushed aside, and it hurt deeply.
Time went on, and my daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Becoming a grandmother was a strange feeling for me. I was proud of my daughter for becoming a mother, but at the same time, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of being left behind. My daughter and her husband were busy with their own lives, and I was left to spend most of my days alone. It was a lonely and isolating experience.
As the years went by, I realized that I needed to find my own happiness. I had spent so much of my life sacrificing for others, and while I didn’t regret being there for my family, I realized that I had neglected my own needs and desires. I decided to take control of my life and pursue my own dreams.
I had always been interested in real estate, so I decided to study and get licensed as a real estate agent. It was a challenging journey, especially at my age, but I was determined to succeed. After months of hard work and dedication, I finally became a licensed real estate agent. I was proud of my achievement, and it was a turning point in my life.
With my newfound career, I started to earn my own income and gain a sense of independence. I focused on helping people find their dream homes and guiding them through the process. It was rewarding to see my clients’ smiles when they found the perfect home. Through my work, I found a sense of purpose and fulfillment that I hadn’t experienced in a long time.
One day, my daughter reached out to me. She was facing some challenges in her marriage and needed financial help. Despite the complicated feelings I had about our relationship, I couldn’t turn my back on her. I provided her with the support she needed, both emotionally and financially. However, I also made it clear that I needed to maintain my own boundaries and prioritize my well-being.
Over time, I learned a valuable lesson: true happiness comes from valuing oneself and living life on one’s own terms. I realized that I had spent so much of my life seeking validation and happiness through others, but it was ultimately up to me to create my own happiness. I learned to set boundaries, prioritize self-care, and pursue my passions.
My story serves as a reminder that while it’s important to care for and support our loved ones, it’s equally important to prioritize our own well-being and happiness. Betrayals and disappointments may come our way, but by staying true to ourselves and not betraying our own needs and desires, we can find the strength to overcome any challenges that life throws at us.
As I look ahead to the remaining years of my life, I am committed to filling them with self-fulfillment, joy, and meaningful experiences. I have learned to embrace my own journey and celebrate the person I have become. To all those listening, I hope my story resonates with you and serves as a reminder that you deserve happiness and fulfillment in your own life journey.
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