I grew up in the UK and took what has now become a rite of passage, a gap year, when I was 18. A gap year serves the purpose of a deferred university start date to spend a year traveling and often volunteering somewhere adventurous in the world. My friends went to China, Russia, Ghana. My sister spent hers in New Zealand. I went to Sydney, Australia. And my life changed for good when I fell in love on this year away, got married at age 19 and never returned to England. I stayed in Sydney for seven years and of those, spent almost three years married to a man who was just 23 when we met. He married me eight months after meeting in a bar at Sydney's beautiful darling harbor.
I am now 30. Here are 10 things I've learned from taking a detour and getting divorced in my tender twenties:
1. There are no mistakes. My marriage was a wonderful learning experience. I still respect and mentally thank my ex-husband for the things our marriage taught me about myself.
2. Follow your heart. I hate the term "failed marriage." My therapist told me at the time that failure is in fact the opposite: not honoring your truth. Deciding to separate takes courage. He was right. Plus, despite the tumultuous nature of a young break-up, I experienced many happy and authentic moments.
3. It is OK to trust what feels right for you in the moment (even if others think you are crazy). I am so happy I did. Today I know I have had a wonderful life experience, much more maturity as a result and a story to share.
4. The ending, even if it is not what you expect, can still be happy. Starting anew, although it might not seem this way at the time, can be thrilling and adventurous. It's how you perceive it.
5. Live in the moment -- you never know what the future has in store for you. I wish I allowed myself to be more relaxed and present in my younger years than fretting over how my life was changing when my marriage was not working.
6. Know when to call it a day -- an ending is a chance to begin again. Don't delay that beginning when you know it is imminent.
7. You can start over any time. I did at 22 with almost no money, no family close by and probably the blind faith that only a very young person has. In hindsight, that faith was very helpful.
8. Life is rewarding when you take risks. I am proud and grateful to have lived in such a beautiful country for several years. Australia for me is a very spiritual place.
9. A marriage that does not last can teach us many important things about ourselves. I was a spoiled brat. I was selfish and wanted things my way. I am astonished now that my ex-husband put up with me for as long as he did. These were my lessons to learn.
And the final thing, number 10, is that life has a much bigger plan for us than we understand at the time. Marrying my first husband meant I stayed in Sydney. A year after we separated I met my second husband, also Australian, who is my true my soulmate. We celebrated four happy years of marriage last month during a ski trip to Colorado. We live in New York City together and live a life I could only have imagined when I was a young girl. I thank the universe for him every day and am appreciative that I entered our marriage more mature and aware of the person I am and the partner I want to be.
The life I live now would never have happened if not for that fateful meeting in 2002 in Darling Harbor.
What have your relationships ending taught you?