4 years ago I stepped onto a plane and my life changed

Four years ago, when I snapped this picture at the Guarulhos airport in São Paulo, I didn’t realize that this was probably the last time I’d step foot in Brasil for a very long time, if ever again.

The morning before my ex-husband and I drove with some friends to São Paulo, I dreamt that the extinct volcano we lived on had erupted. (Also, it’s a misconception that town of Poços de Caldas is situated in the crater of an extinct volcano, but that’s what everyone tells you when you live there).

In the dream, I watched the lava shoot in the air and rush towards us as the car drove away. I remember waking up in a panic that if I left my dog, Chloe, I’d never see her again. But as we packed the car for me to come back to the states, I tried to brush that anxiety away. There was no volcano, and the plan was for me to come back whenever I had my visa paperwork figured out.

Things had not been going well in our relationship, but we had fun the day before I left. We were with friends, exploring the city of São Paulo and staying at a friend’s house who was a vet. She had the cutest little porcupine that she was rehabilitating, and I probably snuggled it way too much. I didn’t care about getting poked every now and then. The group of us went to dinner before heading to the airport. Things were okay. At least I thought they were. When we left, and it was just the four of us again, my ex got pissed and yelled at me for something. I can’t remember what the fight was about, but what I do remember is saying to him, “I’m leaving, you don’t know when I’m coming back, and this is what you want me to remember.”

It sucked. It hurt. I was embarrassed he had no problem acting like this in front of our friends. They also spoke English well, so not only did they hear the tone, they understood what was being said between the two of us. I remember feeling bitter, thinking he was supposed to be coming back with me, and he wasn’t. I felt empty and left behind. Just like I had for the last six months. When he kissed me at the security check, I remember thinking, “I think this is the last time I’ll ever kiss you.”

As I was getting my ticket checked, I started to criticize myself. How can you think that about your husband? Why would that even come across your mind? Who’s going to take care of Chloe, and how are you going to get her back?

Being a divorcee is not something I ever thought I’d be, but here I am. Four years later, married to someone else, living a totally different life.

While I was in the airport waiting, I was messaging everyone back home. Making plans with who I was going to see and making sure Isabel, one of my childhood friends, knew all my flight information. I thought the sense of relief was just to be back home. I never thought the burden lifted off my shoulders as anything else, but my subconscious knew it would take a few weeks longer before the rest of my brain caught up.

Purely as a joke, I texted Sean, my former supervisor, and asked for my old job. When I landed back in the states, he sent me a message in return saying I could start in a few weeks if I was serious. I was serious. I had bills that needed to be paid, and the lack of income was a massive fight between my ex and me. And me taking the job became another fight, but I didn’t care. I told him I needed to bring in money because I didn’t like becoming dependent on him. When I went back to work, a co-worker, Mark, asked Sean “How does it feel ruining her marriage?” I laughed because I still didn’t think that was what was happening.

When Isabel picked me up from the airport, we went and grabbed smoothies. I couldn’t order for myself. I stared at her, and she stared at me before she said, “Alex are you going to order?” I was utterly taken aback. I had become so used to him ordering for me because I didn’t speak Portuguese. I had always been such an independent woman. It was disgusting to me to realize how much of a dependent I had become.

While I was home, I felt ghosted. He told me he misses me, but no phone calls, no texts. I’d text my friend Suzanna, who was in the car that dropped me off at the airport in Brasil, and asks if she’d seen him. She and her ex would be sitting right next to him, but even after she would make a comment, there would still be radio silence. So in a very strange, oddly comforting decision, I chose to spend time with friends and family instead of wallowing in self-pity. I had missed these people terribly, and they made everything bad wash away.
Brasil was beautiful, but I would never be home. Especially since I was transplanted from a coastal life to the mountains. I need the sea. I joked that it kept me alive, and after living away from it, it’s not a joke. I need the ocean.

I spent late nights at the beach like I did when I was a teenager. I felt freedom for the first time in years. Him staying in Brasil and me coming home was probably what pushed me over the edge. I knew I could do everything I ever wanted to do without him. He just showed me I could do it all on my own even though there were so many times we would do things, and he would tell me, “You’d never be able to do XYZ without me.”

But I was doing it without him, and I was doing just fine.

Now thanks to time-hop on Facebook, I had a bizarre sense of emotions overcome me today. I looked at the plane and was trying to figure out where I was going. I was thinking, was I going to Virginia? Did Tyler and I go to Cali in November or September? Then I read the caption that went with the picture “Half expected to see Silver Lining catering on the tarmac” that’s the local aviation catering I grew up with.

That left me with a holy shit moment. My life has changed so much since I took that picture.

I’ve been divorced, switched jobs three times, had a baby, and I’ve gotten remarried. I look back on my life and everything I did with my ex, and he’s nearly been deleted from my memories. I know I traveled with him to all these places around the world, but he’s not there when I think back about them. Just the memory of the adventures and the places I’ve been. I don’t know if that means I’ve healed from the love loss, but I never expected when I walked through that gate, my life would have gone this way. With all the tears and pain that came with this journey, I’m forever grateful.

Life is good.

God really does work in the strangest ways.

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