by Rachel Renee Russell, as told to S. Tia Brown, for Essence.com
One day my husband called and told me he wasn’t coming home — ever. He meant it. We’d been married for 25 years. My stomach felt like gumbo, there were so many things sloshing around inside of me. I was hurt. I was petrified about moving on. Still, the worst feeling was the betrayal. I always had my husband’s back, side and front. But who had mine?
When I met my ex-husband he was working at a factory and I was an attorney; today he’s a dentist and state dental director. Now, this isn’t a “middle class diva” meets and saves “poor working Joe” story. My ex had a college degree and was brilliant. He was lacking one major thing: support. So I became his full-body Spanx, I brought it all together from head to toe. Once we were married, I encouraged him to pursue his dream of becoming a dentist. After a few tough years, he graduated and eventually opened up his own practice.
As time progressed my husband’s dream grew. He told me that he wanted to be a state dental director, which required him to attend graduate school. Again, I was by his side. His cheerleader. His lover. His friend. Now, I’m not one of those women whose family is her whole life, but I took pride in taking care of my husband and our two daughters — and I did it well. But there are only so many hours in a day. There’s only a finite amount of energy that the body and soul can emit. So, I have to be honest, on the charge of giving all of my self, my thoughts and my time to my man and kids; this court should find the defendant guilty. Yes, I had a career, but did I love it? Was I cultivating my passions with the same fervor I gave my mate’s? Not at all. For that, I paid a hefty price.
When my ex left he never looked back. He didn’t care that I spent 25 years dreaming… with him. He wasn’t moved by my decision to let him move out of state — in wedlock –for his “ideal job”. He treated our plans and goals like old garbs he’d out grown, opting to dump them instead of mending them. In the midst of it all, there I stood. Alone. I lost my man… and a few months later I lost my job. Luckily, I did find something: myself.
With our kids away at school and my ex no longer a factor, I did something I hadn’t done in 25 years: I only considered my wants. The first thing I did was move from Michigan to Virginia, so I could be with my family. My second feat wasn’t as simple. I’d been working on a manuscript for years and I decided to clean it up and finally send it out. Within weeks I edited the story, created a query letter and sent it out to 20 literary agents. I received offers from five of them in three weeks… and it didn’t stop there.
Two years ago I thought my life was over, but now I realize it was just the beginning of a new chapter. Though I’m no longer a wife (at least for now), I’ve gained another title, New York Times bestselling author. My children’s series, Dork Diaries, which is published by Simon and Schuster, has more than two million copies in print — and I’m just getting started. Today I’m focusing on balancing writing, starting a new family as single mother with foster care children and finding out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I finally understand that my marriage didn’t work because it was never about us, only him. My career and goals, such as adopting, were never supported. I’m happy to say that will never happen again. I will always have my mate’s back, but he has to have mine too.