The Grad School Dagger

When you’re trying to (a) focus on grad school, (b) make enough money to support yourself and pay for said grad school, and (c) manage the stress of pandemic life alone, among other things, the reminder that you spent 2.5 years of your life working Full Time so your former spouse could focus on grad school without having to work and then take the degree and leave you, is an unhelpful reminder to say the least (thanks brain). 

Why does the reminiscent sting of betrayal hurt like an old injury flaring up even though the x-ray says the bones are healed, or (for my fellow Lord of the Rings fans) like Frodo’s stab wound flaring up each year on the anniversary of the Battle of Weathertop? Perhaps because I am still in part living out the consequences of his decision, still fighting to keep my head up and my heart strong and (least importantly but still essential) my bills paid.  

Every year since that moment Frodo felt his blade

It isn’t about him anymore – it hasn’t been for a long time – but when I’m trying to fight my way through what feels like an impossible situation, it’s hard not to recall that broken agreement. 

Couples make many commitments to one another: promises, agreements, pacts, compromises. The marital contract is but one of many. One of the other promises we made which was almost as serious, was the financial commitment to support one another through grad school, a goal we both shared. One at a time, and he would go to school first it was decided, primarily because I was more employable: a financial decision, a practical decision, a logical one. I never once considered he wouldn’t fulfill his end of the agreement, to in turn support me – until he didn’t. 

I was already accepted and enrolled by the time the ending came. Long-awaited high hope for a full, challenging and rewarding year of grad school abroad was one of the first things to come crashing down in the aftermath: a dagger in an already almost-fatal wound. First deferring, then finally having to drop out as deferrals were not accepted more than once for my program, were some of the heaviest emails I’ve ever had to send. 

Years later I have found my way back to the grad school path, but not without sacrifice. Starting later than I’d hoped, for one. Enrolling in part-time studies that will take far longer to complete, due to the need to work simultaneously. Giving up the dream of studying abroad because it’s just not financially or logistically feasible (and also a global pandemic). Choosing a different program that is more practical career-wise but far less intellectually stimulating, as yet another compromise. 

I am still compromising even though he’s no longer here to compromise with! 

But I will not let past betrayals and dagger wounds keep me down or hold me back. It’s no ring-destroying world-saving quest but it is my quest and even if I have to fight for every single step, I will keep moving forward. #alwaysforward 

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2 thoughts on “The Grad School Dagger

  1. Oh honey, I still think it’s so unfair. But so proud of you for making it to grad school anyway! You have so got this! You are amazingly strong and resilient.

  2. I am sorry, similar thing happened with me. I worked myself to burnout doing full time work and full time degree simultaneously so he could push through his degree quicker, as he was unable to land or keep a job at the time. Then just before we were about to move to an exciting new city – for *his* masters degree, and after I’d quit my job in preparation for the move – he wants a divorce. Cool, cool. I’ve said before that the years that came after splitting were some of the best of my life (still more to come, I believe!) but my lesson there was to put myself first. People are going to do what they want regardless of how it affects me so why shouldn’t I look out for myself. You can make it through this, just like you’ve been doing, but I do get it.

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