Three years ago I wrote a chapter about my perspective on the previous year. I compared myself with the blurb about me in my families Christmas letter, and concluded that both the year and the blurb included “not enough stories and no girl in the Christmas card”.
By those standards, 2009 has been fantastic. I started off with a 2 month trip to India and Nepal, four separate trips to Utah (including a massive climbing expedition), most of a week at Burning Man, multitudes of weekend trips, and I moved into a new house. All in all I was away from DC more than 17 weeks of the year. Somehow I managed to successfully woo a fellow corporate gypsy named Jessica, who drinks lots of wine and cooks with the best of them. I finally got around to applying to law school. By year end I had plenty of stories and a girl just waiting to brag about in a family Christmas letter.
But there was a problem. In March, my parents announced they were getting a divorce. This last month they each wrote their own Christmas letters. There was no family Christmas letter.
There is no one correct way to view your parents getting divorced, because every divorce is different. It happens for different reasons and at different times in the life of a marriage, with different effects and outcomes. My parents are amicable and still seem to enjoy each others company. I don’t blame either of them, and we all work to make the best of it. How it will affect me and my brothers is unknown; how it will affect my parents is only partially known and ever evolving. My dad must redefine himself as a newly single man. My mom must redefine herself as a newly single woman. I must redefine my role as a brother and as a son. My brothers and I must redefine how we think of ourselves and our parents as a family. Our yearly source of definition, the family Christmas letter, has split in two.
And this was a big year. I went from being perennially single to being in a stable, caring relationship. I went from being controlled by my job to more actively controlling it. I went from being the guy who always talks about applying to law school to being the guy who finally did. And I went from being simply the eldest brother to being the eldest brother of a splintered family.
My parents divorce seemed to be a catalyst to realize what other parts of my life were already trying to tell me: it’s my job to define myself, not someone else’s.