When I was between 17 -19 years old, I made a conscious effort to change myself. Up to that point I was shy, awkward, poorly dressed, overweight, etc.  I took a look at myself and decided I was not what I wanted to be so I made improvements.  Now, this isn't to say I hated myself or I was becoming something I wasn't, I mean I was taking on my own style and improving what was already there.

Fast forward to to today.  My life has taken an unexpected turn and left me to wonder who I am now.  Being single again after 16 years means having to figure out what my role is.  To complicate matters, I was never very good at being alone to begin with.  I'm a very social animal, I crave affection and genuinely love sharing my thoughts, feelings and experiences.  Unlike breaking up with my high school girlfriend where we got to go our separate ways, I have three lovely daughters with my ex-wife so our lives will be connected for many years to come.

What I have learned so far:

  1. It takes a lot of maturity.  You're each going to move on, one probably faster than the other.  You need to get used to the idea of your former lover being with another person.  You can't change it, only accept it.
  2. You are no longer responsible for their protection. I felt like it was my job as husband to protect my wife.  I didn't always succeed and I may have done it all wrong, but it was always my intention to prevent harm.  That just cannot be the case any longer.  While I think it is possible to be friends, you just cannot be there for them 100%.
  3. Focus on the present. I used to put many of my hobbies to the side. Having a family is difficult and requires a lot of energy and work.  After coming home from a long day at work, doing some housework, maybe cooking dinner, you want to chill with the kids and spouse a bit.  Before you know it, it's time to start the bedtime routine.  During all that, you can split your time but that generally means not being able to focus completely on one thing.  Now, when I am alone, I can focus on my hobbies.  When the kids are there, I can focus on them.
  4. Find what makes you happy.  Now I have more free time when the kids are not with me.  I had put many of my hobbies to the side as I just didn't have the energy or focus for them.  Now I am working on what I think is most important.  It is also giving me something to focus on. Right now, that means picking up my trumpet again, more sewing and costuming, spending time with friends and just getting comfortable with myself.
  5. Identify and fix weaknesses. I am the first person to take responsibility for my actions.  I don't back down from my mistakes.  However, this experience taught me I still had a lot of fear and insecurities in me.  Knowing that will help me make better decisions in the future, not the least of which is staying in a relationship when I am unhappy just because I don't want to be along.
As time goes on, I'm sure this list would be added to.  Perhaps in a year, I can look back and see how close I hit the mark and if I was able to do some of the things I intend to do.