I can remember walking into the chapel in downtown Columbus by the court house. It was above a subway restaurant, which means that the chapel smelled like a 6in baked Italian sub. Gross.
I never went to prom, so the only thing I really wanted that day was to have my make-up done. I paid the kind, grandma looking lady at Sephora my $50 and told her I wanted something "natural". Make-up lady and I clearly were on different pages because I walked out looking like a drag queen, I was devastated.
As I walked into the chapel and was greeted by a man who looked like Santa, my dad only asked once "are you sure you want to do this?".
I stood there looking up at my dad, I was only 5 months postpartum so my mom belly was exploding over my too-tight jeans (yes, I wore jeans to my wedding), we locked eyes and I prayed (which I didn't even know how to do) that he would read my mind because I was literally screaming on the inside, 'NO, please take me out of here right now, please read my mind, stop this, I don't want it."
"Yes, I'm sure."
Then I was married.
Nothing changed. WTF, I thought. Wasn't I supposed to feel better now? No Rachel, that's not how it works.
I wouldn't learn for much longer that marriage won't "fix" your already broken relationship. Silly me. Why didn't I know this? Perhaps it was being 18 and thinking I knew better. Ha, I'll show you—watch me get married so hard right now. Watch me be the best damn wife you've ever seen. I'm going to make my husband so many cookies, your cookies will look like garbage. Let me show you how perfect I can be once I am titled "wife".
Wife didn't make me feel good, because my gut told me "don't do this you freaking child", from day one. Wife felt disgusting leaving my lips.
Let me make this clear: he wasn't the problem. WE had problems. He had his own problems and I had mine and we were too young to get married.
(Also note; I value marriage, more so now than ever before. I do not think that all women should up and leave their partners because they had a bad day. I do however believe that women knowing their worth, will save their lives. )
For awhile, I completely drowned myself in everything I thought being a wife meant. Which is silly now that I think about it, and goes against everything I now believe is right. As a very independent woman, I didn't know what was happening to me in the storm of it all. I lost myself.. But for that time, I tried my hardest to be wifey. It was like I was waiting for some magic button to turn on that would make it all feel right.
Change my emails so it all ends with his name (oh, you didn't think I took his name, right? No way girl). Hashtag #wifey on every picture, and gram every moment so it looks like we have our shit together when in reality, we were drowning.
The 'end' arrived 3 times before it was the actual end.
The first time we separated, I was heartbroken because he was all I ever knew. I met him at 15 and even though I wasn't happy in the relationship, unhappiness was all I knew so it almost felt normal.
I moved home with my dad, with my baby and started SCR. I was just on the cusp of loving myself. I had started a business (go me!). Women were signing up left and right and I thought, holy shit—I can actually do this. I can be a single mom, I don't have to suffer. I felt like a freaking Beyonce replica x10. Then he came back and I was right on the brink of having the confidence to say no, no—I'm happy now, and still teetering with the feeling of, we could "make it work". I went back.
Before the final departure, I was looking on Instagram one morning and saw this Yoga Girl (that's her actual IG name). She was getting married and I was like "WOW. This girl is happy af. The way that man is looking at her is astounding.". But I wasn't as wrapped up with the love I saw them display, as I was with her glow of happiness. A woman standing in her truth. I wanted that. I needed that to survive.
In that moment, like a wave, I was hit with the reality of what we'd done. Could I actually sit here in this mess? Unhappy. Forever? He hated it, I hated it and Cooper watched it all unfold.
The Last Straw
When I read the book Wild, I read a part where she says "you have to be brave enough to break your own heart." OhmygoshYES, I thought. There will be times that you must be brave enough to swim in the mess of life and break your own heart, if it means the outcome will allow you to live your best life.
I didn't want to leave him because I was SO comfortable. I needed him. Not because I loved him, because I didn't know life without him.
But, I had to be brave enough. I had to.
We tried to "fix it". But there was nothing to fix. Two teenagers fell in love (what is love at 15 anyway?) and made a decision with the little knowledge we had of the world, all rooted in fear.
Two more times this leaving and getting back together would happen, until one day, it was over.
I wanted out. Not because we didn't try, I want to hug the us from 5 years ago and say "it's okay, you can leave, you can both leave.". I wanted out because I couldn't live a life of numbness.
I couldn't go on one more second trying to make something magical happen when I was slowly dying.
I yearned to know who I was outside of this life, and being so in it, in the mess and the struggles of it all, I never thought I'd get out.
After The End
I moved in with a family friend with about $37, no car and 2 suitcases + my books. That's it. I had nothing but I was free.
The friend I stayed with just happened to have an extra car she let me drive. I remember the first moment I drove it. I had gotten a job because SCR wasn't enough to support Cooper and I yet, and I was driving him to daycare. It was early in the morning and as we drove I started to cry. I cried because for the first time I had access to drive a car (my then husband and I only had one, and he used it for work—so Coop and I were inside most days). I cried because I could pay for gas. I cried because I had the ability to drive anywhere I wanted. Anywhere. Anytime.
The whole world felt like Disney Land from that point on.
When I was married, I use to wonder what my life would be like if I left. Would I go to cool coffee shops? What would I wear? Who would I be friends with? Who was I when I wasn't trying so hard to be "wife"?
The journey of single motherhood has been the most terrifying experience of my life. Somedays I would cry in the fetal position wishing things hadn't ended just so it could have been easier.
Easy left me numb in my body. Easy left me shopping at the Gap and cutting off my hair, because I thought looking like a wife would make me love my husband.
I couldn't love him because I didn't love me. We were too young and too scared to do life on our own. Being a wife would never make me feel safe or worthy, that was a lie I told myself. I was wrong.
Many tears later, I'm alive. Just like my dad always said "this too shall pass". He was right. The storms come and they go and I've learned who I am as a human. Scratch that, I'm learning who I am as a person for the first time in my life.
I've spent the last two years growing, crying, beaming with joy, playing with Cooper, working like a mad woman with SCR and being okay, most days, better than okay, but some days, just okay is good enough.
I don't regret getting married. Most days I am so thankful for that journey. Because it happened, and because of the choices I made—I'm here.
I don't see love through scarcity anymore, being afraid that If I end something that's "okay but not great" that no one else will love me. I think what I really learned is that I don't need love, to love myself.
I've learned that my worth isn't tied to being a mother or wife. That I am indeed a mother, but I don't need a title to make me feel whole.
My marriage, it's rise and quick fall—has led to open the doors for so many women to connect with me and find community within SCR. Where once I didn't know what I would do with my life, my biggest passion now is to help women discover their worth, love their bodies and feel home within themselves.
There was a Rachel, a 15 year old version of me, who never thought she would amount to anything, so she married a man to find her worth. But now, there lives a woman. Business owner, resillent and knows where her worth lies (not in a man, AMEN)—I am profoundly thankful for this new reality.
It's funny when you see someone show gratitude to their struggles. But without them, I don't think I would see the world the way I do. Which means there is no way I could hate the path that led me to sitting in this chair, writing an article which I'll say is for my 'business', but really it's for my soul.
The rise and fall of my marriage was such a painful and emotional road, but it led me to freedom. I may never walk into a subway without thinking of my drag queen makeup, but I'm free.
Oh, and I am the kind of person who goes to coffee shops. The first one I went to was Mission, in Columbus, OH. I was terrified, couldn't pronounce anything, but I went.
I wouldn't say I'm the "cool" coffee shop person. But you can find me all around Cbus drinking my light roast with half and half + 2 stevia packets.
Oh, sweet freedom, coffee, life—I love the way you taste.