Changes in Life
Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College
Changes in Life
What is a "rite of passage"? The definition for "rite of passage" is a ritual or ceremony signifying an event in a person's life indicative of a transition from one stage to another, as from adolescence to adulthood. Some religious groups or cultures consider baptisms, marriages, or even deaths as "rites of passages." Some even put their offspring to the test by sending them to the wilderness for survival. We all have been through many changes in life. Some changes are insignificant; others are more memorable and may change us for the better or worse. I have been through many. My most memorable and significant ones are marriage, family, and divorce. So many changes in life in such a short time, yet all in mine.
Marriage is something that I always knew I wanted. Isn't it every girl's dream to be married, have a happy family, and live a happy life like all the fairytales we grew up hearing? I was married at the young age of eighteen, a year after graduating from high school. Although many girls may not have been ready, I was. It is not uncommon in our community for girls to be married at a young age, some as young as fourteen. My mother was married at the age of sixteen. Being married signifies that I am a mature adult. Growing up in a family of ten children, I always had lots of responsibilities that helped prepare me for married life and motherhood. My mother always instilled in me the ways of a good wife, daughter-in-law, and mother. She told me that I would always rank beneath my husband, that I must respect his reputation, and that I could never make a fool of him. Without any complaints, a good wife will cook and clean for her husband. A good daughter-in-law will love and respect her in-laws as she does her parents. A good mother will raise her children with unending love, even if that means raising them alone.
There are many dos and don'ts in our culture. We pride ourselves in having huge extended families. Divorce is not an option before seeking out the counsel of the elders. Family members get together to try to salvage a marriage by finding who's at fault and asking both spouses to make compromises. When marriages cannot be salvaged, they are usually dissolved by the same elders who represented the bride and groom at the wedding. It is our tradition to follow the husband's side of the family and the husband's beliefs, which means making sacrifices. One of many I had to make was relocating from my place of security to a new city and state. Another one was having a new set of parents to care for and leaving behind my own. I was no longer my parents' daughter but my in-laws'. The one part I missed most was my independence. I became someone's wife, which means I was someone else's shadow. The ability to be on my own was gone.
Along with marriage came the wants of having a family. In our community most families are large. My parents were the unfortunate ones. Both came from very small families. My father had two brothers, one of whom passed away as an infant soon after his own parents did. My mother has two brothers. Neither of my parents had sisters. Since both parents didn't have any "family," they wanted to give us what they missed out on. So I have six brothers and three sisters. My husband also came from a large family of three brothers and four sisters.
Our family came quicker than we were ready for. On the second day of March 1997, ten months after being married, my husband and I welcomed our firstborn into this world, a 6 pounds 11 ounces little girl, with a full head of black hair. Her dad named her Jade, a beautiful name for a beautiful baby. Although many wish for a son as a firstborn, we were happy to have our daughter. Having a daughter first means we would later have help with the babysitting. We were young, happy, naive, and blessed. We were carefree.
Life went from being happy and blessed to even more happiness and more blessings. In the short span of thirteen years, our family was complete with six children, one daughter and five sons. Coming from a background where sons are valued more so than daughters, my husband was most fortunate. After all, he was the only son in his family with FIVE sons. Many envied us. Two cousins in particular always reminded my husband about how lucky he was. They joked and asked if we would allow them to adopt one of our boys. Having this many sons means a secure future. We would be well taken care of in our old age and have many grandchildren.
Having a family and being a mother was the best feeling I could ever wish for. Of course, it wasn't always happy times. There were plenty of restless nights when the kids were sick and the many responsibilities increased more than ever. There was the everyday cooking and cleaning for a family of eight. That was a full-time job in itself. I also worked outside of the home from nine at night to six in the morning, when the family was sleeping, so that I could be there for my children during the day. It was hard working the nightshift but it was a sacrifice I chose to make. Never did I think twice about finding a day job.
The payoff was huge and rewarding. I was able to see my children grow and attend school functions with them. I remember attending my son's play. He had never wanted to participate in any school performances, but the one time he did, he was one of the main characters. I was so proud of him for leaving his comfort zone. I attended my daughter's orchestra performances. She played the violin beautifully. In addition to school activities the boys also played soccer so we were always on the go. I didn't miss out on much when it came to my children. The one thing I did miss out on, but never realized until much later, was that I hardly ever had any time for myself or with my husband. Life was happening at such a fast pace I never had time to sit and ponder it.
With a growing family and the constant need to keep up with everyday responsibilities, my marriage was coming undone at the seams. I couldn't just get a needle and thread and stitch it up. It happened so fast. I felt like a major league baseball pitcher purposely threw a fastball and smacked me right in the face! I never had a chance to prevent it. For so long I had been the one to tend to everyone's wounds and make things right and secure. I was the one to chase away the monsters in the closets, the one to do the mending of all the rips and tears. Now for the life of me, I could not save my own marriage. After my husband told me he was leaving me for another woman, I waited for a long agonizing five months of heartache and pain in hopes of saving my family, if not my marriage. Divorce was not an option. It was the one thing I never thought about, but knew I did not want. The whole process of divorce is never easy, but even worse when innocent children are involved. It is always so sad and heartbreaking to see a family split up, especially when it's your own.
Trying to be the good wife and daughter my mother raised me to be, I followed tradition and sought out the counsel of the elders. However, it seems no one was really willing to put much effort into saving my marriage or family. The elders told me to wait for my husband's affair to pass. It was a one-way compromise--something I couldn't do anymore. I wasn't willing to put in more than what I had already. I was drained of life and energy. I had nothing left to keep me in this marriage anymore. On December 10, 2009, after he left for work, I packed up the entire house and kids and we left him, along with an empty house filled with memories of good and bad times. Since that day, I have been ostracized for leaving my marriage, a marriage I knew could not continue.
Today I am a single mother of six young children between the ages of one and thirteen years old. Not only did I lose my marriage and husband, I also lost financial stability and gained the stress that comes with being an unemployed single parent. When making ends meet is not possible, I pay the most important bills and leave out what isn't priority. I am relying on my family for financial support and shelter and have to resort to state assistance for food stamps--something I never had to do before.
Again, what are "rites of passage"? They are the changes in my life. A "rite of passage," I have been through many. Despite my last "rite of passage" with divorce, I would not redo anything. Things happen for a reason. I am a stronger person from this passage. I have learned from my past. I am happy with where I am today. My life has taken me in a full circle. There was a time when I once relocated to a new town, leaving behind my parents. Today, with my divorce, I have relocated to my hometown, back to my parents. I am not a shadow anymore. I am my own person now. Changes in my life have kept me going.