Charlotte, North Carolina is the place where AJ and I fell in love.  It’s the place we built a life together.  It’s filled with memories of adopting our dogs, renovating our home, and making our friends.  It’s the place he asked me to be his wife.  Charlotte was the setting for my happily ever after.

Shortly after we married in 2015, I realized we just didn’t spend enough time together.  Our home felt like a home, but I spent too many nights making dinner and saving him a plate.  He worked so frequently, that on his days off, he was lethargic and withdrawn.  He only wanted to relax on the couch, which I enjoy, but I was looking for more interactive quality time.

After many long conversations, we realized life was getting in the way.  Our jobs were stressful and all-consuming, and we were losing the most important stuff of life, each other.  So, we decided to sell our home and move somewhere cheaper.  I could work and support us both, and AJ could start his own business.  This was exciting, scary, and overwhelming at times, but I was doing it with my best friend, my husband.  We could make it through anything.

With a hopeful mindset, we left Charlotte and moved to Cincinnati, OH.

How I wish I knew I was in it alone…

Regardless… you know the story by now… Day one, day two, day three… divorce.

It seemed lucky I was in a relatively “new” place to start my “new” life.  I wasn’t surrounded by memories, happy couples, constant reminders.  Cincinnati, OH became significant in a way I did not plan, but in a way I desperately needed.

My connection to Charlotte was not severed when I divorced AJ.  My Charlotte friends rallied around me and supported and loved me through it.  In the midst of pain and feeling unlovable, they loved me in the exact way I needed.

I remember my first trip back to Charlotte after my divorce.  As I drove the seven hour journey, I felt knots in my stomach and the moment I saw the skyline of Charlotte, I broke down and sobbed.  This place was so beautiful and now it just reminded me of the fake love I had, the fake life I built… my fake husband.  I traveled around town visiting my friends and trying not to look too hard in any direction for fear of memories triggered.  It was a tiring, long weekend, and my heart hurt.

With each trip to Charlotte since, it has gotten easier.  Less memories, or less vivid ones, at least.  Less AJ.  Even as I sit in a cafe, here in Charlotte, mere blocks from our old home, I don’t see any memories… he’s evaporating.  He’s gone.

Maybe, Charlotte can be a “new” place for me again.  With AJ disappearing from my memories, I can breathe here again.  My heart doesn’t hurt.  It feels brand-new.

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