by Chantelle Alyssa Soto ’11
I was sitting in an attorney’s office staring blindly at the two last names, “plaintiff” written next to one and “defendant” written next to another; a divorce. I was 21 years old, a mother to a 10-month-old child and a student at The University of North Carolina. How could this be happening? I blinked my eyes trying to beat back hot tears. I took a quick breathe in and tried to find the courage to exhale it.
My pink phone vibrated in my pocket. I wanted to throw that little pink phone against a wall as I envisioned the text message I received a week before, reading, “He has been living with me. We are dating. As a matter of fact he is over at my place right now.” That text was the reason I was sitting where I was at. It was the reason I had to leave class early running to the bathroom trying not to hyperventilate or, worse, vomit.
After I graduated from UNC I was going to go straight to Philadelphia to be with my husband. We were going to raise our little daughter together and be the family I had always dreamed of. That was my plan. But as I sat numbly listening to the background noise of my attorney explain the laws of divorce and separation in the state of North Carolina, I realized that my plan, my dream, had died.
I thought I would fall apart. How could I continue on after the world as I knew it had been destroyed? My daughter would grow up with divorced parents, just as I had, and I would have to split holidays with a man who I couldn’t even bear to look in the eyes anymore.
I signed my consent order and drove back to campus. I sat on the steps of Wilson Library trying to mentally put the pieces of my life back together. Staring at the cement I replayed memories of the broken family I had tried so hard to create. I remembered every tear and sleepless night I laid awake in my bed waiting for a phone call. I remembered the lies he would tell me of where he was staying and why he was so busy all of the time. I remembered the paranoia I had always felt. I remembered him kissing me goodbye as I held our 3-day-old daughter in my arms. I was so afraid. I did not think I could raise our little girl by myself.
Suddenly I realized I did. I had managed to raise my beautiful daughter by myself. I had found a two-bedroom apartment for us, a day care, scholarships and a part-time job to support us. I was attending school again and making grades I couldn’t believe I was capable of making. I then realized I was free. There would be no more tears at 3 a.m. wondering why my husband hadn’t come home to see his family in a month. There would be no more paranoia. There would be no more lies. I picked up my pink phone and flipped through the photos of my baby.
My child gave me the courage and the drive to return to school and complete my degree. She gave me the desire to invent my life. I was a strong single mother now chasing after an education and a new dream.
Chantelle Soto ’11, from Chicago, majored in elementary education and plans to go to graduate school.