It’s currently midnight, and I feel like I’m in the beginning of some tragic Edgar Allen Poe novella: dark and rainy, wind moaning in such a way that it could nearly be mistaken for a human. One of my cats is darting back and forth frantically with each creak of the magnolia bough just by my bedroom window, while the other hides under the bed, terrified of whatever he saw on the ceiling just a few minutes prior (they don’t handle even the weakest of storms very well). I just gingerly took a sip of my hot apple cider, freshly made, and stare at the corner of the room where packed cardboard boxes are eerily illuminated by the orange glow of my salt lamp.

Make no mistake, though: I am happy. Because as of the stroke of the clock, I start the year off fresh.

It took twenty minutes in the Social Security office, complete with a miserable walk in the rain, but I walked out with a smile on my face and a piece of paper that said I was free: I officially no longer wear his name. I have reclaimed myself in a way that no divorce decree could, and I fearlessly enter 2019 as me sans baggage.

Don’t get me wrong; I am still healing. That is a process that might take a decade or possibly until I breathe my last, but that symbol of the yoke around my neck is gone. I didn’t have that huge crying fit that came when I received my divorce paperwork, and I certainly didn’t go party with the all-black ensemble, complete with veil, and burn my marriage certificate like I’d planned. Instead, I drove to Barnes & Noble and picked out a yearly planner. I ate by myself at the local Olive Garden, enjoying the hell out of their endless salad and breadsticks. I told my family and friends, of course, but I think they had more enthusiasm about it than I did. It just wasn’t this big thing like I thought it would be. Maybe that I didn’t have an over-the-top reaction is a part of the recovery process that I haven’t ever considered. At some point, you stop caring because it has that little to do with who you are now. It’s not a malicious indifference, just an honest, oh, well, that’s the way it is then.

I won’t get my card for a few weeks, and I can’t get an updated driver’s license until the 2nd, but that’s just part of The After. I’ll have to inform my employer, my banks, my credit card company, and various other entities, and then get to faxing or filling out online shit. There is a lot to do in the coming weeks.

But for now, I sit alone in my apartment, happy in the knowledge that I am Jennifer Trela.

*Say what you will about Olive Garden, but shit, that dressing is good.

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