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Amazing Grace--one woman's incredible story of trauma, depression, falling from grace, and ultimately, redemption

{Read Part 1: Falling}

{Read Part 2: Clouds Lifting}

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Part 3: Changing Paths

Three days after Hurricane Charley we boarded up our mangled house and drove to St. Louis so I could begin law school.

After a year-and-a-half of single-mindedly focusing on getting myself there, I was so excited to start I could hardly stand it. So  I was stunned to realize, just a few months into it, that I hated law school. With a passion.

I despised everything about it:  the intensity, the subject matter, the cut-throatedness of the people around me, the fact that every book cost $150, the Socratic method of teaching….all of it. It was nothing like I had expected–certainly nothing like my favorite movie, Legally Blonde–and I found it not even remotely interesting.

As the months trudged on I found myself more and more miserable, and felt more and more stuck. I dreaded getting up in the morning, could barely force myself to study or pay attention in class, found myself counting the minutes until I would graduate. 2,484,000 minutes is a lot of minutes.

But I didn’t realize how much it was affecting me, how much it had changed me, until one Sunday, about three-quarters of the way through my first year, Chuck and I went for a walk in Lafayette Park.

As we walked, I talked about how much I hated school and how unhappy I was. He mostly just listened to me complain, without having much to say in return. Then suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. He grabbed my shoulders, turned me towards him, looked me straight in the eye and said something that would change my life. He said:

“You know you don’t have to finish this, right? It’s okay to quit if you hate it.”

It was, perhaps, the biggest “aha” moment I have ever had.

Until that very second it had never even occurred to me that I could quit. I had worked so hard to get there. I had quit my job, not to mention been the cause of him quitting his, moved us all the way across the country, and taken out massive student loans to pay for it. How could I stop? In my mind, it was impossible. I would’ve carried on to the bitter end, probably until I had made myself crazy again.

Because if I quit, who would I be? And how would Chuck ever forgive me?

But there he was, telling me it was okay. That he wouldn’t be mad at me for uprooting his life. That he wouldn’t stop loving me no matter what.

The next morning I went to the Dean of Students and told her I was withdrawing. She said, “Normally I would try to talk you out of it, but this is the first time I’ve seen you look happy all semester. You’re doing the right thing.”

It was an expensive but invaluable lesson, one that I have never forgotten:

If you don’t like how things are going, get off the path.

The next few years were a whirlwind of different paths for us, as we tried to find our way. We alternated working and moving and having babies and moving again. And again. And again.

Our new path first brought us back to Florida. We spent a year repairing the damage from Hurricane Charley. We got married in our backyard, and had our first child, a gorgeous, perfect, healthy baby girl named Maggie, then packed up a few things and headed back to Washington State.

We spent three years in the Seattle area. Chuck worked for a while and I stayed home. Then we switched roles and he played Mr. Mom while I worked full time, then switched back again when we decided that wasn’t working.

We made a lot of changes in that time, always looking for that thing, that place, that job that would fulfill us. It wasn’t that we were unhappy–we were financially secure, always had plenty of friends wherever we went, and no shortage of nice things or fun activities to fill our time.

In 2009 we added another beautiful little girl, Annie, to our family, rounding our number to 4. We had everything I thought I had ever wanted, and from all outside appearances, our life seemed perfect.

But something was still missing. I hadn’t yet found the right path.

{Read Part 4: But For Grace}