Prologue: on reopening to the world

Ever since August 2014, I’ve hesitated to publish any writing online. A lot has happened since then-moving into DC from a Maryland suburb, moving to Turkey, traveling in Europe, moving to Uganda. I’ve had a lot of stories to tell! And some of you have heard them. I’ve wanted to share some of them more widely. But beyond my normal hang-ups and self-doubt about whether there was anything new under the sun I could say, there was The Divorce. At first I didn’t even publish tweets or Facebook updates and it was a couple months before I posted any new photos. If I just froze everything as it was, maybe no one would notice. No one would ask. Everyone I might ever encounter would just magically, telepathically know and I would never have to discuss it with anyone. Of course, I’ve had that conversation countless times now and generally meet the topic head-on in a straightforward way. I do not intend to talk about the details of my divorce or marriage publicly. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t discuss some of the lessons learned along the way. I think I have enough space now to write in a way that will be my story, and my story alone.

Part of these fears of publishing anything post-divorce stem from the fact that I am from a small town in Iowa. For anyone who’s lived in a small town you know both the virtues and the vices: when you’re on top of the world, the whole town knows it and congratulates you and you feel so loved. When your world goes up in flames, the whole town knows it and some will judge you, some will gossip, some will reach out and care for you. But to make matters more interesting, I was married to someone from this same small town. Hence, an additional hesitation to write anything. I know how online posts, even as innocuous as a brief comment on a photo, can be analyzed and interpreted and gossiped about, conclusions drawn that may not be correct. But eventually, I kept up on online presence and decided people could draw whatever conclusions they wanted.

Writing though, is a whole other layer of vulnerability. It goes deeper than a tweet or an instagram post. It exposes your emotions and reasoning and experiences and biases. If you post it online it also invites people in, to interact with your ideas. And so I took a timeout. Part of it was a need to process things on my own. Part of it was a deep desire to avoid any additional pain for our two families who still reside in that small town. Staying silent seemed like the safest course, and certainly more likely to avoid additional questions or comments.

By now, I have lots of other experiences to write about other than the divorce. Some of the things I share may be colored by it. Certainly, my life is forever changed by it. But life insists on going on. And part of my life, ever since I learned to write, has been writing. I’ve been journaling and writing emails the last two years. But I think I’m finally ready to re-enter the online world.

I’ve asked myself why I need to. One reason is because I consume so much news and opinion and inspiration from reading online. I want to interact with those ideas and add to some of the conversations. I also know how much it means to me when I stumble upon a line that resonates with me, with my experience, and the connection you feel-that somewhere in the world, someone is familiar with this one particular thing you felt, too. I want to be on both sides of that interaction. Secondly, people have asked about some of my experiences. I think it will be mainly family and friends, but writing about some of this will be a way of showing them the wider world I’ve been experiencing.

Some of these stories I will share have beginnings earlier than two years ago. So there won’t be a black curtain over my life prior to 2014. But I’m also going to try my hardest to avoid sharing any details which might not be wholly my own to share.

With that lengthy disclaimer, and with more than a bit of hesitation, I’m ready to re-enter this world. I don’t know yet what my writings will be focused around. I decided I don’t need to know all of that or what my intended audience is or how often I’ll write or anything. The main thing is just to start. As some of you know, I wrote a blog for awhile while living in Baltimore, mainly just as a way of cataloguing my own explorations of the city. I think I’ll be far less “guidebook”-y and far more introspective and analytical in my writings this time around. It’s much scarier to write this way, to be more vulnerable than sharing where you went, what you did, what you saw. But this deeper plane is where I always like my in-person conversations to go so I look forward to seeing if I can make that work online as well.

Thanks to anyone who reads this and understands any part of this! Thanks to so many of you for being there for me the last couple years and allowing me to process all this. I look forward to sharing with you some of the things I’ve been learning on this crazy life journey.

With love from Kampala, Uganda,


Like what you read? Give Jen Skalbeck a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.