This I Believe

Sally Jo - Ramah, New Mexico
Entered on April 9, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: change
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Many years ago, in Seattle, I had a nervous breakdown. I can objectively see it clearly in my mind. My husband was a few years younger than me and not ready for marriage. Emotionally, I was much younger. I fell apart when he left. It was my belief that marriage could solve everything. I could not face myself as a single woman. Seeing couples together purchasing groceries at Safeway brought tears. I took an ungodly amount of anti-depressants with all of its side effects.

Six agonizing years later, I met who was to become my second husband. We shared a love for music and began playing together. I became a teacher. We were good enough to get paying gigs. But he had an anger problem. The first time he hit me I was caught off guard. It was peaceful for a few years. Instead of feeling sorry for myself seeing couples together at Safeway, I saw single women having the time of their lives being single. I wanted their strength and independence. No longer did I want to depend on a man, especially an angry man, to do what I now believe I could do.

He hit me again. I was strong enough to get a restraining order. Divorce proceedings began. The first time I shopped at Safeway alone, I began crying because I could go down any aisle and choose anything. It never occurred to me how much of a hold he had until that day, alone in Safeway. I had believed marriage was supposed to be him over me – until my walk down that aisle at Safeway.

Two years later, another man entered: my school principal. He was brand new, young and brash. To show how tough he was, he handed out reprimands like candy. I visited New Mexico, looking for another teaching job. Beginning another year with this principal was nothing I looked forward to. I received a job offer in rural New Mexico. Without blinking, at 52 years old, I took it.

Two weeks later on a Friday afternoon, I arrived to a community of 400 Navajos. My furniture had not arrived and for the first two weeks, I slept on the floor in my sleeping bag and ate peanut butter sandwiches in a trailer in the “teacherage.”

My Navajo students’ academic skills were sadly low. But we bonded and taught each other. I found a log cabin in the mountains. It was perfect.

I love my home, my job, and the kind Navajo people. They accept me into their lives. I learned how much more meaningful life is when it is a 100 mile round trip to the store.

I believe that one person’s inner strength, when found, can change for the good. Living alone brings me solace. I can light my own fire and bake my own bread. It takes strength and courage to remain alone. It can be accomplished. I am no one special. Anyone can do what I do. I am at peace.