If you asked me what I was doing a year ago today, a random Thursday in May, I would tell you that I was probably coming back from the gym to get ready for a happy hour with my best friends in Delaware, blowing out my hair, contouring my face, preparing for $5 vodka-soda pitchers, blasting Life of Pablo and pathetically waiting to see if my ex-boyfriend would text me and tell me this was all a bad dream and we could go back to the way things were.
Not all break-ups are clean – and mine definitely wasn’t. It was filled with a million more texts, phone calls, meet-ups and tears than I ever anticipated (or recommend for that matter.) But over a year later, I can tell you that’s not the case anymore – everything is clean.
A year ago I would have been staring at my phone waiting for him to reach out to me or wondering if I should reach out to him. And sometimes he would and sometimes I would and sometimes it was a bad idea and other times it was false hope. Sometimes we would be pouring our hearts out to each other, and other times – there was nothing. It was like a death, but instead the person is here a few days here and there to make you feel like they’re not actually gone. But the truth remains, they’re gone – it’s over. And that goes for the both of you.
I couldn’t watch the shows we used to watch before bed without my body going into a panic that I was there, alone, and eventually I would just cry myself to sleep, hoping it would feel better tomorrow. I couldn’t drive down specific streets because they were too familiar and making a left rather than a right killed me. I couldn’t go to certain places with my friends because I felt like I was always looking over my back to make sure we wouldn’t have another run-in. I was crippled by my own life and mind.
I thought that I would never get to a place where my peace of mind could exist. I thought that I would have to run, that I would have to avoid it all in order to move on, to move past how much it hurt to sit there and say that after four years of love and loss later – I’m just Irene now.
It didn’t go away over night, if anything I took my sweet time with it. First I would just just get fucked up like 5 days a week and workout like I was training for the Olympics because life is all about balance – right? I’m kidding.
But then when I got bored of that and college ended without realizing it, I sat with the pain I was feeling and got to know it. Got to learn why it felt so strong and why it hurt so much, and guess what I learned?
Breaking up is hard, but I broke up with myself a long time ago and that relationship was the harder one to repair.
I couldn’t look him in the eyes until I could look myself in the eyes again, and that’s where the growth and the end to my mourning came. You should never feel so alone in your own skin, you should never feel like the end came and you were at a dead end yourself. But I did.
The last time I thought about me and just me and not me with someone else I was 17. Can you imagine how much growing up I was supposed to do and never did because my life seemed like it would be mapped out for me if I just stuck with my boyfriend, stuck with a path and a plan? I wrote a piece once that talked about how I thought I could plan my happiness – and how one day I realized I couldn’t. Happiness would come with the acceptance of myself.
I had to learn what I liked, who I liked, and what Irene, JUST Irene likes to do and say and think and feel. I learned that I like to be out a lot, I like to meet people, I like to travel, I like to do nothing but grab wings and beer with my best friends and just chill. I don’t like plans, I like waking up and going with the day ahead as a blank slate. I like sitting and reflecting on who I could be and who I’ve been so far.
I’ve learned that I’m not always right. I will make mistakes, I will make them often – but I will always pick up the pieces and I will always do my best to rectify the situation.
I will hurt and feel pain sometimes, but I’ve learned that going out for that drink or getting stoned will not make me feel better in the long run, and that that random boy who is giving me his temporary attention will actually touch anything with a pulse.
Being single for a year has taught me to truly appreciate the ones who love you and cherish who you are, and to accept that sometimes when a person is no longer a part of your life it doesn’t mean that they never loved you or that you never cared, but that sometimes change happens. And sometimes change isn’t so bad, either.
It taught me that I have the most patient friends and family who reminded me it was okay to feel what I was feeling and that even though I’m a sensitive person, I’m not weak.
It taught me that when you really love someone, you’ll always care. You’ll never turn a blind eye, you’ll never sit there and pretend it doesn’t matter that they’re in the same room. It will always matter. It will matter when they say they’re doing well, and you will be happy because deep down inside even when you couldn’t bear to say their name – you knew they would be just fine. It taught me you can feel all of that and still know that it’s okay to feel that and not be together.
I said before that I lost my relationship with myself a long time ago, and that much is true. I had 0 clue who I was without a guy, but I do now and that person isn’t so bad. Would I go back and change some things? Absolutely, I’m only human and I think forgiving myself for some of the things I said and did was hard. But I’m thankful for the lessons I learned from loss, I’m thankful for the person God once put in my path. And I’m thankful that I can now look myself in the eye, and him too.