Readers, meet my darling friend Whitney. I know darling sounds diminutive, which size-wise she is. But personality and wisdom-wise, no no. She is bold, and embracing the bravery that comes with figuring life out. Whitney is the one who made me realize the key idea that bravery sucks. It’s hard. Being brave is not easy – it’s doing the thing you want least to do in the world because it is absolutely the right thing to do. Anyway, she shared her story of change – which she is still in the middle of. Looking forward to hearing where she goes next.
One of my best friends and I started the year with a promise: this would be our year. This year, we’d put ourselves first, and make personal happiness our priority by any means necessary.
Like a lot of things in life, this has been easier said than done. We’ve just passed the halfway point of 2014, and it’s safe to say I have failed at upholding this promise to myself.
What does this failure look like? Well, quite simply I was not happy through much of this year, exasperated by rarely putting myself first or doing what was in my best interests. The result of this failure was what looked, and felt, like depression.
People who loved me were worried about me. And eventually, even I was worried about me. I didn’t want to feel…not happy. Once I identified what was causing the majority of my misery, I had difficult decision to make; a decision that required I put myself first, be strong for myself. It was necessary. And it was going to rip my heart out.
A quote that is reiterated in one of my favorite movies came to mind:
“I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong.” Primo Levi
I didn’t feel strong.
Dying to know what that tough decision was? Here goes: I made the decision to break up with my boyfriend.
Boyfriend is a loose term. To me, he was my boyfriend. To him, I was just the girl he was seeing – and sleeping with.
In retrospect, thinking about this situation hurts. I’m not proud of who I allowed myself to be when I was with him.
I hope he’d change his mind, commit more to me. He did not change his mind. Come our ten month “anniversary,” I was tired of changing who I am, how I felt, and tiptoeing around him so as to protect his feelings rather than be honest about mine.
Before I did it, I told him I loved him. He held up his hand in my face and said he didn’t feel the same. He asked what I wanted to do, and I calmly said I was going to get my toiletries from the bathroom and then would leave. And that’s precisely what I did. (Side-note to readers: don’t break up with someone and then go immediately pick up a bridesmaid dress for an upcoming wedding. Just take my word on this one.)
I did not magically get better. That first month post break up involved ongoing textversation with friends I’m eternally grateful for, who listened to a play-by-play dialogue of what was going on in my head. I was unraveling. I felt guilty, second guessing myself, lots of bargaining to try and get him to change his mind and dear goodness a SHIT TON of crying. It wasn’t pretty.
I knew my mental bashing wasn’t a good idea, and that the crying was. But this is who I am. I always try to convince people that they should be with me and that I am worth loving, worth being around, worth having a future with. Even if they don’t want it. Sometimes, even if I don’t. The deep-rooted desire of wanting to be liked and loved by everyone was strong.
With all this – dare I call it aging? Maturing? How about growing – comes valuable lessons. Like that not every person you meet or interact with in this world is going to like you. Not every person you feel something for is going to feel something back. Not every person you want to date is going to want to date you. All of this is okay. You can’t control other people or what they are going to do, say, or think. The only thing you can control is how you react to it.
Come June I was dating someone new, someone who fell into my life as someones are wont to do. This time would be different. I wouldn’t dive head first into a new relationship, into emotions that weren’t warranted. He made me laugh harder than anyone else. We were honest with each other about where we stood, and it was both refreshing and terrifying.
But we’ve ended up on different pages – me wanting something more emotional, him more physical. So I made the decision that would best benefit my mental and emotional health, as my friend Chris so poetically phrased it, and told him that I can’t be the warm body he wants. Then I asked him why he didn’t see long term relationship material in me.
“I need someone that’s 100% more positive than I am,” he told me. “And me and you are the same in that sense. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. We are both good people, and that’s why we dated.”
This was not easy to hear. Part of my happiness goal this year was based on the fact that I know this about myself. Seeing the positive in situations is challenging and I constantly throw pity parties for myself. I’d wanted to evolve in this way.
Should I not have leaned on him? Tried to change for him? No. I wouldn’t have been myself, and I refuse to change who I am for another person again. I need to change for me. (Side note: I also refused to try and convince him of my awesomeness. Won’t do that again either.)
My friend Becky, who is this amazing person with an extremely positive outlook on life, offered the advice of doing this exercise: find the silver lining in every situation. So that’s what I have been doing.
And though I’m new to this silver linings thing, it’s already changed me. Three very important friends have made a point to tell me they’ve noticed a change in my outlook; someone else I’m not close to told me my positivity was inspiring. Maybe my ex isn’t seeing it, but I’m trying – and I’m succeeding. He gave me a great deal of perspective, has helped me love myself in a way that no one else ever has, and for that I am grateful.
There are a lot of silver linings to this situation.
I’ve been broken up with twice in the past two months. In the first instance, I lost myself in the agony of hearing “You’re great, I don’t feel the same way about you.” The heartbreak consumed me. In the second instance, I’m brushing it off, chalking it up to his loss and not mine.
This mindset is not easy. It’s not like I wake up every day feeling that way. Some days are better than others. But in the end, I can only control myself and how I react. The biggest silver lining here is that I have enough sense this time around not to do the same thing twice (Einstein’s definition of insanity applies: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results). I know my worth, I value myself more, and I know what I deserve. I shouldn’t have to wait around for someone to realize it, or convince them that they should be with me. I deserve someone who’s proud to be with me. That’s going to shout it from the rooftops, and show me off.
That person is out there, somewhere.
But for now I’m going to continue living my life for me, and no one else. I will continue to pursue positivity, and actively choose happiness (because it is a choice). After all, I’m the only person I’m going to be stuck with for the rest of my life. And I really love who I’m becoming. That’s the biggest silver lining of them all.