Don’t look back.
If I could give myself one piece of advice, that would be it. I would tell myself this, again and again, year after year. I’d whisper it in my ear as I stare out the window, dreaming of my youth. I’d say it and tug on my arm when I look at my brother, remembering how we played together so long ago. I’d scream it to myself when I walk away from my dad, remembering how I’d run up and hug him after he came home from work back in preschool. I’d slap myself in the face and tell myself, “don’t look back” as I cried over the years for so many people….
I guess I’ve always been sort of a nostalgic person. I used to keep journals and scribble my thoughts furiously, telling myself that they’d someday matter. I hang onto pictures, pour through them and will myself to relive the happiness I felt in them. I replay my memories like an annoying film montage that can’t ever seem to pause. The past holds so much knowledge, so many mistakes, and I constantly search through it so that my future may end up differently…or the same.
But I’m trying to stop this. My nostalgia gets me in trouble because it plays on all the softness in my heart. In those moments when I long for the closeness I once felt for my family, guilt, pain, and anger start appearing. When I remember my happy childhood I often feel sad, because it ended too soon. And when I think of the good times, the times I’ll never get back with the people I’ll never get back…well, then I start questioning. Did it have to end up that way? What did I do wrong?
What. Did. I. Do. Wrong.
That used to be the thing I whispered to myself in nights spent alone. Instead of advice, I repeated that question to myself, gradually chipping away at my self-esteem. The depression that kept coming back to me came back through my memories. It attached itself to my past, sucking away all the happiness I once felt and leaving emptiness, leaving blame. If the present sucked, it was my fault. And everyone knows you can’t repeat history. But I tried, anyway.
I went back again and again to the same relationships, the same friendships, because I loved those people and I missed them. But what I loved and missed more were how they once made me feel…whole. Happy. I had so much trouble letting go, because I was always looking over my shoulder, wanting to make the past a reality again.
But things can’t be undone, can they? A fight will always be remembered; the words said can never be unsaid. The carelessness that someone gave toward your heart will always leave behind a new insecurity, just like a love once felt will always leave behind some pain. Even though I would try my hardest to rekindle laughs, wild nights of summer, unhinged passion, and unblemished trust…I failed. Those friendships would fade again when I wasn’t looking, and those relationships withered away in my hands.
So I tell myself, “Don’t look back.”
It’s true, the past will always be a part of the present; I cannot pretend to be indifferent to the things I once held so dear. But the past doesn’t have to remain my vicious cycle of retracing my steps. I can accept my mistakes; I can let go of the rose-colored glasses peering into my recollections. The past was never perfect, just like the present, and I can’t let myself cherry-pick the good times. Life goes on…One happy memory can always be followed by another, and sometimes you find happiness where you don’t expect it to be.
By welding my own destiny, and following the path of the present I can move on. So when I dwell on the dysfunction of my family, I think of how independent it has made me. When I feel the sting of rejection from old friends who have turned into strangers, I remind myself of the new friendships I have created. And yes, even when my stomach drops in disappointment when recalling the relationships that have gone awry…I manage to hold strong, reminding myself why things ended the way they did. Because I find that the older I get, the more I define my experiences, instead of the other way around. If I’m looking back at my past I won’t get to see what’s coming up next. Life moves forward so I look forward…So I can look forward to life.
All my life, I’ve been searching for answers.
Like most little kids, my favorite question was “Why?” I’d ask my mom about everything and anything, wanting to know why people did the things they did, how things worked, and what my mom thought about them.
As a teenager, I explored different experiences to find who I was and who I wasn’t. I tried being the over-achiever, the slacker, the arty kid, the theater kid, the choir kid, the daredevil, the music snob, the loner, and the social butterfly (at least as much as I could manage it).
Now, I’m a young adult. I’ve got an idea of how the world works and who I am. But like most young adults, I’ve struggled with another big question: what do I want in life?
For the past few months, this question has been interrupting my life almost every waking moment. It all started with my ex Jessie telling me that all of his relationships have fallen apart because he’s still in love with me. While this wasn’t exactly a shocking revelation, it still threw me off guard and left me thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this information?” That got me looking at my current relationship with my boyfriend Fred. Would our relationship allow me to pursue my dreams of traveling in the future? Suddenly I wasn’t so sure. And then I started thinking about the other big black hole in my future: my degree and my career. I thought I knew what I wanted, but the hoops I have to jump through to get there sound miserable. So, all day everyday I have been thinking, “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?”
The more I realized I hadn’t thought things out, the more questions seemed to be hurdled at me: do I want to get a Ph.D? Do I want to be in a relationship with Jessie? Am I willing to give up on travel? What type of job should I pursue if I don’t get my Ph.D? Would I be willing to let Jessie go? Would I be willing to let Fred go? Should I just be on my own? Should I start traveling now? What do I do if I take a year off? How did I not think about all of this before now?
The trouble with happiness (as weird as it sounds) is that you quit questioning things. The way that sadness makes you hyper-analyze your life, happiness makes you under-analyze your life. After all, if you’re happy, why should things change? Isn’t that the goal, to be happy?
When I was a kid, I knew I wanted to change peoples’ lives. Probably not in a fancy way, like being president or discovering a planet, but changing them in a small, meaningful way. That’s why I chose to pursue psychology, so I could help people manage their everyday lives. I also knew I wanted to travel, to see every continent (except maybe Antarctica) and discover how other people live, and how different life could be. I held these two goals close to my heart and promised myself that no matter how far away they seemed, that I would do them because that is just who I am…I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have these goals.
Now, I’m in my early twenties, and I feel as though every decision I make right now will influence whether or not those goals will become accomplished. I’m terrified of waking up in ten years, stuck, and wishing I had done something different. I’m terrified of choosing wrong, and being unable to make it right.
So I had to make a choice. It all happened in one night, when I sat down with my mom and told her everything I had been thinking. I didn’t exactly want her to tell me what I should do, more like her perspective. What did she want when she was my age? Did she get what she wanted? What about the things she didn’t get—does she regret the decisions that stopped her from getting them? What happened? What changed?
Basically, that conversation with her reminded me of every other moment of doubt in my life. Time after time, I’d feel so lost and helpless…and what did I do? I did what I had to. I chose a college, I chose a degree, I chose to drop out, I chose to go to therapy and get medication, I chose to go back to school. I’ve always done what I had to, and when I found myself lost again I made a change. No matter what has happened, when I’ve had no other choice than to trust myself, I’ve ended up happy and content in the end.
So I chose to make it work with my boyfriend, and try to let Jessie go. I chose to pick a career within psychology that would get me a job easily, so I could have the money to go back to school later if I didn’t like it. I chose to make a choice—to suck it up, pick a direction, and trust that I’d take myself where I needed to go.
Weeks later, I’m more or less the same. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to get into grad school, and I’m still working on letting go of Jessie, despite not talking to him for weeks. But I feel better, I feel confident in a weird way. I may still be a little lost, but I know it won’t last forever. Eventually I’ll move on to different problems, circumstances in my life will change, and I’ll still be the one calling the shots. The problems I’m stuck on now will seem smaller; the insecurities I face will have faded. Life goes on.
So maybe down the road I’ll change my grad school plans. Maybe I’ll decide to travel on my own. Maybe it won’t work out with Fred, maybe it will be too late with Jessie. No matter how scary it gets, no matter what happens, it’s going to be okay. I’ve kept myself safe thus far, and I know I’ll do it again.
I’ve been avoiding writing this post all week. Sunday night I came back home after ten days in Central America with my ex, Jessie. How did I feel? I felt like it was a dream. I was incredibly sad to leave that country that I had just barely begun to know, and yet relieved to be back home and confront my life again. During that week I could see the life I would have had with Jessie had we stayed together, and it left me with conflicting feelings. Jessie left me with conflicting feelings.
It’s heartbreaking to love someone, really love them and let them deep into your heart, and know at the end of the day it’s not meant to be. Jessie belongs there, and I belong back in the US so I can fix the life I broke… It’s the hard truth that I kept avoiding by saying things like, “there’s nothing between Jessie and I.” In fact, there are lots of things between Jessie and I. There’s a whole history of moments, of laughter and love and sex and tears, where we discovered hidden parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. There was a present, filled with tension and anger and sadness at everything that couldn’t be changed. And there was a future, one we dreamed of together, in the countryside of California and all over the world, where we started a life and a family that will ultimately never come to be. There’s a world between us, literally and figuratively, and it’s a world we both had to walk away from on Sunday.
I am a person who is without direction, ambition, or hope. My mind unravels and weaves together my experiences each day in ways that either pull me further, or further into, my depression. I don’t have much in my life—no job, no dream, no motivation, but I do have love. You don’t feel this much hurt and pain without it…because only love brings you truths so important that they become integral to your person. I have loved some wonderful people in my life, and it has given me wisdom that I will never forget. I’m so thankful I was given the opportunities to love and be loved…but the time has come to learn to love myself. I can’t keep disappearing into relationships in order to feel motivation to live…it’s time to find that motivation inside myself instead of getting it from someone else. I won’t lie, I’m terrified that I will never be able to love myself again, or find my own reasons to keep living, but I have to try.
Now that Jessie and I have gotten closure, and have freed each other from expectations and hopes of what could have been, there is nothing from my past standing in the way of my future. I can rebuild my life, with a new job, a new college, new friends, a new apartment, and a new relationship with Fred. I don’t know how any of it will work out, but I think that there is a real possibility that my life will take a turn for the better. My only goal now is to literally be happy, and it won’t happen overnight. On Monday I start intensive outpatient treatment, and while I feel dread I know it is for the best.
One chapter of my life has closed, and I do feel very sad that it is over. But maybe this next part of my life will be the best yet…
In a nutshell, that’s why I’m still here.
Everyone in their 20’s can relate to the same struggle: figuring out which path in life you would like to take. Even when you outgrow your 20’s, it seems that many people are still searching for this answer in their 30’s and even 40’s or 50’s. This is a dilemma I’ve written about again and again, and though this seems to be a recurring theme in every problem I encounter I am no closer to finding my path. Or am I?
Tomorrow I’m getting on a plane to Central America. My reasoning for buying this ticket to a country I’ve never been to and my reasoning for going are very distinct—I bought the ticket because I was in love and I wanted salvation for my relationship. I’m getting on the plane because I am in search of inspiration and direction in my life, and after a severe bout of depression I need to do something kind for myself. Also it was a nonrefundable ticket.
Back in January, I was in a long distance relationship and my partner had just moved to Central America. I was incredibly sad and lonely, and my depression was creeping back into my life. So I bought the ticket as an incentive for myself to keep going, and something me and my partner could remember in our moments of doubt. I thought that if I liked being there enough, maybe I could briefly move there during the summer, and then wait for my partner to move back to the U.S. in December. Life had other plans, though. My relationship disintegrated, my depression worsened, and my ability to plan for the future vanished. But the plane ticket was still there, waiting for me.
Now, in the present, my circumstances are different. My plans for the summer are school and work back home where I grew up. I’m transferring schools, finding a new job, and exploring a different relationship. Everything I’ve recently done has been to better myself, and instead of worrying about someone thousands of miles away, I’m preoccupied with changing my life in helpful ways. So I’m using that plane ticket, getting on that plane, and spending a week in Central America.
After my life went to hell in February, time kept moving faster and faster. This trip has sort of snuck up on me, and honestly I don’t think it will feel real until my mom drops me off at the airport tomorrow morning. I’m excited but hesitant…my life has reached a steady rhythm and I’m nervous to disrupt the balance again. Especially because it means spending a week with my ex Jessie, who doesn’t exactly encourage my more rational side. Jessie brings up our old relationship all the time, and I’m worried he’s going to forget that there’s no relationship left. He’s in Central America, I’m in the U.S., end of story. I’ve moved on, and so has he. Nothing good can come from beating a dead horse.
Right now I’m done with planning out my future within relationships. In a few years it might be more realistic to start doing that, but until then I just want to enjoy the moment. After all, I need to find my passion and indulge that while I’m young and I still can. So I’m pursuing my passion for travel right now, and then hopefully pursuing my passion for creativity when I get back to the states. What was once a trip about figuring out the future for Jessie and I has become a trip about reawakening my hunger for life. I was severely depressed, I made changes and started to recover, I found stability, and now it is time to wake up again, and start my life over. I’m embarking on a path, and seeing where else my life can take me.
Once upon a time, there was a high school senior who, like most high school seniors, wanted to get the hell out of her hometown and away from her parents. She dreamed of a magical place she could go to where she could live and learn about wonderful things that would someday hopefully make her money: college. And then three years later, after many semesters of hard work and determination (while at the same time indulging her laziness), she dropped out so she could move back home with her parents and start intensive therapy (along with meds). And all of her dreams disappeared, POOF! And she didn’t live happily ever after, because she had no degree and would therefore probably die in poverty due to America’s capitalist, bullshit society. The End.
Despite the pessimism heavily influencing the end of that story, I feel surprisingly calm about my whole life going up in flames. Now before you start reasoning with me, and saying, “People take time off of school all the time, relax. You’ll go back and finish your degree. There’s plenty of time to figure out your life, but first you must let yourself heal, young grasshopper” just hear me out. No one wants to take time off, because then you failed. And even though all your friends and family are telling you this stuff about how school will always be there and everything is okay, you are sad because this was never part of the plan. No one is happy for you unless you are productive, and taking time off of school is not productive.
This is why millennials are so fucked up and why everyone complains about them. From the time we’re kids we’re spoon-fed this bullshit idea that everyone who is a good person has a college degree, a well-paying job, a picket fence with a husband/wife and 2.5 kids. And it’s a lie. Good people don’t always get to go to college, and good people don’t always get married or stay married or even have a house to live in. But everyone always dumps on those people because they didn’t live up to the “American dream”. So we panic when there’s a chance we won’t be a part of the normal, disappearing middle-class; we run ourselves into the ground with our high, over-acheiving standards. And then other generations get to point at us and wonder, “Why aren’t they succeeding? Why are they so freaked out all the time, so emotionally fucked?” This is the struggle of the millennial. This is the problem we are all trying so hard to hide.
But I can’t hide it anymore; if I stay in school I’ll continue to skip classes and fail because I don’t have the energy to get out of bed or leave the house. I can’t seem to bring myself to go socialize with people because it stresses me out so much that I’ll sit in my room crying. I’ve become so stressed and tired and worried about money that I hardly eat and have begun to pull out my hair again (a really weird habit I’ve developed in college). So Wednesday morning I was emailing my professor about an assignment I didn’t turn in by mistake (but spent hours working on) and I just started to cry because I knew I couldn’t keep doing this; it was over.
Monday I drove two hours from college town because I didn’t want to go home and spend another night alone. This week I’ve skipped all of my classes and even a shift at work. Yesterday I just slept all day, only leaving the house to go to work that night. It’s time to make a change, and try to put myself back together, rather than keep trying to pretend I haven’t fallen apart. And don’t get me wrong—this is going to be really hard, and it’s probably going to seem hopeless at times, but I have to do it.
My big mistake in all of this has been isolating myself all semester, and even last semester. Neglecting to tell people about your life only contributes to loneliness, and putting on a brave face doesn’t make you stronger. I’ve distanced myself from a lot of really great people because I thought that they would judge me, and I knew they couldn’t take away the sadness I felt. But it was wrong; people remind you of the good in life, of the strength in love and friendship. People are what make my life meaningful, and pushing them away has only given me less to live for.
So I’m starting over, I’m pressing the reset button on my life in the only way I really can. Maybe I failed, but I still want a shot at succeeding…and the only way I can do that is if I beat this depression. Again.
The best way to make a change in your life and how you feel about it is to start trying new things. Everybody knows this, but we all sort of get busy with our lives and push new ideas aside because it’s so much easier to stick with our old routine. Sometimes, though, you’ve just got to go ahead and put on your big girl panties, suck it up and put yourself out there.
As a person who has a lot of anxiety about interacting with people, this is no easy task for me. Sometimes hanging out with my own friends can be tiring and nerve-racking, so making new ones is not something I’m especially good at or used to. But after weeks of talking about it with my therapist, I’ve finally found some motivation to take the plunge and actually try.
So what am I trying? Well, it’s just baby steps for now, but I’ve been focusing on: a) Cutting back on people-pleasing so damn much and actually doing what’s right for me, b) Making more of an effort to socialize with my roommates and in general, and c) Trying things that I am interested in instead of just letting opportunities slip by. How I’ve been doing this is: a) I told my roommates I want to live somewhere else this fall. I just can’t live with pets anymore without some sort of allergic reaction, and even though that’s not my fault, I was really dreading the idea of telling them I want to move out. I didn’t want them to think I was being unreasonable or hurt their feelings, so I really considered just staying where I’m at, but in the long run I know moving out is the better choice for me. b) On Monday nights I set aside time to watch The Bachelor with my roommates. Honestly, I think the show is super sexist and ridiculous, but it’s something they enjoy, and I like watching it with them because we all add our own commentary. It’s a good bonding activity, especially when we break out the wine. c) I’ve been searching for a club to join this semester that fits in with my schedule and is something I maybe won’t get the opportunity to do after college. So next week I’m going to a Tango Club meeting, because I suck at dancing and I’d like to be better at it. I’m not setting up any high expectations—I’ll go, and if I like it I’ll keep going. If I don’t like it, I won’t go, and I’ll probably try to find some sort of craft club to join. My therapist used an interesting metaphor for this; she said that it was sort of like gardening, where right now is the time to just try to plant a bunch of seeds. Some of them won’t grow into anything, but others hopefully will, and after time they can turn into something great that I can pick and make into jam or some shit. So basically, I’ve got to try some new things, find what I like, stick to the ones I enjoy the most, and eventually it will bring me a sense of purpose or some friends or at least a fun way to spend a Wednesday night. (For all of you non-therapy goers, metaphors always turn up eventually, even though it’s so stereotypical, and they are almost always something strange that sound stupid in any other situation.) Anyway, I’m planting my seeds, readers. Hopefully something will grow.
In other news, I’ve also had some good changes with Jessie, my ex-partner living in Central America. Since allowing each other to see other people, we’ve become more honest with another and more realistic about our relationship. Now that I feel less pressure to tie my future to his*, I actually feel more inclined to. But I’m not making any sort of promises still, because there’s more work I need to do about figuring out how I want my life to be. In a strange way, I think we are sort of better than ever at this point.
Being honest means I’ve fessed up to seeing someone else in the past few weeks. Now, by “seeing someone” I just mean hanging out and intimacy—it is not a relationship with labels and I intend to keep it that way. Nonetheless, I’ve enjoyed spending time with this guy (who will be anonymous for now) and it has taught me a lot about the kind of person I am looking for. After looking back at some of my old relationships I now see them in a different light; where I once thought I had serious, adult love I recognize that it was young, foolish love that was based on a naïve dream. Now I know that while it is fun to spend time with people who are free spirits and idealists in your 20’s, the person I want to marry one day is someone I could count on, who is responsible and reliable. And that’s not to say that free spirits and idealists aren’t great people…I just know now that I’m going to need someone who I can both dream with, and conquer reality with.
I had a funny sort of inspiration for all of these realizations lately. Yesterday I was sitting in my car outside my therapist’s office, looking out the window, and thinking about what it would be like if I were pregnant. Mind you, I have no desire to be a mother any time soon, but since I’ve lost track of my periods I was a little concerned about this at the time. (Just for the record, though, I’m not pregnant.) Anyway, I sat there picturing myself with a little boy who was mine and I suddenly saw this attainable version of myself that I’d like to be someday. I was independent, and I trusted my instincts though I was sometimes scared, and I stuck to important values that I wanted to pass on to my kid. Values like being honest instead of proud, being kind and fair, especially when you don’t agree with someone, and learning about the things you don’t understand instead of dismissing them. I know it sounds sort of silly, but when you think of the life you’d like to give to someone you love with all of your heart, it becomes clear what you think people deserve. And I think if you can take that idea of life, and apply it to yourself instead, you realize that maybe you deserve that too.
So this is my journey in becoming someone I can admire and aspire to. It’s not going to be easy (in fact, it will most likely be pretty uncomfortable as I push myself to do new things), and it’s going to take time and work, but I’m trying because at the end of the day if I tried, at least I did something different.
*In the past, I’ve used she/her or they/them pronouns for Jessie (or tried just avoiding using pronouns altogether), however recently I learned that Jessie’s correct pronouns are he/him, so that’s what I’m going to start using!
Well, everyone, here I am starting my senior year of college. By December I’ll be done with this college town and undergrad, and ready to start a new adventure… But, like a decent portion of college seniors I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING.
Never before have I had less of a clue about my future plans. In high school, I didn’t exactly plan for college extensively (actually, I just took one lousy tour and applied to the place I’m at now), but I did have an idea of what I wanted. I had this vision of my future college self in my head, and I knew that’s what I wanted to be. As for post-undergrad, my vision is…nothing. I’ve got a giant stack of nothing ready to be served up as soon as I graduate, and while I know I’ve got a year left to figure something out I’m not optimistic. I keep searching and searching for what I want, and I either find nothing or find it in the wrong places.
It’s only the first week of school and I’m stressed. My latest dilemma is that the deadline to renew my lease is coming up, and I’m not sure I want to stay at my current place. It would be incredibly easy if I stayed, but I feel like I’d be less stressed if I went (at least once I found somewhere else to live). I don’t want to hurt my roommates’ feelings by leaving, though, and I wonder if it’s too short of notice to say something. But I bet they’d be better off without me, anyway. The thing is, I’m ready to live on my own. I know that’s a scary option, given my past with depression, but I know I’ll never feel comfortable living with anyone other than a romantic partner. I close myself off and I perpetually feel like a visitor; it’s time I make my own space where I can feel at ease. But it’s hard to make a decision that isn’t people-pleasing.
Speaking of, things with my ex-partner (who I’m just simply going to refer to as Jessie from now on) are interesting. She told me she wants to marry me someday, can you believe it? Actually, what she said was: “I’m going to marry you someday, ____. And goddamn it, you’re going to say yes.” What does a person say to that, especially when their whole life is a giant question mark? It made me very nervous and guilty, for reasons only some of which I understand. I don’t always know what to say to her, you know? The more time passes with her living in Central America, the more different our lives are becoming. She seems to be growing so determined and decisive about her life, while I only seem to be growing less.
I just want to find a dream to go for again. I used to have my whole post-undergrad plans figured out, and I wanted them so badly. I had a whole life I wanted to live, I dreamed of living…I know now that it wasn’t the right life for me. But what is? All I know are the things I don’t want, and the things I should want, but that isn’t the same as having a dream: knowing what you want and going after it with everything that you’ve got.
Hell, I don’t even know what plans to keep for this weekend…What is wrong with me?
I didn’t plan it like this. I have no plan. Maybe that’s a problem, maybe it’s not.
Last night I suddenly found myself asking my partner for a break. It was incredibly hard, because a) I still love her very much b) I knew she would not be happy about taking a break c) I absolutely hate disappointing her, and generally anything that makes her unhappy. But it was the right thing to do, and I have to keep telling myself that despite all of the guilt I feel.
It’s not like I’m unhappy being with her. On the contrary, she makes me so happy and content with life. But there are things I need to learn about myself, and I need to learn them alone. Like, for instance, how to have a life a part from my relationships. I disappear in the people I love, and I stop doing what I need and do what they need instead. And that’s not the worst quality to have, I know, but it’s not fair and it’s not what I want. I want to be able to love someone and be self-reliant at the same time. I want relationships that are healthy, and not functioning as my lifeboat.
She’s an amazing person. She makes me laugh, holds me when I cry, surprises me all the time, and inspires me to pursue my dreams. But the thing is, I don’t know what my dreams are anymore. And while I was happy to be with her, even long distance, I found myself trying to live through her. I would wait for our Skype conversations each night, and her texts each morning. Everything else was just passing time. So I found myself questioning if that was the kind of life I wanted to live for the next two months, until I see her again.
It boils down to this: I’m not ready for the kind of serious relationship where you start thinking in terms of years from now. I’m only 21, and I have so much left to figure out about what I want in life. I don’t want to decide who I’m going to marry because I haven’t even decided when, where, and how I’m going to grad school. I haven’t decided what kind of career I want to have. I haven’t decided where I want to live, where I want to travel, or even where I’m going to live this fall when my lease is up on my current apartment. I’m just not ready, and I’d rather be honest about that than try to make promises I can’t keep.
It hit both of us last night when my partner (ex-partner?….sigh) said, “I know that you’re the best thing for me.” And I said….nothing. At least not at first. “You seem so certain about that, and the thing is, that’s what I want.” I wiped off my tears, “I want to be that certain about something, whether it’s a person or a place or anything. But…I’m just not.”
It was the kind of brutal honesty that leaves you with nothing to say. I looked at her and could practically hear both our hearts breaking, because that’s not what she wanted to hear and not what I wanted to say. But it was the truth, and while I hope one day I can say all of the things that make her happy, I’m just not there yet. And I’ll be damned if I hurt her even more by leading her on and pretending to be ready for things I’m not, like Fred sort of did with me.
So that’s where I’m at. I think this is important because I don’t want to lose her, and I didn’t want to break up. But I did it, I made the hard decision, because I believe it was the right one for me. And I’m not ashamed of not being ready, and I’m not going to beat myself up and say I was the bad guy.
I’m just a young person, searching for a purpose, a dream, and a chance to become the person I’ve always wanted to be. I need time to grow up, and then someday, whenever that may be, I’m going to use that progress to build a life with someone I love. And I’ll not only be the person they deserve, but the person I deserve, too.
Why do I do this to myself, readers? Why, why, why…?!
As some of you may have gathered, I tend to have a more go-with-the-flow relationship with other people. When my friends and I go out, they are the ones that decide where we’re going and what we’re doing. When my mom wants me to come home and spend time with my family, I go and spend the better part of 24 hours trying to ignore my dad’s criticisms despite the fact that I’d rather be doing almost anything else. When I’m in relationships, I will myself to be assertive about what I want and need from the other person….but somehow, it’s always the other person holding the reins.
My present partner moved to Central America. My ex-boyfriend never graduated college and moved in with me. My only other serious relationship, which happened when I was 17, consisted of months spent waiting for the guy to acknowledge that we were even in a relationship. That’s the key word in this story, folks: waiting. I am always waiting—for Charles to love me and call me his girlfriend, for Fred to grow up and choose me over convenience, and for my current partner and I to find a place where we can both be happy and together. Waiting, waiting, waiting. And so far the record shows that in the end I never seem to get what I’m waiting for.
Of ‘course, this lack of assertiveness is nobody’s fault but my own. For some reason, I seem to think that loving a person means living my life by their speed. And while I realize that it takes two to tango, maybe it’s time that I actually take the lead instead of letting my partner drag me around the dance floor.
Here’s the deal: Today my partner and I were messaging. The conversation was innocent enough at first—we were talking about our plans for the day and flirting. But then, out of no where…
Hey. I don’t think I’m going to be here a year.
I’m sorry, WHAT??!?! You think I’d be dancing, you think I’d be jumping up and down singing, you think I’d at least send a 🙂 emoji….but no. I was just shocked. I didn’t say much of anything, and let her explain. So she tells me she’ll probably come back to the states in May, and then leave again in August to go traveling with her ex-roommate while I finish my degree. She doesn’t know where exactly she’ll go (probably Spain) and what exactly she’ll do (get a job eventually?) but suddenly that’s her new plan. And I found myself getting frustrated rather than happy.
We already did the painful goodbyes. From the first night we hung out, I knew she was going to leave eventually and travel to the country she’s at now. And now she’s there…after almost a year of “I can’t wait to go back” and “I just want to leave”, she finally left, took my heart with her, and turned everything upside down just to say that she’s coming back, and then leaving again, and then maybe coming back once I graduate so we could travel together if we’re even still an item at that point.
And that’s when I realized that I have a problem.
For about two years I was in a long distance relationship because my boyfriend wasn’t willing to make sacrifices (granted, he tried to remain faithful even though he didn’t succeed if you want to count that). Did I want to be in a long distance relationship? Hell no! But I stuck to it because I believed he would put in the same effort as I was to finish school so we could be together. Because I loved him and believed in him, and no one could tell me he wasn’t anything less than the best thing that had ever happened to me. Now I am in a long distance relationship once again, despite the fact that I hate LDR’s, because my partner has always been hell-bent on going back to Central America. I love my partner and want her to go after her dreams. Here I am, saving up the little money I make so I can visit her during spring break, just to find out she’ll be back in four months? After almost a year of preparing for the impending doom of her moving away for a whole year? It’s the same friggin’ situation; I’ve let my partner change up my future because it’s what she wants, and I’m left feeling out of the loop and powerless. Again. And it’s all my fault because I let my heart rule my decisions.
I wish I could talk to Fred about this. I know the stuff in the last couple of paragraphs probably sounds resentful, but believe it or not, I feel pretty detached from our past. I was stupid, he was stupid, and sometimes young people get together, fall in love, and are stupid together. I need his perspective on this whole thing, even if it is to tell me I’ve got it all wrong, because I don’t want to make the same mistakes with my partner as I did with him. I don’t want to always be playing catch-up with the person I’m with—I want to be involved and make decisions with them. And I know that my partner can move anywhere she likes and do whatever she wants with her life…but I wish I wasn’t left behind, trying to make our relationship work around her decisions. When will it ever be my turn to take risks in life, and let my partner wait for a change?
Maybe this is my wake-up call to start making plans of my own that don’t involve any relationship. Maybe I should just pack up and move to Australia by myself or go study abroad on my own and just let everyone else deal with it. I don’t want to be this person who wastes their whole life doing what is convenient for everyone else just so they’ll love me and stay with me.
Besides, giving people everything—my future, my body, my love, my time—doesn’t seem to be enough to make them stay anyway.
I began the new year watching The Aristocats with my partner all cuddled up in bed. Two and a half hours later, we were putting her suitcase into my car and left for the airport. Two hours from that, we entered the terminal together. And then fifteen or so minutes later I watched her enter gate 82 with tears streaming down my face. I left the terminal alone.
It happened so much faster than I thought it would. One second she was there and the next she was gone. Just like that, a giant hole of uncertainty appeared in my life. After months of disappearing into my classes and my partner, I finally came out the other side—uncertain and scared as ever.
My first thought was “Don’t go!”, of ‘course. But even in the midst of heartbreak I knew that sort of selfishness wasn’t what was right. My second thought was “I wish I could be getting on a plane right now.” I envied my partner’s freedom to start a new life when I was stuck in my old one. I wished I could be as brave as her so I might be able to one day leave behind my family, friends, and lover in order to achieve my dreams. But here I remain with my insecurities; there’s still work to be done.
What now? If only I knew. After bouts of sobbing, I decided to distract myself with sleep and binge-watching Girls. The productive moments of my day were talking on the phone with my friend Polly and skyping my partner after she settled in her new, temporary home. As for tomorrow and the next few months, who knows. I have ideas about painting, lifting weights, finishing the book I’m reading and trying to connect with friends. But ideas are flimsy and motivation can be hard to find—I pray I can be strong enough to fulfill my wishes to be self-relying, self-improving….that I can bat away ideas of self-destruction (a.k.a. bad distractions) and use my time wisely.
Something that’s been on my mind lately is my partner’s willingness to commit and talk about our future together. I see her hopefulness and it reminds me of the same kind of home that left me so broken-hearted this past year. I have a lot of fear about saying too many “One day…”‘s “When we [do this]…”‘s and “Someday”‘s. But I look at the way she treats me and it makes me want to shake out all of my fear, because who could ever love me or care for me better than her? However, I remain hesitant.
I’ve decided to quit worrying about planning my future extensively and what I’m “supposed” to be doing. This year I want to focus on the now, and the things that will make me happy now. So, what makes me happy now is planning to visit my partner in Central America during spring break. I don’t care that there’s a lot of time in between now and then, and that other people may try to steal both of our hearts in the mean time. I don’t want my heart stolen; I don’t want to waste time on “what if”‘s. I’m not going to let these insecurities stop me…just because I may not have a plan for my career or my love life or my friendships doesn’t mean I should stop living.
There are bound to be screw-ups in 2016. And while I’m scared of making the same mistakes I did in 2015, I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try to take a chance on dreams, love, and inspiration this year… If I don’t keep opening myself up to experiences, I’ll stay this way forever.