Earlier this year, I sat in silence, processing an overwhelming, astounding feeling of gratitude. I had been thinking of relationships - people who have changed my life. People I had come to know well, people I had a few simple conversations with. People that I’ve exchanged smiles with, interlocked eyes with, to never see them again. These people will be forever threaded into my life, woven into a blanket of memories, lessons, and love. The people I had lost touch with, the people effervescently crossing paths with me, my family and my closest friends; they all mean so incredibly much to me. Why? Because every single person I’ve come in contact with has taught me something, even if it were only for a moment, if it was only meant to change my focus as they held open the door for me. No matter if the relationship was meant to teach me the beginnings of a friendship, to teach me how to compromise, or to love, or to let go. They’ve all forever changed my life, simultaneously building up my character.
First of all, I want to say thank you. Thank you for breaking off ties. Thank you for igniting one of the most self-induced, influential journeys I have ever taken. Thank you for igniting a quest for self-love and soul searching within me. I still remember the feeling; the question of whether or not I was ever good enough, the question of whether or not I would ever be good enough for someone again. I remember the confusion, the hole in my day and in my life that was ever so deep. A thread missing from my life, woven in for a while, but pulled right back out -- that’s what I thought, at least. What I didn’t realize was that you’d be forever woven into my story. That breakup would be forever one of the most beautiful, passionate parts of my journey.
Our relationship was my first “romantic” one. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered by fleetingly every time I saw my phone light up, when we first kissed, when I first heard the words “I love you” fall from your lips. Those words that I hadn’t understood, the words I heard from you, but never really said to myself. I replayed our days in my mind, finding that I needed you to lend me those words. I was longing for your validation, for your affection. I needed to be good enough, pretty enough, to be loved. I constantly questioned whether or not I was good enough. One memory in particular comes to me when I look back on it: you were coming over to my house, and just like usual; I was bubbly and giddy as the anticipation filled my being. I was getting ready, when my heart dropped: I was out of concealer (yes, I know, definitely not the end of the world -- but, I felt that it was). Looking back at it, I realize how different my mindset was. Revealing my bare skin to you then would’ve been like revealing my naked body, vulnerable and open. I was petrified that you might see my red, uneven skin; my skin I didn’t cherish, my skin that disgusted me. I could barely leave my room without throwing on some makeup, let alone have my boyfriend see me bare faced and alone. As my stepmom was out, she brought me some concealer when she came home, just in time for me to cover up my skin just as I was caking layers and layers of makeup over a deeper problem; how little I cherished and appreciated myself.
I held on to every compliment you gave me, I awaited your texts, I thought before I spoke, I loved, I held on, and most of all, I needed. I thought I needed your texts, your love, your validation. I loved you, but I loved the idea of you more than anything. The mere fact that someone would dedicate so much time to me, just a girl. A girl unaware and unaccepting of all her beauty and potential. A broken love, trusted and lost. I look back at all of the things I would now do differently; all the times I would stand up for myself, tell you the truth, just be vulnerable and open. I look back at all the times I would’ve just been myself instead of someone I thought I should be, just for you. I look at how I held myself back; but, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Our relationship may not have been the best, but it was a lesson. It taught me how to love and how to be loved - even if I didn’t realize it then, I do now. I realize how I didn’t have to agree with everything you said, I didn’t have to pretend to like soccer teams and fall in love with hockey teams just because you loved them. I didn’t have to retake snapchat selfies to get the perfect angle and lighting. I didn’t have to do anything for you. I was my own person back then, but not to the extent that I am now. I was my own person, shaped by what I thought you thought I should be. I was shaped and molded into a canyon, holes and caves drilled out by expectations and standards that I longed to live up to. It wasn’t your fault, and it wasn't mine, either. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whose it was. All that matters is that I have the strength and ability to realize the beauty in the blessing of our relationship, and the exact length of time it had endured.
I want to thank you for your love. Thank you for the lessons you taught me. Thank you for the time we shared. Thank you for making sure I consented to everything we did; yes, holding hands too. Thank you for continuing to do so, even though I didn’t understand why: I would talk to my friends about how you did that, believing that dating was consent enough (let me tell you, it is NOT). Thank you for your patience. Thank you for the heartache. But, most of all, thank you for the breakup. Thank you for the phone call on halloween night, while I ever so hesitantly held the phone up to my ear in a pizzeria. Thank you for the tears. Thank you for the sadness and the confusion that left me lonely, without that validation and appreciation that I cherished. Thank you for the week I spent in bed, listening to Bon Iver and questioning - questioning everything. I started to question why I felt I needed you so. I questioned why I was letting this sadness and anger perpetuate through my days. I questioned why I was expected to hold on to you, why the girl is supposed to be an emotional wreck, why I’m supposed to wallow away in my sadness and loss.
This was hardly a loss.
I was upset, I was lost, and I was confused: but this was just the start of another chapter: the chapter of self-love and self-worth. I started getting up each morning, telling myself it was going to be okay. I told myself I didn’t need you. I told myself there were others there for me. I told myself I had passions to put this hurt and confusion into. I sat on the bus going to school, empowering songs on blast. I would listen to “Survivor” and “Stronger” on repeat. It became a habit to replace those holes with new things, with other people, with love and inspiration instead of holding on to loss and sadness. Somewhere after I started this routine, I started really, truly loving myself. I started to appreciate me for me. I started to realize that I am so much more than what I see in the mirror; I started to realize that this breakup was one of the most influential things in my life thus far. I started to realize that everything truly does happen or a reason, for a lesson, even if it hurts like hell. I started to realize that no one else can ever define me, no matter how much I care about them. I started to realize that relationships aren't about finding your other half, but adding to your life with another whole.
The intense gratitude I feel for this start of an incredible journey is immense, unfathomable even. I am ever so appreciative of this relationship, and other friendships that I have lost, but will forever be threaded into my story. I now, after a year and a half or so of learning, contemplation, and growth, understand that there will always be pain, but in order to triumph, you must hit that low; it’s how you react and rise from it that matters.