Six weeks ago, I endured a seismic shift in my life.
Six weeks ago, my long-distance partner of over 4 years told me that he had developed feelings for another woman, and that he was leaving me, in part so he could be with her. I had just arrived on a plane that morning, ready for a week of laziness and quintessential New England autumn activities, and instead I found myself in his new apartment (his job meant regular relocations), staring out the window at a city I’d never seen before that day while my world crashed around me. Everything I’d built up in my head, everything about what our lives were going to be like once that grand mythical day arrived and we’d finally live in the same place, crumbled.
But this isn’t about that. It’s not even about him, and it’s definitely not about her. This is about me, and what came after.
I didn’t handle the immediate aftermath the way I thought I would. I’d never been cheated on before – at least, not that I’m aware of – so I expected raised voices and a lot more tears would accompany such a betrayal. But then, perhaps he’d just broken my heart so many times by that point that I was resigned to my fate. I put myself through one emotional gauntlet after another trying to make things work with him, trying to recapture the magic we’d first created. I felt – I still feel – like I failed, and I don’t handle failure well. But at least this failure can’t be attributed to my lack of effort.
I spent the next week of my vacation crashing on couches, thanks to the incredible generosity of friends in the area (Sarah and K, I’ll never be able to repay you). I drank wine, ate way too much food, had a lot of girl talk, and tried not to have a complete meltdown about what to do next. My vacation-turned-breakup retreat had to end sometime, and what would my life look like when I arrived home? I was less than 3 months into my journey of seeking therapy for my depression, and I was terrified that this would derail all my progress. I was already feeling lost, adrift, unsure of what I wanted to do or in which direction I wanted to go; I was only beginning to manage treading water, and surely a loss of this magnitude would drag me under completely.
I spent years living my life somewhat passively. I was partly here, in the city I live, with the few friends I’d made and the job I never imagined myself having, and partly there, wherever “there” happened to be at the time, with him. Now, without him, I’m free to live my life wholeheartedly in this place. It’s terrifying, because so much is unknown and uncertainty sends me into anxiety spirals, but it’s also exciting, in its way. And I have finally made my peace with the fact that, you know what? I live here, and it isn’t a bad place to live. This city is my home, and I should start acting like it.
You can’t make homes out of human beings, as Warsan Shire says.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have my bad days, that I don’t still miss him sometimes, that I don’t feel the urge to lie in bed and cry about all I’ve lost in these six weeks – because I do. Apartment hunting is daunting, and the prospect of dating is intimidating. I’m still lonely, scared, and adrift a lot of the time.
But I didn’t let the current drag me down. Because after all he put me through, he doesn’t get to keep hurting me. He lost his privileges to take up space in my heart, in my mind, in my life. My life is no longer entwined with his; I get to make my life mine.
I managed to go on a date two weeks ago. I was anxious about it for an entire day leading up to it – not because the guy was giving me butterflies, but because it had been so long and I had no idea what I was doing.
How does dating even work again? How are there so many apps now, some I’ve never even heard of? How do I navigate trying to find a person when I thought I’d already found mine?
But I went, and it was fine. Good, even, in the way that spending a few hours just chatting with a new person over a few drinks can be good. There wasn’t much of a connection, at least not on my end, so we didn’t have a second date. But I proved to myself that I could do it, that I could put myself out there again, that I wasn’t irreparably broken. The guy didn’t know he was my first date since the breakup, but I will always be grateful to him for that, even though it’s unlikely we’ll ever speak again.
Six weeks later. There have been steps forward, but not as many as I’d like. I’ve been able to go on a date, but I had to turn down a rigger friend who wanted to do some rope practice, because I was still too raw to do even platonic kink. I’ve watched some Frasier, but not Bojack Horseman. I got through a CHVRCHES album just fine, but Kesha was difficult, and I haven’t been able to even get near a Prince song.
I know I will, one day.
Maybe in another six weeks.