Yes. It happened. I am ready to publicly announce for the first time in six years that–I am a single lady. He called me on the phone, did the little, “I think we should see other people, it’s not you, it’s me” blah blah blah. (I have some other opinions about the matter that are not appropriate to share via public blog, but this is about post-breakup Britany, so those are not the important details). The first thought that came to my head was, “Shit. How long is this going to take to get over?” I like to be successful and productive; I have a lot going on in my life and when something is blocking my emotional capacity to be so, I get kind of irritated. So, of course, the fact of having to ‘get over someone’ irritated me because I thought it would inhibit my busy lifestyle and prevent me from being myself. What I have discovered is this could not have been further from the truth.
1. The first thing that I vowed to do was to take care of myself, however that might look. If it meant I needed to light some spearmint candles, sit in my room with my playlist of trauig songs grab a whole roll of toilet paper, then that I what I was going to do. If it meant I was going to call every single person I could think of to tell my story to, then I certainly was going to do that too. If it meant I needed to sit with a carton of rocky road ice cream and watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s, I was going to do that as well. I was going to do whatever it would take to purge myself of the emotions and move on with my life. What actually ended up happening was I walked into my class the day after, looked at my students, and was completely overcome with gratefulness. Just looking at the innocence, the playfulness, the desire to please and learn and grow and mature cheered me up. Some of my kids also turned in personal narrative essays at the same time. After reading some of their experiences, I decided that life is so much greater than ‘a breakup’. People have tragic life experiences that would not even amount to what I was ‘going through’.
2. So, the next thing I did was I decided to start focusing on the positive things I have in my life. For one, I have amazing family, co-workers and friends. Throughout the first week, I was being showered with cards from afar, flowers, Starbursts and Starbucks, milkshakes, notes, check-ins. Honestly, if I were to die tomorrow, I would say I have already lived a pretty fulfilling life. I think one of the most difficult parts of losing someone is not having someone to check in with–someone to ensure you are still alive and ticking, to share your accomplishments with, or to bounce ideas off. But, what I have found is that I have many people in my life who can fit that same exact role.
Everyone started offering me their own personal breakup and marriage stories. The common thread was, “I thought I was going to marry so-and-so and now I look back on it and know exactly why it didn’t work out”. I realized that 4. I was not any different than anyone else; in fact, we all share the same exact experiences and 5. I needed to take some time to observe other people’s relationships. We are taught our entire lives that we ‘are special’ and ‘one in a million’ and ‘a needle in a haystack’, blah blah blah. Basically, we are taught that we are the most special person in the world and everything that happens to us is a uniquely individual experience. While I do agree we are all noteworthy in our own special ways (some of us more than others….), most of the experiences we go through are the same experiences that everyone else goes through. Everyone experiences a crappy room mate. Everyone has conflict with a co-worker. Everyone has liked someone that doesn’t like them back. Everyone has blown up two cars (ok, so that one might be unique to me, but you get my point). By hearing everyone else’s stories, I realized that breakups are just part of life and everyone goes through at least one, whether it be in a relationship, a divorce, a friendship, a familial circumstance. And, everyone moves on. No one died of heartbreak (except the couple on The Notebook, but that is obviously a scripted case). I began asking those I knew who were in respectable relationships (and those who had gotten out of rotten relationships) questions, such as “How did you know it was going to be forever?”, or for the other ones, “At what point did you know it was over?”. Since then, I have been observing relationships and watching how couples treat each other, what makes them ‘tick’, and deciding what traits and behaviors I like, and which ones I do not like. I think so many of us do not take the adequate time to sit back and observe from a clinical perspective. We do not allow ourselves to see the truth, the obstacles, and the determination to mend. I think we would be a much less divorced society if we allowed ourselves some time to just observe (shout out here to everyone who has answered my pesky questions–you are awesome!)
When I looked back at other people who went through/are going through rough breakups, I realized one common thread that prevented them from moving on. It was the attitude of, “I wasted time on you”. I decided to change my perspective and 6. Focus on the things that I learned from the relationship. It was never a waste of time, because I was able to grow as a person. I learned the importance of communication, I was able to feel some emotions that not many people are privy to, and I realized that, if I were to go back, I would not change one thing I did in the relationship, because each of those things made me who I am today.
7. I decided I was not going to dwell. It is what it was. I wasn’t going to change any decisions that were made so I was going to live my life accordingly. When I turn on ‘country shuffle’ on my iPod, there are so many songs about “we broke up five years ago and now you are with someone else and I am still not over it yet” (especially Rascal Flatts!). I did not want to be that pathetic. I found that my life did not change that much and in fact, almost got better. I made a list for myself of what I wanted to do: travel the world (or, just the places in the United States that I have friends in…), go to graduate school, take a vacation with my siblings, attend more social events, bond with my girl friends that I have neglected, read more books, write more on my blog, etc. I had no idea what I was missing out on and as I trudge forward, I am excited for all the opportunities that are awaiting me. I can’t wait.
I can’t say that I have definitely survived this breakup just yet, because, let’s face it, I am still 23 and so many things can still happen. But, the experiences I have been through thus far have been incredibly positive and inspirational. This breakup allowed me to re-discover myself. And, what I have learned in this ‘rediscovery’ is that I am exactly who I thought I was.