What My Heartbreak Has Taught Me
It's hard for me to tell you that heartbreak has taught me anything, I'll admit. It's easy to brush off each one (yes -- there's been a few) as the other person's fault, dismiss them as evil people, and wash down my sorrows with a huge slice of cake. But the truth is the only people who have the power to break your heart are people you respect(ed), and unless they really are evil, there's probably a learning piece in there somewhere.
The first person who broke my heart was someone I got attached to too quickly. Besides someone I hung out with in eighth grade, he was my first real relationship, and he looked like Jon Bon Jovi in certain lights so I guess that was cool? We drank a lot of alcohol together, listened to obscure bands, and ate at Chinese buffets almost weekly. I know this doesn't sound like much, but I was fifteen or so, so it was really great. Perfect, actually.
And then he cheated. After three years. I was almost done with high school and he broke my heart.
I didn't have much of a life plan besides him. We had talked about marriage, moving in, and staying together forever. But he cheated. I was in the next room when he kissed another girl. My dreams were crushed. They stayed crushed for awhile. It wasn't for a good six months or so that I stopped having to talk myself out of taking him back.
When I finally reached that point, I realized a few things. First, I had an identity of my own. While his obscure bands and week-long partying was interesting to say the least, it wasn't necessarily me. After spending most of your teenage years with one person, your identities start to merge, which isn't always a good thing. I loved finding out who I was. I started listening to hip-hop. He hated hip-hop. I took pictures. I don't really know how he felt about pictures. We never talked about it. I invested my time in my blog. And that was really, really great.
The second thing I learned was that I was extremely capable of doing all kinds of things for myself. He was my first boyfriend, and since I admittedly have some daddy issues, my preconceived Hollywood version of a relationship was kind of screwed up. He bought everything. He drove me everywhere. He told me what to do. He wasn't abusive, but he did. I guess this is around the time I read Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters and not only started adopting the term, but wearing it as a badge. I get what I want. I do what I want.
And then I met Sam. I'm using his real name because this was my most public relationship and everyone knows about him, anyway. I'll also probably never talk to him again in my life. If for some reason he's creeping on my blog and wants to be anonymous... he can let me know. Anyway.
We met while working on the Obama campaign in 2008. The way we met was fate, I swear. He called me to volunteer. I almost didn't go because I had to work. Work let me off early without me even asking. I went to volunteer. I made phone calls for him for hours. Yada yada yada. I never believed in love at first sight until I met him, but I really do think it happened that day.
Fast forward a few months. We both worked tirelessly on that campaign. We elected a President. One we were really proud of. He had to move back home. I thought it was over. But it wasn't. We did the whole long distance thing for the majority of that year before we decided to move to Washington, D.C. together. An epic adventure. A fun summer. The beginning of our lives together.
The summer was great. Probably the best of my life. But I complained the whole time. I drank to excess every night. I hated the heat. I hated being sober. I hated my job. I hated that he had a good one. I was young, I was selfish, I was lonely, and I was an alcoholic. I've never really typed that or said it out loud, and I guess I was never officially diagnosed or anything but as the daughter of a lifelong alcoholic who's driven himself from the Air Force to homelessness...
I think it's safe to say that's what I was.
Not only was I drunk loose cannon, I was also dependent in all aspects of the word. Despite my newfound feminism, he spoiled the mess out of me. Trips to Montreal. Dinner all the time. Certificates to the spa. An apartment that I never shelled out a dime for. I don't think that there's necessarily anything wrong with that, because the facts were facts. He made more money than me and I was barely into my college years. I worked at a store. I came from a poor single mom in Michigan. But I guess I'd caution everyone reading this that money is often used as power in relationships, and becoming dependent on someone financially basically equates to giving up personal power. So just think about that.
Anyway, I'll admit that despite his erm... wandering eye (and GChat account), my drinking and my temper were huge factors in our demise. At the same time, so was the fact that we were just in different places in life. He was done with college, pursuing his dream career, and living in a brand new city while his girlfriend was about to drive back to Michigan to finish her studies at a community college. Don't get me wrong. Plenty of relationships exist with one or two of these factors in place, but we were setting ourselves up for failure.
So what did this heartbreak tell me? Because this one hurt more than anything in the world.
Well, I quit drinking pretty soon after I got dumped. That was great. I've drank a (gluten-free) beer here or there since, but it's been a good five years since I've been properly drunk so I guess that's one good thing that came out of it. And then I learned to start appreciating things... life, people, experiences, all of it. Despite all the crap we went through and the fact that he still won't return my calls (seriously), I truly think he was an angel in disguise. He showed me a lot of really awesome things and thought I was really, really smart. He read my blog daily. No other guy has done that to date. He did nice things for me all the time. And I rarely said thank you... it was just something I expected of him. Listen, he wasn't perfect but he worked hard to make me happy (at least in the beginning.) I really should have just said thanks now and again.
Most importantly, after breaking up with Sam, I began to hustle my ass off. It was a combination of amazing experiences like traveling throughout New England, living in one of the coolest cities on earth, and working on a grassroots Presidential campaign that really made me want to do great things. I'm not really there yet, but I'm positive without all of these experiences, I would be sitting on the couch watching Family Guy right now. Really. Considering I've never had a true role model in terms of education or a career, I think my life could have turned out a lot differently if I hadn't been with him when I was. One thing I can't deny is his work ethic and drive, and the fact that he's always invested himself in meaningful work really meant - no... means something to me.
I hate to be cliche but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. This is especially true in relationships gone bad. I thought I was going to die when my relationship ended. I really, really did. But I didn't die. I actually ended up meeting a really good guy and doing really cool stuff. There's always a light at the end... you've just gotta find it.
I'd love to hear what you've learned from your break-up's. Comment below if you dare!
Photos were really bad ones that we took on top of my city tonight. Not great photography at all, but I thought they were interesting, dark, and fit with the theme of this post. Ha.