Thought Catalog
May 18, 2017

When You’re Starting Over, You Have To Fall In Love With The Stranger In The Mirror

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What is the issue?
Averie Woodard

Maybe he broke your heart, maybe you needed space, maybe you were suffering, maybe the timing wasn’t right. Maybe he left you. Maybe he just wasn’t the one. 

Whatever the case may be, here you are. Alone in the world again. Starting over. With more memories to forget, more wisdom to redeem and more knowledge of yourself. You probably didn’t think you’d be back here… in this place that feels all too familiar and completely foreign at the same time. You probably thought you’d finally found a way out. 

Yet, after the devastation, you felt a slight hint of relief. This might be the last time you’ll ever be single, this might be the only time you have to “figure yourself out,” “make decisions without thinking of anyone but you,” “do you” and all the other cliché things everyone ever tells you when you’re single. 

The truth is, it starts out like that, finally reading the books you want to read, finally going to the places you want to go. Spending your nights out meeting new people. Dancing like no one’s watching.

But it feels partially forced. 

Because you don’t want to be at those places alone. And you’re constantly secretly hoping that one of the new people you meet is your future husband. And you’re totally dancing like everyone in the room has their eyes on you. 

What’s worse, you miss the person you used to talk to, you feel a void when you have no one to text when something amazing happens, and everyone else’s life seems to be coming together at the same time yours is falling apart. 

You’re far from finding yourself. 

You start to turn to friends to fill the void. You make plans to pass the time. You read to get out of your own head. You long to simply hit the reset button and be done with it. But life isn’t that easy. 

So you make a bargain with yourself. You choose not to reach out to him for one more week. Just one more. And then you give yourself permission to do whatever feels right. 

In the meantime, you do something you wouldn’t normally do, maybe you’ve taken up a new workout class, discovered a cool hobby you can try (because your only hobby was Facebook) or decided you’re going to make a bucket list. Whatever it is, it only needs to fill the void of one week. 

Then the week is over. You miss him. You can’t remember why things ended – You tell yourself just one more week

This time, you have lunch alone. You read a book at home, rather than at the coffee shop, where you’d secretly hoped you and future hubby would meet.

One more week… 

Something funny happened and your first thought wasn’t to text him… This week turns to two, then three. 

You’re at the mall; you find a cute outfit. You take a picture to ask a friend’s opinion… you change your mind. You ask yourself if YOU like it. You’ve never asked yourself that without the intention of asking someone else’s validation. But this time you don’t. You validate yourself. Do you like it? 

They say this time is all about finding yourself, discovering your likes and dislikes, your wants and needs. They say it like you just look ahead and figure it out… but maybe this is a day-by-day thing. Maybe it’s just surviving for another week, until the weeks turn to months and the nights no longer haunt you.

Maybe starting over isn’t as clean as everyone makes it seem. Maybe truly starting over is full of regret, sadness, relief, freedom and fear all at once. Maybe our fear lies in meeting the stranger in the mirror that your former partner saved you from having to get to know. Maybe it’s having to love that reflection as much as we once loved someone else.

It doesn’t happen overnight, but one day you’ll realize, that reflection looking back at you is actually beautifully authentic. And maybe if you give her just one more week… the next time someone tells you just how incredible she is, it’ll be the first time you finally believe it. TC mark

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