After a break-up, people change. Some girls chop off their hair. Some girls take up knitting or quit smoking. Some girls switch friend groups or colleges or become vegetarian. Or, like Elle Woods after Warner broke her heart, some girls change career paths.
After being dumped by my long-term boyfriend, I decided I needed change, but on a more drastic scale. So I packed up my belongings, kissed my family and friends goodbye, and boarded a plane to Ghana, West Africa. Taking after Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love, I knew the only way to heal from losing everything was to move to a place where I knew nothing.
And this is how I ended up hitch-hiking from a rural Ghanaian village at four in the morning after hours of dancing on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. How I ended up running from wild baboons and feeding monkeys bananas and paragliding over the West African mountains. Ghana, it seemed, taught me how to live again. And when the time came, I returned home a bit tanner, a bit more carefree, and a lot less heartbroken than when I left. Or so everybody thought.
But here’s the thing they don’t tell you about change: it doesn’t replace grief.
Cutting your hair won’t erase the memories of him running his fingers through it. Knitting won’t help you forget that your hands used to be interlaced with his, nor will not smoking help you forget where your lips once where. New friend groups won’t delete the memories of laughing with his friends, nor will new dreams completely cover your old ones with him.
I spent a lot of my time in Ghana trying to mend my broken heart. I sewed the cracks together with colorful Kente cloth. I patched the broken parts with memories of sunny beach days and strolls through bustling markets. But when I returned home in June, the patches of my heart burst open. The seams ruptured and the heart I so carefully mended tore all over again.
Back to square one, I repacked my bags. Again I kissed my loved ones goodbye and again I boarded a plane, this time heading to a town in the Honduran mountains. I found happiness in the back of pick-up trucks, hair blowing in the fall breeze. I found happiness while cracking open a piñata and dancing to mariachi bands. I tried mending my heart this time with long hikes and good coffee and lots and lots of tortillas.
But my broken heart would not be mended. It was then I discovered that maybe it wasn’t supposed to be. Maybe my heart was meant to stay broken.
Maybe instead of trying to cover the cracks, I should let it break more. Maybe sitting comfortably with the cracks in my heart, treating them as old friends instead of horrible enemies, maybe this is true healing. Maybe the only change we need after the ending of a relationship is an internal change.
In her book, Liz Gilbert writes: “We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy’s fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure – your perfection – is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the busy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart.”
So here’s to the broken-hearted girls, the warriors, the brave ones willing to let their hearts be and stay broken. And here’s to our friends and family, who are willing to drop us off at airports and cook vegetarian food for us and pretend they like the scarves we knit them. And finally, here’s to the men we will meet who will see our broken hearts and love them, cracks and all.