1. I started out small. I stopped talking about you so much. On purpose, of course — it was a conscious effort to keep your name off my tongue, where it was used to living so effortlessly. I thought that maybe if I didn’t hear it aloud, I wouldn’t think of you. Of course, I always thought of you, but I think it helped to talk about you like you were a stranger — someone I had met once in passing and didn’t plan to meet again. Eventually, I stopped talking about you at all.
2. I probably drank a little too much. It was easier to deal with reality when I couldn’t think straight at all.
3. Then I stopped drinking altogether. Maybe it’s because I realized that no matter how hazy my thoughts were, they were always about you.
4. I went on that trip we always planned on going on together, except this time I packed my bags and boarded the plane by myself. It’s weird to think that once upon a time, we wanted to do all those things together that I had to do alone. Even stranger that, instead of thinking about you, my thoughts were lost in the world around me, and instead of feeling lonely, I just felt alive.
5. I started listening to your favorite songs again. Once upon a time I’d deleted them from my phone and turned to a new station every time they came on the radio because they reminded me of everything you made me feel — and trust me, you made me feel a lot of things. I still feel the shadows of the emotions when those songs come on, like every note is tinged with sadness and heartbreak and just a little bit of sweetness, but if I close my eyes for just long enough the moment passes. It makes me think that someday I’ll be able to listen to all our songs without thinking of you at all.
6. I hung out with new people. Strangers who didn’t know who you were, who didn’t even know your name. People who didn’t associate me with you, who didn’t always ask how you were doing or if we had talked or wonder what happened between us that I’m so hesitant to talk about. People who looked at me and just saw me and nothing else attached.
7. I brought those new people to the places that used to be just ours, the secret corners of the city we used to hole up in to hide from the world. I wanted to find a way to associate them with new places, new ideas, new feelings, so I filled them up with so many memories there was no room left for you at all.
8. I started talking to new guys. I let myself imagine futures with them, even if the “future” was just a week away. Even if it was just a few seconds. I let myself feel things I hadn’t let myself feel since you. I let myself hope.
9. I started focusing on myself. Not just on the way that I felt but on my goals, my dreams, my aspirations. I took some time away from the rest of the world and let myself regroup so I could remember all those things that were once so important to me — all those things I let slip away when I decided you were more important than them all.
10. I wrote about you. I wrote about you a lot. I could have filled a novel with all the things I left unsaid that haunted me once you left. And so I filled notebooks and wrote poems and scribbled words in margins that felt like a cry for help. I wrote and wrote and wrote until my hands cramped and my fingers became calloused and even then I just kept jotting down notes about you. And then, when I realized I had nothing left to say, I felt free.