After you, everything seems a little darker. I can’t lie the way you did so well, so if I’m being honest it still hurts. No, it doesn’t cause winter storms in my brain and tsunamis in my lungs the way they did when you said it the first time. But the pain lingers like the sting after a paper cut. It’s painful when I least expect it.
After you, I’m a little more hesitant. I see smiles and wonder what they hide behind the pearly white facade. Because you smiled in the same way a five-year boy does after the first lick of his vanilla ice cream cradled by a crunchy cone — so innocent and genuine. And when you told me everything you did with her, I wondered how much else humans were capable of hiding behind beautiful things.
After you, I see more flaws. In myself. In my loved ones. In my future. I overthink the way I talk, the way I walk, the way I sing to my favorite Disney songs. When people tell me they care about me, I think about you, and the way you begged me to be friends, saying you cared so much. Then, how could you be with her when you knew I was alone at home? So when people talk about love, I see torn up hand-written notes, deleted messages, and pints of ice cream in my trash can.
After you, I’m trying. I am writing, word by word, a storybook of my self-worth to read at midnight when the city is so quiet, I almost imagine it’s the countryside of my hometown, and my fragile mind drifts to you sometimes. But you never defined who I was, and you can never control me. And my emotions — they still run, fall, and crawl back towards you — but I am more than my emotions. Unlike you, I am strong enough to act with intention, not on inhibitions and false justifications.
After you, there’s healing to be done. I don’t believe in “Cinderella” or “Beauty in the Beast.” No, I am not the leading actress in a romantic comedy about a girl who moves to New York City to achieve her dreams but meets the love of her life instead. No, I am independent and capable of focusing on my career, my dreams, and my friendships. I am capable of creating a life as meaningful as it can be.
After you, I’m learning again. I thought I knew what trust was. I thought that I was a brick wall, unbreakable, stone cold, and unfazed. So when those two words, “I’m sorry,” made my hands shake and knees tumble to the old carpet floor, I became petrified of what it meant to trust. And as every day goes by, I see there’s more to trust than paranoia and name-calling. So when I meet new people, I try to see beyond my instincts to run away — instead, I stay, and act brave until it feels like the back of my right hand.
After you, I’m finding myself again. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t see your “Good morning” texts. But I don’t reach for them anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still wake up and stretch my neck, then sit on the edge of my bed and rub my eyes before I reach for my phone and plan my day. I am still the person I was before I met you, and even stronger after letting you go.
After you, I’ve learned that letting go can be the hardest thing to do. Letting go means changing something so familiar and comforting. But comfort can be confining, and comfort can blindside even the most cognizant of us all. Love exists in more than one person, and no love is the same as the other. Love changes. And I’m learning it might just be better that way.
After you, I am better than I was before. I am more open, more honest, more emphatic.
So, thank you.