April, 2011. I don’t remember the exact day, but the brutal pain I will always remember. The way my heart broke in a split second. The feeling of air escaping my lungs. The blur as I ran from the gym into the bathroom. I didn’t see a single face I passed as I ran, I just remember running.
He didn’t follow. He didn’t yell my name. He didn’t even stay.
It was the night of junior prom. We were back at school for after-prom. It was supposed to be the highlight of high school so far. I had been waiting three years to be able to see what it was all about. I had so many expectations. I was going to ride the mechanical bull, sumo wrestle, see a hypnotist. I was going to make so many magical memories with someone I loved. But I didn’t.
All of my plans flew out the window when he broke up with me as we waited to face off in the blow-up obstacle course.
“I can’t do this,” he said.
“The obstacle course? That’s fine, we can do something else,” I replied
“No, this. You and me. I can’t do this anymore.” Oof.
I can’t tell you what I was thinking while I was in the bathroom or even how long I stayed in there. I only remember coming out and Gwen, someone I grew up with, practically a big sister, was in there and grabbed ahold of me. She held me as I cried and tried to blink away reality.
She walked with me and found my mom who was working a different section of after-prom, and we walked to a secluded bathroom. We sat on the ground outside the entrance as tears streamed down my face. They tried to get me to leave multiple times, but my limbs felt like they were weighed down by a ton of bricks. I remember saying, “I just want to see the hypnotist.” Talk about priorities.
He was a selfish person—something that is clear as day to me now, but back then I was blind in love.
He didn’t stay to make sure I had a way to get home. He ruined a night that he knew I was looking forward to for years. He only cared about himself.
And yet, I took him back the very next day. Tsk tsk, Lauren.
It wasn’t enough that he told me my friends went to check on him first as a smirk smeared across his face. It wasn’t enough that I knew he had cheated on me. There was something broken in me far before I was aware of it.
That relationship shattered my heart into millions of pieces. Some pieces never quite made it back. The scars on my heart show I’ve gone through something, something that changed me as a person forever, but a change for the better.
We’ve all been there—heartbroken, questioning, unable to eat, where nothing anyone does will make it better. And if you haven’t, you will. But you’ll also get through it—you’ll be stronger for it.
I wish I could go back and give that girl a hug. Tell her everything was going to be okay. That she didn’t even know what love really was. At least a respectful love, a love she deserved.
Looking back, it shows me how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown.
It’s also taught me to extend grace to myself. I used to look back and put blame on myself.
How could you be so stupid? How could you have not seen the signs? How did you forgive him?
The answer is simple: He was a master manipulator. If I were to bet, he still is. A tiger doesn’t change his stripes.
I know my person is out there and they’re looking for me too. Maybe we’ve already met. Maybe we haven’t. But I know he’s going to treat me with dignity and respect.
So whether you’re going through a breakup or are losing hope, everything is going to work out. You’re learning more about yourself every day, things that are going to catapult future relationships so much further than any in your past.
If you can learn anything from this, extend grace to yourself. When you’re hurting, when you trusted someone you shouldn’t have, when you think you’ve made a mistake, when you don’t know what comes next.
Give yourself the grace you so willingly give to everyone else.