I’ve spent my entire young adult life, up until now, in a relationship. I identified myself as “the girl who is always in relationships.” At the time, I didn’t really think much of it. I was happy, or at least thought I was in the moment. So I just let it be and didn’t really focus on anything else except for making the other person in my life happy.
I graduated undergrad with the majority of my memories from a relationship. This is not entirely bad, because a lot of those memories were wonderful and if they weren’t, they were lessons. I loved the guys I was with (in college, I was with one guy for the majority and another for a year and a half post grad), and like the famous saying reminds us, people are in our life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Though I felt loved in a surface level kind of way, in hindsight I truly didn’t feel love deep inside. This is the type of love that only comes from within yourself. I had yet to find that.
I’ve looked to men for validation for as long as I can remember. In high school, I had my slew of immature relationships which could really be translated into just attention-seeking partnerships or comfort in a time of confusion. You know what I’m talking about… those high school moments of trying to fit in and feel accepted. Well, when I felt like I didn’t fit in or feel accepted, I found that acceptance in boys who showed me love. So, this pattern continued through my adult life. When you start in this pattern, it really is a never-ending cycle that will continue until you have an experience which liberates you from it.
I am fresh out of my last relationship writing this, about three weeks, and though it was probably the best relationship I’ve had, the void was still there.
The feeling of wholeness was not there, even though in my mind having a significant other truly made me feel whole.
Society sort of tells us that, right? It’s inexplicably looked down upon to be single when you’re in your twenties and thirties. I think that’s what really caused this internal fear that I just couldn’t, and sometimes still can’t, shake. This expectation makes us feel like we should hold on to the person that makes us feel good at the moment, the person that we can showcase to our social media followers in an attempt to prove that we’ve somehow achieved this pinnacle of success. That we’ve “found our person,” that you-complete-me kind of person. I am not writing this to make you cynical of love or to make you think I am now this “miss independent” don’t-need-no-man kind of girl, because I am totally the opposite (see above if you forgot my story…) but I am writing this to explain that throughout my time enveloped in love, submerged in relationships that took so much of my time and energy, I subsequently lost the direction where I felt my life was going. I put my own desires and passions to the back burner because I was so “obsessed” with creating this perfect life with the person I was with. Right now, I have come to a place where I am re-evaluating what I am passionate about, where I see myself working, what degree I should maybe pursue… and though I have days (many of them) where I feel lost and frustrated because I feel like I should be at point J when I am back at point A, I have to constantly remind myself that this is a journey. There’s always going to be another “point” in life where we wish we were.
In short, if you’ve had a similar experience in relationships or finding love like I have, my advice is as follows:
1. DO NOT live in guilt, remorse, or regret.
If you ruminate so much or wish you did things differently, that will consume you. It’s okay if you’ve had this experience, because now moving forward you are prepared to change your behavior and, most importantly, work on YOU for once before entering another relationship. If you focus on the “what-if’s” more than the “who do I want to be’s,” you won’t move forward.
2. Forgive yourself and your ex(s).
It is not a sustainable or fulfilling way to live if you spend each waking moment with a little black cloud of resentment living over you for yourself or anyone else. Forgiveness is an ongoing process but work on it each day. And most importantly, really work on giving yourself grace in this period of transition. Be kind to yourself.
3. Do not compare yourself to anyone else.
This is a huge one for me. Social media does not help this, either. If you have to delete apps for a while, so be it. Do what you need to do to get out of the cycle of comparison and just do you. No one’s life course is the same, and most successful people failed multiple times before achieving anything. Be present in whatever thing it is you are doing today, but also keep your “forward thinking” attitude to get you where you want to be – not where someone else thinks you should be.
4. Get out of your comfort zone.
When my brother left for college, I wrote this quote in a card “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” I’m not quite sure who wrote it, but I laugh because I gave him that advice and seem to not quite live it out myself. But the encouragement for you and I is to simply live this out! It doesn’t mean you have to go move somewhere on a whim, but challenge yourself with things that you’ve always wanted to do, or things that you used to do that maybe you’ve lost your knack for. I recently just started doing watercolor painting because I used to love art. Though I felt strange starting out, my first piece ended up looking great and I am glad I challenged myself and invested the $20 in the starter kit.
5. Take your time.
Life and your purpose aren’t figured out in one day or one week or even one year. The journey of life is where you continually find your purpose and discover new things that excite you. If you’re fresh out of the relationship life and are feeling lost, I think the most important piece of advice that I can give is just slow down. Happiness is a choice, not a destination.