Every week I make Spotify playlists with titles that mimic my goals for inner peace for that week. This week’s is called “The Stronger the Better” and is full of cheerful yet powerful EDM mixes that accompany my strut down the city streets. Every week marks a different goal for myself. This week, my goal is to continue to encourage myself to become more independent.
For this semester, and frankly, the entire year, I’ve struggled to own myself and be totally independent in taking care of my personal happiness. It’s been a year of adjustments for me. That’s because for most of my life since I was in high school, I had been in long-term relationships. Being with somebody else has always been part of my stability and my comfort zone. My boyfriend was always my rock and my solace for the times I needed praise or comfort. But this year, I went through a very rough breakup with a boy who hurt me in a deep way, crushing the self-confidence I was so used to having and taking for granted. I had to redefine the girl I thought I was: the one with the boyfriend, and it was not easy.
For a while, I ruminated. I spent my days angry, sad, and empty. I couldn’t stop thinking about the months of pain I went through and how hard I pretended that I was okay with the situation. I figured that the only way all of my problems would be fixed was if, the girl so used to having a boyfriend, just got another one. I expected that it would just happen and it was only a matter of time until the next one. So I waited. And waited. I went through a string of crushes, of which I like to call “quick swoons”, because they never lasted more than two weeks at a time. I enjoyed the crushes for a while, but it soon became exhausting because the mind that used to be preoccupied with relationship issues was now filled with thoughts of new boys and hopes that always came to a halt for one reason or another.
I felt stuck. I was stuck with the search for a new boy who was necessary for the stability I was used to. I was stuck because the old boy hadn’t left my life, and continued to hurt me almost every week. Early on after we broke up, I decided I would try to make things normal between us and stay friends. But it became harder and harder and I started to feel more and more suffocated.
In search for myself, I started to lose myself. I was hanging on to the past, and it was hurting me from growing. One day, after a good long cry, I came to a realization: It was me. I was the problem. Was a new boy really that necessary for my own stability? Couldn’t I learn to have this stability on my own? I had boxed myself in by always making me the “dependent” one who desperately needed her support group to go through life pleasantly. But that didn’t have to be me, just because that’s what it was. Yes, it’s important to learn from your past, but it is even more important to know when the past is just the past. I decided at that moment, that I was going to stop labeling myself. I wasn’t going to get carried away with these crushes and I was going to focus on myself for once. What made me happy? Not that girl, or this boy, but me. How would I keep myself happy all on my own?
That moment began my new journey of self-exploration. Instead of committing to the pursuit of a new mate, I committed to my own constant happiness. I exercised. Wrote poetry. Drank less. Made playlists. I focused on my anxieties and battled each emotion individually, introspecting and asking myself the right questions. I managed my emotions better by allowing them to sink in, when they came. If I was sad, I let myself be sad. If I was mad, I let myself be mad. I started to accept and love myself again for me, and not for the person I was so desperately trying to be.
After a while, things became routine, and my mind started to clear up. I started to feel this incredible focus that was almost euphoric. I could more easily think about my future career, my friends, and my zen. I would walk back from class, earphones in, with this irrational smile on my face. I started to feel again the happy girl I used to be. But one part of the formula was missing: the boy. Except the formula was different now. And that difference was empowering. Because now, the only person I needed to be happy, was myself, and that had become somebody I could actually rely on.
It’s crazy looking back now. College is always portrayed as a utopian haven of joy, drinking, relationships, and independence. It’s supposed to be the best four years of your life! Right? Of course, these things are true. But with these great joys, there are struggles too. You create a vision for who you want to be and start to make yourself into that person. While creating that vision, there are stumbling blocks.
However, the defining process does not follow a straight line. There are mistakes, revisions, and gray spots. Humans are fluid creatures who change and learn as they grow in life experiences. One thing to remember is that struggles are all temporary. Something wise one of my friends told me is that “for every extreme low you experience, there is always an extreme high to follow.” This statement is true for me because often the difficult things in life create the biggest lessons afterwards. I believe there is always something new to learn and gain in becoming yourself. Hard times are hard because they are adjustments that feel like hurdles, but they are also huge enablers for a stronger backbone.
Life is uncertain. You never know what life is going to throw you. Part of growing up is learning how to handle anything life throws.