Perhaps the strangest and one of the most painful aspects of any breakup is continuing to become the person you have always wanted to be amidst the absence of the person you wanted to show yourself to.
You’ve already revealed all of these pieces of yourself to another person, and you’ve been striving for however short or long for inner-growth. There’s self-satisfaction in knowing you are becoming a better person, the person you know you could be. There is an added bonus in knowing your partner is happy to see you are happier, that you are progressing as a person.
And then they’re gone, sometimes slowly and sometimes suddenly. However they leave, it’s almost always enough to throw a stick in the spoke in your wheels.
I’ll still become myself, who I have always wanted to be. I will still keep growing…and they will never see. The self-satisfaction will be just as sweet. It may be sweeter if you are vindictive, if the breakup was nasty, if they were just a terrible person who held you back…or you may be deprived of some of this joy because they were, in fact, a good partner, cheering you on. Essentially, you only have yourself to share yourself with now, and this can take some getting used to.
I used to look at him and ask, “What will I write about? What can I write about that’s relatable? How many people could possibly be interested in thirty essays on epilepsy and overnights in the ER?”
Without fail he would be encouraging. “I don’t know,” he would say. “Just write them and see. You know a lot of people have it or know somebody who has it. Just write it.”
“I don’t think it’s very good,” I would whine.
“It’s so good,” he would reassure.
And like a baby giraffe learning to walk I gained stability from his words. He’s never lied to me before. It must be good. And so I wrote, and I grew. I grew in many other ways he saw and didn’t see, and like all other people I was excited to share all of these pieces with him forever, until we died.
And then he left.
The first few days were a hazy shock. It was one of those breakups that came out of nowhere. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t feel it. There wasn’t a wrinkle in our relationship big enough for me to wonder. I had felt secure; we had planned a life together. I was left reeling. Apart from him, initially I struggled to remember who I was.
Days passed and I regained some control, as will you if you ever find yourself in my position. It will feel like a tornado is ripping up your insides, carving out everything you thought you understood about your day, your life, what you knew about yourself and the person closest to you. It will take your best friend.
After the storm had cleared I began to remember I was still myself. I was still the person I was before he left me.
I would still continue growing, changing, being better, meeting people who appreciated it and would not leave.
Why then, was there a pit in the center of my chest so deep and black a scientist may be able to study the event horizon within me?
Because he’d never see me change. Because he was supposed to. Because I wanted to share it with him. It was never for him, it was for me. But the person I was becoming with all of its goals, dreams, and hopeful attributes was supposed to be something I wanted to share with him. And I was still left wondering, did it not happen fast enough? Or the way he wanted? Were my goals not high enough?
In my weaker, albeit shittier moments, I wondered if he was maybe just a dick. Because what could be wrong with me? Clearly I’m awesome. And you will have this moment too. Maybe a million times before the pain subsides. The truth is a lot is wrong with me, and a lot is probably wrong with you too. Another hard truth is it’s not about that. They just leave because they want to, and that’s where you should shut the door on any analytics.
The only door you should leave open is the one that allows you to grow healthily, for yourself. It should be in a positive direction, and it should be for you. It should not be in a direction that, in the back of your mind allows you to think, “When he sees me in a few years he will be so sorry.”
Scrap that. Do away with it. Replace it with, “I don’t like this about myself. I was always so busy working on x,y, and, z in the relationship. Now I’m not. I’ll fix it.”
Meet people. Make new friends. Find someone. Show them all of these new things you have done to yourself, but remember, it’s about showing yourself first. It’s always about showing yourself first from now on.