I’ve gotten my heart broken a couple of times, but something is different about getting your heart broken at 22. It felt like my whole world was falling apart and instead of letting go, I held on tighter with hopes that I could change his mind. When I finally realized I couldn’t fix my relationship, I was left to work on the only thing left- myself.
I started to look at my life differently. Was this what I had always envisioned for myself? Did I want to stay in my hometown forever or was there more out there for me? Was my ex-boyfriend difficult to love or was I difficult to love? I was bombarded by a bunch of questions, but one thing I was sure about was that I wasn’t happy where I was; I wanted more for myself. Instead of putting my energy into a failing relationship, I started looking at other things to make me happy.
I decided to move from Newark, New Jersey to Miami, Florida in order to get my graduate degree in Counseling Psychology. I didn’t know anyone there, but I figured if I was going to go back to school, I would at least get to study with a margarita in hand, sun beaming on my face. I was 23 when I packed up my things and drove the 20 hours to Miami, petrified and excited all at once.
It was really hard transitioning from having everyone around to having absolutely no one. I had to learn the basics of ‘adulting’- from cooking to washing clothes to doing my own groceries, etc. When school finally started, I was excited to make friends and further my education- so excited I never missed a day of class.
I got into the groove of things as I made friends at school and with my roommate. I learned to enjoy my solitude and the quietness of my apartment. At first the silence was deafening (especially after spending 23 years sharing bunkbeds with my younger brother), but after a while, I began to think clearer, feel more relaxed, and I even started reading and writing more. I would go out to lunch and dinner alone. I would take drives to Naples, Wynwood, Coral Gables, etc. and explore bookstores, art, and beaches. I had all this time to do whatever the hell I wanted whenever I wanted, and it was so liberating. I was slowly finding peace.
I refrained from dating at first. It was always easier for me to get over someone by entertaining myself with new guys, but I wanted this time to be different. I didn’t just want to put a Band-Aid over the wound- I wanted it to heal completely. So I stayed clear of guys for a year until I was ready to put myself out there. Once I was ready, I went on a few dates, met some great guys, and had some fun, but I knew none of these men would be the one for me. If they didn’t compliment my life, I spent no extra energy trying to make it work. In comparison to when I dated my ex, I actually knew what I needed from a man and a relationship. I wasn’t willing to compromise on those needs because I knew how important they were for me. I really learned to love myself so much that I couldn’t allow myself to settle for less than what I deserved. And sure these guys were fun, but I didn’t see a future with them. So instead of wasting my time, I shifted the focus back on me.
I graduated from my master’s program in August of 2015. I had to choose whether to stay in Miami or move back home. Up until then I had been paying my rent with loan money, but now this would be all me. Staying meant finding a job to pay for my rent, utilities, gas, food, and so forth. Going home meant returning to the nest where I was comfortable and my parents paid for everything. My mind told me to go home, but my heart told me to stay. I wasn’t ready to go yet. I still had so much to learn about myself that I could only learn from being alone and being forced to deal with my issues. The thing about living on your own far away from family and friends is that the only distraction you really have is yourself. It’s totally up to you to make the decisions, to deal with the consequences, and to figure out what you want from life.
So I stayed.
I started working at a rehab, rented a studio, bought new furniture, and settled into my big girl life. I love it. I’m happy now. I’ve grown so much these past three years and built so much self-esteem that I feel like my path is clearer now. I know what I want and what I don’t want. I know what I have to do and what steps to take. I know how to handle situations without breaking down. I know what makes me feel alive and what to feed my soul. I know that every end is an opportunity for something better. And whether I stay in Miami forever or not, I will be forever grateful for my time here. My heart smiles now because of it.