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Lessons I've Learned From My Ex

A story about the aftermath of heartbreak- of mending the pieces and finding the sun within


It wasn’t your ordinary kind of pain.

The pain you run up to your mom screaming about when you fall and scrape your knee while playing outside in the tree you knew you shouldn’t have been in. The pain you know hurts a lot right now, but that you know will go away if you put ice on it for long enough. My pain was the kind of pain that numbs you as you listen to the person you think you love so much tell you every worst thing they probably could. It was the pain that stays in your core and aches without end.

This is where my journey of self-love begins- sitting on the floor of a parking lot in a town I did not know, receiving double-takes from strangers, and crying over a boy who most certainly did not care.

Before I say more, I should probably provide some context. The aftermath I just mentioned was when my ex officially ended things between us. To be fair, we had been in what I can only describe as this weird limbo for several years, but one day he finally decided to cut me off. He hit me with a “this is for your own good thing,” followed by the classic case of toxic masculinity ran rampant.

As I mustered the strength I most certainly did not have at the time, I went back to his place the next day and said my final goodbyes. I told him that he was not somebody I could have in my life anymore. I wanted to function and left without looking back. Going back to my reality was, for a lack of better terms, horrible. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, and all I could think about was the boy who had blamed me for his life falling apart. I was on complete survival mode for a really long time, as my only goal was just to make it through the day without anyone hopefully knowing what was wrong. I stuck to my routine of class, work, debate, and homework, as it was the only source of structure I could give myself at the time.

I felt hurt, a fool, but most of all I hated myself for caring so much about somebody who couldn’t care less about me. This is when I learned my first lesson- I had to continue to get up each and every day and do the bare minimum because I owed myself that much. This meant allowing myself to be my most authentic and raw form. I learned that pain cannot be ignored and that what you avoid will control you until you do. I had to come to terms with extremely painful thoughts. He was not coming back, in fact he was never there to begin with. He did not care about me.

We complicate situations because we deny ourselves of the simplicity of things. We refuse to accept things as they are and that’s what I did for a really long time. This is not lost when dealing with men- if he acts like he does not care, trust that. People are without a doubt complicated, and he was no exception to that, but I had to stop complicating the situation and accept that maybe it was the case that I meant nothing to him. I complicated who I believed my ex was for a really long time. I knew he came with a lot of baggage and I wanted to believe I could fix him or that because his life was complex, he cared about me in his own way when he didn’t really care at all. I misinterpreted messages, convinced myself that his words came from a place of care or hurt, or that his actions were hints of something more. Moving on from him only happened when I started holding him to the same standard I would hold a stranger to and that meant accepting I was just another girl in his world.

From this, I learned another lesson- to start seeing people for who they showed me they were, rather than who I believed they were deep down or wanted to convince myself they were. Confronting all of these things meant having to be authentic with myself and feeling things I had avoided my whole life. Ignoring pain is arguably one of the easiest ways to try to move on from a situation, but it is also the easiest way to fail and that was something I was not willing to do anymore. I had to confront my looming fear of letting go, of not being enough, of being unhappy with who I was at the time. So that’s what I did day in and out- I felt and confronted the world around me and inside my head. Whether that meant angrily ranting to my friends or crying while listening to my favorite assortment of early 2000’s sad songs on the treadmill on a Saturday night, I felt as unapologetically as I needed to. I would say that this was also the first time in my life I began to develop an understanding of who I was as a person and built a relationship with myself by confronting my deepest fears.

And from all of this, I bring you to my next lesson, which was that I had to accept my role in what happened. I allowed him to treat me like I meant nothing and I needed to understand why. I needed to understand why I let him diminish my worth, only want me when he had nobody else, and constantly remind me of my inferiority. Maybe this is a product of my inner demons, the parts of myself that I never mended back together. Despite this, I sympathized with him because that’s what I did. I tried to fix people because I was too scared to fix myself. I realized that much like most things in life, I was avoiding the truth. I did not love myself and that is why I would make constant excuses for him. I was afraid to be alone because I did not believe I deserved to have anyone in my life. I allowed a boy to be my first love, when it should have been me.

And no self-love is not just face masks and positive laptop stickers, though I am a fan of the latter, but self-love is much more than that. It is facing what scares you and moves you at your very core and deciding that you are stronger than it. It is knowing that you have so much to give to the world that you will not be with anybody who takes away from you. Self-love is also accepting your mistakes and being okay with them, because we are only as strong as the biggest things that drag us down and I could not let a sandals and socks wearing boy be that any longer.

So, I did just that. I decided that he did not deserve to continue having power over me and that my love for myself had to be greater than any resentment I felt for him. While it took me over a year to finally do it, I finally forgave him. This forgiveness didn’t come after the random 3:30 a.m. text he sent me on my birthday apologizing or the million times I tried to tell myself to be the “bigger person.” It came when I knew I did not hold any more anger towards him and when I had accepted the situation. His words and actions no longer have power over me.

This is another lesson- forgive, but truly. Forgiveness is not something that can be rushed or faked. It is a process that requires patience and introspection and I had to give myself room and time in order to do it properly. Closure is internal and beyond being a way to sever ties with somebody you know is toxic for you, it is a way for you to mend back your pieces. The greatest thing about going through a process that wears you down is that it gives you unlimited room to become the person you want to be from scratch. Deep down I knew that if I didn’t forgive him, I couldn’t be at peace with the situation. The hardest apology, however, was towards myself. The same way I had been so willing to forgive him for years of constantly hurting me, I decided to give myself some of that forgiveness because I deserved that. I had to stop being afraid of being vulnerable or in need of help because these are the things that have made me the person I am today. Society often teaches us that vulnerability and strength are antithetical, but I could not disagree more with that statement. He has and will never be my greatest weakness; rather, he is a testament to my strength in building myself back up.

This all brings me to my greatest lesson- you have to be your own sun. You are your biggest obstacle when it comes to your own happiness because it is something nobody else can do for you. I began to understand that we control our own fate. This does not mean that external things do not matter, but it does mean we deny ourselves of the control we have. Perhaps we run away from it because we fear the looming reality that we have a role in what happens to us and would prefer to pretend we don’t. I was not responsible for how he hurt me, but I was responsible for not thinking I deserved better than him. For staying when he was not doing anything to keep me there. I knew that the only way out was to reclaim the power I had given him for years and that was when everything changed in my life.

Last but not least comes the lesson I am working actively towards every day, which is learning to trust myself again and let down my walls. He hurt me in ways I could not understand for a really long time and while I have been able to grow out of most of them, I am still trying to navigate the world around me. There are days when I am more afraid than others and that’s okay, because healing is not linear. My biggest fear is being in the same position I found myself in a year ago, but I understand that I cannot be afraid of failure. Failure is what makes us grow and fundamentally makes us human. Hopefully that doesn’t mean ever crying in a parking lot ever again, but I can’t deny myself of living truly. And while it is the case that there are a million other guys just like him out there, I know there is one of me and that I am worthy of nothing less than someone who will love me as deeply as I have grown to love myself.

Ultimately, my story is not one of tragedy or pity. It is a story of self-growth and discovery, something I will work on for the rest of my life. It is a story that will continue to be written every day and will only develop with time. I am not bitter and I do not hate him. In fact, if I could speak with him I would say thank you.

Thank you for teaching me that love is more than just a feeling- it is a relentless pursuit of happiness that can only begin from the inside.

Thank you for teaching me that I am stronger than I think and that I am more complete than I had ever believed myself to be. The battle was never against you- it has always been me against myself and I will continue to prevail.

Above all, thank you for showing me that I am my own sun. This was perhaps the greatest gift you could have ever given me.

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