Uphill Starts
Emma Oulton

How Embarrassing

When you think about “starting over,” you think of Pinterest boards full of gold-foil quotes, travel pictures to inspire forward movement, a new wardrobe for a new life. You’re meant to put one foot in front of the other. To turn into a mirror for others around you, to embrace your past, and reflect it back out to everyone looking into you. And eventually become a window — -to see into both the past and the future.

But that’s not the feeling I get when I think of “starting over.” I don’t think of fresh air blowing in my hair, windows down, Sia on blast, and an open road.


I think of how embarrassing it is.

I think of how embarrassed I was when I broke up with my boyfriend the first time. How embarrassing it was that our relationship was so private, and we were so out of touch with our friends that no one even noticed we weren’t talking to each other. I was embarrassed every time someone asked, “wait, but you guys are still living together?”

It got easier, or not, sometimes. When our professors didn’t realize we weren’t together (I mean, why would they) and assigned us project work together, or outside extra credit work. We would car pool and at the beginning of the ride, we’d be laughing, and by the end, he’d accuse me of everything I ever feared I failed him at. And it felt true.

Starting over meant that I had failed at something. That initial moment. That very prevalent reason why we had to end something, and start something new — felt like I had failed. And it was so embarrassing.

We got back together, only to break up 3 years later.

That was even worse.

By this point in my life, everyone who had been in 5 year relationships had rings, or houses, or shared pets or plants. They were living together and seeing each other every week. They had a mutual circle of friends and they were working towards common goals.

I went months without making plans with my boyfriend. We weren’t sharing anything, let alone experiences, or even time together. The most basic elements of being in a relationship were gone. I broke up with him in March, but the last time we saw each other was just after New Years.


I’ve had friends tell me feeling embarrassed was ridiculous. I’ve had friends tell me I was wrong for feeling that way. I appreciated the gesture, but it was still horrible. It felt so obvious to me. Of course, I was embarrassed. I had failed at my relationship. I am now set on a path where nothing makes sense. I was to finish graduate school in two months and I felt like I had nothing.

Looking back, I can see that it was dramatic. But it didn’t make my emotions any less real or valid.

It’s a part of starting over that I can really understand, and I hardly see represented. It’s embarrassing and it’s OKAY. IT’S OKAY TO FEEL EMBARRASSED. Because in a few months or a year, when you have your feet underneath you, you’ll look down and see you’ve been pushing forward every day, every month, every year, this whole time.

When someone asks how you’re doing you’ll say, “Good. Really good.” And mean it. It’s only a matter of time.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Olivia Dolphin’s story.