Running Away or Moving On?

Photo Credit: Akhil Dakinedi

We all experience things in our lives that are challenging, paint ourselves into corners, end up living a life that makes us feel numb every day, wake up one morning and realize that the friends we have spent years loving just aren’t lifting us up anymore. We all grow and change, sometimes it is painful, and sometimes it is the easiest thing in the world. Sometimes it happens in a split second, like a burst of rainbows and glitter, we become the newest, best version of ourselves, and sometimes it goes so slowly, you don’t even realize that it’s happening. Hopefully, as we grow, we can learn from the paths that we have walked to get here.

Yesterday, I thought I saw my ex-boyfriend sitting on his motorcycle, at a stoplight about a 3 minute walk from my apartment, and it took me a good 10 minutes to remember how to not have a panic attack. Now let me give you some context; my ex and I were together for about seven years. We dated all through high school and all through college until I broke up with him, one final time, at the end of my senior year of college. I was moving to California and I broke up with him about a week before I left; I had put it off so that I wouldn’t need to kick him out of the apartment he was living in with me.

All through high school and college I was desperately in love with him, the kind of teenager love that made me sob myself to sleep at night when he didn’t text me back because I decided I wasn’t worthy of his love. The kind of teenager love that put most of my self-worth (other than the self-worth that was invested in music until it was torn apart by going to music school) into the fact that he loved me. And the days when it felt like maybe he didn’t love me, were earth-shattering reminders of my worthlessness.

I realize that this may sound a bit mellow-dramatic, but when I met my ex, I was deep into a year of total, encompassing depression. What I now call a downswing, which usually for me only lasts a few days now before evening out into a steady calm, lasted almost an entire year back then. I was finally starting to find my footing, make friends, build a life, and then along comes this kid who seems pretty cool and really seems to care about me, and for that, I was both terrified and head over heels. I was amazed that someone could really love me, that someone thought I was worthy or beautiful or deserving of happiness, and that someone just wanted to have fun with me too. Even that was amazing in itself.

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden

I didn’t realize how unhealthy this was until I had a faint inkling of doubt, for the first time in our long relationship, when we got into a giant fight over the phone. It was our first real fight and I remember hanging up the phone and thinking, this could be it. I then spiraled into thoughts of loss, listing all the things I would lose, his friendship, ever seeing his sweet mother again, or playing with his dogs or having a skateboarding buddy, or being good friends with his friends or playing video games. This was when the doubt started to weasel its way into my heart. This idea of breaking up was enough to leave me groggy and sobbing for days, but I still persisted. And through a few stops and starts, we stayed together for three more years.

I say all this because this giant part of my life is a constant reminder to me of where I have come from and the things that I have walked through. This relationship was not all bad: there was love, and joy, and freedom, and experiences that I wouldn’t give up for the world. But I needed to move forward, because every time I saw this boy, I became the girl I was when he first met me, scared, alone, unstable, and helpless. It started to weigh on me, my ache to be loved and wanted. I forced myself into situations that ranged the spectrum from mildly upsetting to traumatizing, until I snapped, realizing that there was something wrong with sobbing every day and being constantly scared of losing everything.

Sometimes all it takes is a moment to realize that you are not getting what you need, sometimes it takes seven years and self-inflicted trauma to figure it out. But we all get there, to the point where we look around and ask ourselves, what in the world are we doing?

Photo Credit: Tim Bogdanov

This week has given me the first few days in a very long time, when I honestly felt happy, free, and on the right track. I have actively begun writing regularly; I have a day job that is new and still stressful and a bit boring, but it pays my bills; I am learning to play roller derby and going to the gym three times a week; and this week, for the first time, I felt honest joyous adventurous pleasure, just from writing and working on things that I care about. Moving on has given me some powerful opportunities, introduced me to some people that I have deep connections with, and given me some life-changing experiences. And while, some days I wake up and glare at my ceiling, wishing that I didn’t exist, that doesn’t delete all the progress that I have made.

And yet, seeing my ex, or someone that I thought was him, sitting at a stoplight, just minutes from my house, I panicked. I nearly ran home, and then for the next hour I puttered around my apartment, constantly glancing at the door, thinking maybe he found out where I live and wanted to come chat. It took me so long to get myself to this place that I am today, so much work and time was put into this journey, that part of me is terrified that I will get pulled backwards.

I have worked too hard to get to this point in my life, to let myself get pulled back into being that scared, sad little girl, desperate for love, and obviously she still needs some love and healing. It hurts to cut people out of my life, but sometimes, it is necessary to move forward. Maybe one day we will be able to be friends again, have a nice chat over coffee, maybe skateboard together or play video games, but all I know is that right now, I am my own top priority. Building a life that I love is the most powerful thing I can do for myself, and so I will keep doing it, with the knowledge and strength that I have gathered from the places I have been, and the hope and promise of the person I will become.

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