Happy (almost) anniversary to me.
That’s right – to me. Just me. Singular reference to a single lady.
Tomorrow marks a full year since I lost about 170 lbs by saying “Sayonara, sucker,” to a certain ex-boyfriend. I’ll spare the gory details, but it was a crappy relationship, and I was glad to see it finally end.
There were some negative feelings mixed with my (significant) relief, to be sure, because as happy as I was to be done dating an asshole, I don’t exactly take pleasure in causing other people pain (no matter how much they might deserve it). In the year since then, I’ve come to realize that ending that relationship was one of the best things I ever did for myself. It turned out that July 22 was less an ending than it was a beginning. Sure, that toxic relationship did end, but even more importantly, my life began to change in tremendous ways for the better.
Over the past year, I’ve had a chance to invest in myself in ways that I never had the courage to do so before.
A week after dumping that breakup, I moved to a new city 400 miles away; a month later, I started a master’s program. In the year that followed, I challenged myself (as did my classmates, supervisors, and roommates), I pushed back against self-imposed limits and arbitrary expectations, and I built a new life for myself and became bolder and more independent than ever before. In hindsight, it’s clear that standing up against someone who was manipulative, degrading, dishonest, and contemptuous made me realize I could stand up against other fears and overcome other challenges.
This past year has been spent putting that theory to the test, and I’ve come out the better for it.
In addition to investing in myself, I found myself able to invest more in other important relationships in my life. Without the distraction of dating someone, I’ve found that I know my family better and feel closer to my siblings and parents than ever before (even in spite of the distance following my move). I’ve also enjoyed rekindling some friendships from my undergraduate days, and cultivating new friends from this chapter of my life. While the people I consider truly close friends can be counted with two hands (or maybe just one), they make my life tenfold richer.
They are positive individuals, who invest in themselves and prioritize growth, who hold me accountable, who share in my joys and share theirs with me, and who will tell me the truth even if it’s the last thing I want to hear. In turn, I do my best to do the same for them. They are the kinds of friendships you want to hold dear for a whole lifetime, and had I not been single this past year, I may not have had the time or energy to invest in them.
The past year has also given me ample opportunity to reflect on my past relationship and learn from it. The most glaring of those lessons is that a red flag is a red flag is a red flag is a red flag, no matter how well you rationalize it. Ignoring red flags in a relationship seems to me now quite similar to ignoring the double yellow lines on a two lane highway – do it long enough, and eventually you’ll find yourself in a head-on collision, and the carnage will be ugly. I also came to learn that the viewpoints and values you allow to influence you will have a profound impact on who you are and how your life unfolds. If you are selective about this (or just strikingly lucky), you will never regret being discerning in this regard. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned not to be afraid of letting go of things that are not right. Now that I know how much stands to be gained on the other side of that loss, it’s made it easier to let go or say “no” to things that I know are not right (or not right for me).
And yet, as wonderful – and challenging, and exciting, and confusing, and growing, and memorable, and rewarding – as this past year has been, there’s also much that I’m looking forward to in the coming year and beyond. Given all that I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown, I’m looking forward to sharing that with someone…in a healthy relationship marked with mutual respect. In being single for a full year in a city full of strangers, I’ve met a lot of guys and been on some memorable dates. Memorable, it should be noted, does not mean “good” (more like “mortifying”); if anything, the dates I’ve been on over the past year have just reinforced my choice to be particular about who I let into my life and how I spend my time.
(I’ll be sharing more about all that in an upcoming post that lays out all the hilariously gory details of modern dating…just be aware that it involves grown men in penis costumes. That is not a typo.) Having tested the waters perhaps more than I needed to, I’ll be the last to tell you that good men are easy to come by…but I know they’re out there, because I’m lucky enough to know some of them. And I’ve realized from both dating an asshole and meeting plenty more of them after him, that I would much rather enjoy the single life than bide my time in a mediocre relationship.
On top of all the things I’m looking forward to enjoying and accomplishing over the next year, I’ve got a lot of significant changes on the horizon just by default – graduating with my master’s degree, getting a full time job, starting to work towards my license, potentially moving again. A year ago, I had no idea that this is where I’d be 365 days later, so it’s pretty damn exciting to think about what life will look like a year from now.
And in the meantime, I’m going to do my best to keep up the momentum of learning and growing from the past year. If nothing else comes from this blog post, I hope you’ll think about this: There’s something to be said for learning from your mistakes, but there’s also something to be said for learning from someone else’s mistakes. So maybe you can learn from my 170lb mistake, and maybe if you do, you’ll decide join me in making this next year the best year we’ve ever had. I hope you will.
Over the next year…Do the scary thing and the hard thing.
Challenge yourself, and choose to face head-on the things that intimidate you, because those are the kinds of things that are hard as hell and beyond worth it.
Over the next year…Listen to your intuition. Listen to logic and information that you’re rationally processing, too, but don’t ignore your intuition. Those “pit of your stomach” senses, where you know without knowing how, are not just figments of your imagination. Don’t ignore your intuition when it’s screaming – incorporate it into your decision-making, alone with reason and logic and quantifiable facts, and give it its due say in the process.
Over the next year…Let go. When you need to let go, let go. Whether it’s a toxic relationship, or a habit that is draining you rather than adding value to your life, or a belief you now know to be false, just let go.
You have no idea how much you can gain by doing so.
Over the next year…Allow others the dignity to experience the consequences of their actions. This one is something I picked up at Al-Anon. Literally – at the third meeting I ever went to, they passed around a box with all these slips of paper, each of which had a reminder of one of the Al-Anon principles on it. Mine had this, and I still have that slip of paper a year later. (For those who are confused, Al-Anon is a support group for the friends, family, and loved ones of alcoholics; Alcoholics Anonymous, or “AA,” is the support group for the alcoholics themselves.) The aforementioned ex-boyfriend was an alcoholic, in addition to being an overall less-than-wonderful human, and there are a lot of addicts that I know and love and happen to call family. I started going to Al-Anon two days after ending my relationship, and it was hugely helpful for me not only in sorting myself out after that breakup. Not only that, but it (along with my faith) helped me in healing and moving on from a lot of the more subversive damage that relationship had left. This little saying has been circling in my head over the past year, and more times than I can count, it’s given me the gift of freedom – freedom to be responsible for myself and only myself, to control what I can control, and to let others live as they see fit. We all have the beautiful gift of free will to use as we please – at times, we use it well, and at times, we use it dig our own graves. But that’s the thing about free will: It’s makes us free, but we can’t make others free. If someone’s using his free will to dig his own grave, you can’t jump in and take his shovel away. It doesn’t work. What ends up happening is that you end up giving him your shovel, and you get buried alive. So embrace that free will the good Lord gave you, and live your life as best you can while you let others lead their lives as they see fit, and allow them the dignity to suffer the consequences, good or bad – it really will set you free.
(And now this is turning into it’s own little Inception-type blog-post-within-a-blog-post, so I’ll probably write more in the future about addiction and recovery and enabling and all those skeletons no one likes to talk about, because apparently I’ve got a lot of thoughts on that, and yall didn’t come here to read War & Peace, Volume 2.)
But for now, I’m going to celebrate by kicking back by the pool tomorrow with an ice cold protein shake (because I’m too poor to buy alcohol).
Happy anniversary to me.