It’s been four months since I’ve posted on here. I’ve written more than fifty drafts about things that I’ve wanted to say, but for one reason or another, I haven’t hit “publish.” In March, I took a break from social media; it was probably the first time in years that I went longer than a few weeks without so much as a newsfeed refresh or a like. To be honest, being offline was refreshing, and with the time I would’ve spent scrolling, I started to learn a new language, go out and meet new people, try new things, and more than anything, really get to know myself outside of a relationship.
For the better part of the last decade, so nearly all of my twenties, I have been in longterm relationships wherein I built my life around the people that I was with. Heck, I even built my home around the guys I was with – a surf shower and art studio for one, and countertops and shower heads that are well beyond my reach for the other. In hindsight, I think the way that I existed in relationships caused a lot of personal heartache when those people exited my life, because with their departure also went their friends and families I’d spent years getting to know. Much of my identity was entrenched within the confines of those relationships, so when those people left, I really didn’t know who I was without them.
I say all of this knowing I’m not the first person to go through a breakup. I know that it’s pretty normal to have an identity crisis after a major life change, but it’s still jarring and uncomfortable and as much as I wished I could’ve just fast-forwarded through much of last year, a lot of the work I did came through sitting in that discomfort and reflecting on it. Many of us define ourselves by the world around us – by our friends, our families, our jobs, even our life experiences . . . and when those landmarks change, we lose our bearings, even just for a moment.
When I first got sick, I refused to identify as the chronically-ill girl. It felt dirty to use words like “disabled” or “chronic illness.” I didn’t even want to go to doctors appointments, because that meant accepting that I couldn’t fix what was going wrong in my own body. I vividly remember feeling like such a failure when I had to take medical leave from law school because I physically couldn’t sit in a classroom without projectile vomiting every five minutes . . . but it’s in that surrender that I was able to piece myself back together.
It wasn’t until I started 2LWithIt that I really started to lean into the self-advocacy that is necessary when your body doesn’t work like other bodies. By the time I was 23, I’d had more colonoscopies, endoscopies, and exploratory surgeries than most people have in a lifetime. By the time I was 27, I’d almost died a handful of times as a result of weird side effects (heyo, birth control that decimated my uterine lining so I almost bled out . . . or the time I went blind for several days because of some nausea meds). And now here I am, a sneeze away from 30, looking back on it all, and I don’t think my life is solely the story about a girl with a gaggle of health issues. Sure, I have the hospital bracelet collection to back it up, but I’m also so much more than my health, or lack thereof.
Becoming an advocate about my health issues allowed me to connect with others about their own health struggles, and to encourage them to speak up for themselves, because if you don’t, someone else may not. Then I became the girl reeling from a breakup of a five year relationship, and again, I connected with people who’d had their hearts broken in a million pieces, and was inspired by the ways they were able to piece themselves back together stronger than they’d been before. Then I was the girl who found love after heartache and was planning a wedding during a global pandemic, only to find herself single, again, but this time maybe more broken than before . . . for a variety of reasons I don’t quite have the heart to share about on here. And again, I connected with people who shared with me their own tales of called off engagements and horrendous divorces. In hindsight, all of this heartache made me realize how empathetic we can be to other people’s experiences and how truly resilient the human heart is.
Now, I feel like I am starting to write a new chapter. One about a girl who is learning red flags aren’t opportunities to grow as a couple, and sometimes the best decisions are the ones that feel the most uncomfortable. It’s a story about a girl who has her own life outside of any other relationship – friendship, romantic, or otherwise. It’s a story about a girl who is done fostering boys until they leave her to find their forever homes, because she is deserving of a love that doesn’t hurt or retreat when things get uncomfortable.
This is a story about finding yourself after losing yourself completely, because this time last year I remember spending hours upon hours in tears, begging God or whatever higher power exists out there to swallow me whole because the world in which I was living in felt entirely too much. It hurts to think back and know that was only a short time ago, but in some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.
So while my story is anything like I’d thought it’d look in the months approaching my thirtieth birthday, I am trying to find gratitude in it all.
I am grateful I am not navigating divorce proceedings or custody agreements right now.
I am grateful to have the time and resources to pursue new hobbies and experiences.
I am grateful to have family and friends that punctuate my weeks with laughter and good food.
I am grateful to have loved and been loved, even if it wasn’t an enduring, forever kind of love.
At the end of the day, we can either become embittered or emboldened by what happens to us. I am trying to choose the latter, because holding onto bitterness only sours what lies ahead.
So if you’re in a season of discomfort, know that it won’t last forever. I’m not so sure about everything happening for a reason, but I do believe you can find good, even in the most painful goodbyes.