Hey there. I know things are pretty rough right now. You’re probably sorting through kitchen utensils and packing boxes and putting off the bedroom until it’s totally unavoidable. You’re taking down the welcome sign on the front door (which has both of your names on it) and reflecting on how simultaneously easy and hard it is to divide up two lives you had planned to share as one, permanently.
Starting over feels exhilarating…and also terrifying. This was your life for almost four years, from before you could (legally) drink to your first full-time job. Now that you’re not “his girlfriend,” who the fuck are you? I know you have no idea. That’s okay. You’re twenty four.
I can still feel the anxiety in your stomach like it’s my own (because not so long ago, it was). Wondering what the hell you’re supposed to do now. Thinking about all the people you’ve disappointed. All the people who are confused because it seemed to come “out of nowhere”—but endings often do for the people watching from the sidelines. It’s scary because there’s comfort in a set plan, even if it’s a plan you know you’ve spent months growing away from. It’s scary because now you can ask yourself—really ask yourself—where you want to be, why you aren’t already there, and how to get there from here.
In the months to come, you will paint again and write again and create more art than you have in a long time. You will join a beach volleyball league (yes, you’ll be terrible), go to baseball games, explore your city and feel the richness of life in a way you’ve forgotten. You will read and watch movies and go to concerts and consume more art and beauty than you probably ever have in the short few months that span where you are and where I am. Right now, you don’t have a grip on your identity, but you are choosing anyway to let go of the only identity you’ve known for almost four years. I thank you for that courage, because it gave me the gift of myself.
As you adjust to your new reality, you will breathe new life into yourself and discover the gifts of imperfection and bravery. You will own your spirit again, and learn that it’s okay to share it without assimilating into someone else. You will find yourself ready to share that spirit with others much more quickly than you expected—but that’s okay. That will make some people frustrated, confused or angry. That’s okay too.
You will learn it’s okay to let yourself experience the joy of companionship and love even if it’s not exactly the way you (or anyone else) pictured it. You will learn it’s okay if your journey forward is different than what you (or anyone else) expected—and that it’s okay if you are not truly seen by everyone else as long as you see yourself. The people who matter will always see you. You will feel lost at first, but find purpose and strength and beauty as you move forward on that obscured path forward. Sooner than you realize, you’ll start cutting your own trail…and you’ll finally be strong enough to let others join you (really join you) on that journey.
Own yourself. Don’t let the doubts or judgments of others steal your conviction or peace. And if you feel like you mess up? It’s okay. You’re twenty-fucking-four—and even if you were eighty four it would be okay, too. Life is a process and compilation of moments both planned, unplanned and thrust upon us. There are no mistakes; just lessons that come at unexpected times, hurt in unfamiliar ways or teach in unconventional manners.
There are people who will doubt you, question your authenticity and say your words are a crock. Don’t listen. All you can know is your truth, and all you can do is speak it loud to drown out the noise. You will learn that toxins only permeate if you forget to wash them away on contact. You will learn how to cherish the people who stand by you, even before they understand where exactly you’re trying to go.
Over the next few months, you will gain over ten pounds of beautiful, joyful, strong, healthy weight…and even when you question the way your body takes up space, you will feel healthier than you have in a long time. You will finally begin to loosen the chains of anorexia and anxiety and depression—I know you won’t believe me, but you are just a few short months away from maintenance-level therapy.
You’ll get a fucking nose ring because you’ve always kinda thought it would look cute but you were too scared to just do it. You’ll fucking love it. You will also survive three and a half hours of tattooing that leads to a piece of artwork you still get choked up looking at.
You’ll challenge yourself to be better and challenge the compulsions you always told yourself you were too weak to face or to change. You will demand more of yourself and more of the people around you. While you’ll retain your soft heart and compassionate spirit, you’ll learn it’s okay to set boundaries and care for yourself first.
You will have people in your life who cherish you as you are, when you are. You won’t have all the answers, but you probably never will. I know you think you need to take this journey alone. I know there’s a list in your head of what you should or shouldn’t do…and there’s a voice in your head saying there’s something wrong with you because you miss the comfort of that old life, but not the actual components. There’s nothing wrong with you, and there’s nothing wrong with me. It just is.
Moving on “too quickly” for the taste of some people doesn’t mean you’re callous or cruel, or that your feelings weren’t genuine, or that “poof” the feelings were gone the second the relationship ended. It will be hard to believe that at first, and some days I still struggle with that, too. It just means that the relationship served its purpose to get you where you needed to be. Not missing it doesn’t mean the ending isn’t sad, and it doesn’t mean your heart didn’t hurt.
Please remember to be gentle with yourself, and remember the time you spent hurting, and grieving, and preparing for this moment before it happened and before you realized it was going to happen. Please don’t let the guilt you think you’re “supposed to feel” steal the joy you actually feel. Let yourself heal as you move forward, and remember that healing is not a solitary experience.
Lean on your friends and accept their love (I know you will). Take risks with your heart and let yourself feel completely (I know you will). Question yourself, question others, question everything (I know you will). When there comes a time to fight for what you want by communicating honestly, be brave enough to try. Remember that rocky beginnings don’t always mean you’re falling into old patterns (if I could help you do one thing differently, I’d tell you not to make that tearful phone call), and that it’s okay to meet someone in the middle to heal together as long as they’re willing to grow, too.
You have no idea how much joy, adventure, and life awaits you. The months to come will look almost nothing like you expected, but it’s okay. Please remember that it’s okay to trust yourself and not just do what’s expected of you or what you’re told…for once. It’s okay to take risks on people, and it’s okay to say “no.” It’s okay if you don’t want to return to that old life, even when some changes are made.
It’s okay that your heart was broken and that the life you thought you wanted wasn’t what you wanted after all. You don’t owe anyone anything, not even explanation beyond “I’m doing what makes me happy.” It’s okay to recognize that sometimes, change comes months (or years) too late, and that you can be happy for the improvement without wanting it back.
Remember that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says. What matters is I’m proud of you, and you have helped me be truer to myself than I ever thought I could be. You’ll get through this, and you’ll be so happy and full of life. Let yourself feel it, and don’t worry so much about what a breakup is “supposed” to look like. The most valuable second chance you’ll give is the one you give yourself.
Thank you for having the courage to begin again.