Here’s a quick fact about me: I’m horrible with dates. Yet I will always remember May 7. It’s a special kind of day for me. It’s my birthday, and it’s the anniversary to my most recently past relationship with Sean, and it was on our four year anniversary that I retired from romance.
Sean was the nicest guy I ever met, and probably one of the nicest people. Coming from a previously emotionally and physically abusive relationship, he was a balm to my blistered heart. Our love was pure, and beautiful, and utterly uncomplicated, and though we were both only eight-teen, I think I can speak for both of us that we thought it would last forever.
At the beginning of April, I went to Africa for a couple weeks. When I returned, it was as though a light had been switched. Before this, Sean and I had been basically joined at the hip for the three years we lived together, save a few holidays here and there. I came back expecting cuddles and “I missed you”. Instead, I got cold shoulders and fighting. Sean and I had spats before, but never like this. It was the first time I said “Fuck you” to anyone and meant it. It was awful. At this point, we were also doing a lot of drugs and rarely sober.
After week after week of hell, we had “the talk”, and went over all our problems, vowing to fix things, saying that because this was our “first real fight” it would blow over. But it didn’t. Looking back, if I had tried harder, I could have saved it, and maybe then we could have very well gotten married and walked down the road of memories together. But I was tired. I had been trying for so long, and I was done.
On what would have been our four year anniversary, I ran a razor blade down my wrists because it was the only way I knew how to get his attention. That red flag was too big even for me, a hopeless romantic who clings to relationships like life lines, to ignore.
The morning of May 7th we kissed goodbye and said “see you later”, and I think we actually intended to see each other again, but we never did.
Maybe it was because I was out of cigarettes, or because I got up early, or because I was actually sober for a whole day ... something in me changed. I looked at my life and what I was doing with it and realized I was not happy; I had not been happy for a long time. I had stopped growing. I used to journal feverously every day, and I hadn’t picked up a pen in months. I used to run marathons, and I was forty pounds over-weight, chain smoking every day. I used to judge junkies like the scum of the earth, and now I had become one. I used to love Sean, now I had grown comfortable. It was like I was living an ingrown life, all red and angry because it wanted out and I wouldn’t allow it. I was addicted to security, to my safety blanket. I thought of things in terms of “I’m unhappy with this, but I would be much more unhappy without it”.
On May 7th, I stopped thinking like that. Well, actually that’s not true. I still think like that, sometimes, but that day I vowed I would take that hard road because I knew I could be happier. I started to think of things in terms of “What do I, as a basic living being, deserve?”. Every time I thought about smoking, about drugs, about eating unhealthy, about returning to Sean’s open arms, I thought “What do I deserve?”. My lungs deserve clean air, not smoke. My brain deserves real stimulation, not artificial realities. My body deserves proper nourishment. My heart deserves to be whole. So that night, I texted Sean saying we needed a break, and stayed over at my friend’s apartment. By the time I had returned, he was already gone.
I’m not going to pretend like it was easy; it wasn’t. In fact, it was the hardest thing I have ever done. In one day, I decided to quit myself as I knew for the past four years and start over. And the only thing that stopped me from flopping back into smoking and drugs and being useless was the fact I could not flip flop back to Sean. I probably could have, but I was too proud. There were still days I smoked. There were days I did drugs. I cried myself to sleep every night for about the first year because it had been ages since I had slept alone. I had been in relationships since I was young, and the absence ached.
When I started smoking, it was so I could show people that I wasn’t a good girl anymore, and then I found I could not stop because I didn’t know how to define myself as who I was without the smoking. Same went for relationships. But slowly, and surely, I saw change, similar to the process of losing weight. It sucks and sucks and you are hungry and grumpy and sore and tired but eventually, inch by painstaking inch, you will lose the weight if you keep trying. That was what I reminded myself over and over. Keep trying. Like Dory in Finding Nemo chanting “Keep Swimming!!!!!”
I didn’t know at the time I left Sean I was retiring from romance. It is only now looking back that I see that. And yes, I know it sounds tragic. I met the best guy ever, broke up with him because I wasn’t “growing” whatever that means, and then never loved again??? Not a day goes by when I don’t think of him. There was no closure, and though we talked about being friends if we broke up before, we believed we would break the same way we believed we would be friends. But my thoughts for Sean were like checking a phone for the time instead of the message. It’s still a phone, and you always have it with you, but you aren’t looking for love. You’re just looking at the past.
One of my friends once wrote a poem for me called “life is good” to help me get through the hard times, but I would amend it with my own version called “life goes on”. It’s what I have sought solace in all this time. And sure, it may be more pessimistic but at least then when I feel like shit I don’t feel the need to find the diamonds. Life goes on. People change. Love fades. But the sun rises. And each new day is exactly that, new. And when all else is said and done, nothing can stay. So no matter how bad things are, they eventually have to end.
If I would ever see Sean again, I do not think I would approach him, because I know my heart would open its arms wide. And when I think back, I know I may not have chosen the happier path, but I chose the one that would make me grow. I chose what I deserved.