When I first fell in love, it was like a new part of me had somehow opened up. I thought I had finally found myself. In hindsight, I realize how far from finding myself I really was.
Let's be real: When you're a teenage girl in high school, do you really know who you are? Despite how badly I tried convincing myself I had it all together and I knew who I was as a person, looking back on it all now, I was sadly mistaken. I thought I was finding myself, but I was actually losing any sense of self that I had before.
And, like many of our early forays into love, it didn't last. We never seemed to work out all of the kinks. Eventually, things crumbled. It was dramatic. I lost him when I wasn't ready to let go. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the biggest blessing in disguise.
But it took me a while to realize this. Here is what I went through.
1. The Fairytale Phase
When we met, something ignited inside me. All of a sudden, time seemed to move faster. I was high on the idea that I had found someone who I could talk to for hours on end, open up to and be myself around. I started to look at myself differently – better. This was the so-called “love” I had dreamed about for years, and I was finally living it. I felt beautiful; I felt wanted; I felt invincible.
2. Getting sucked in
Loving him took me on a journey. As my love grew stronger for him, I traveled further and further away from myself. I would have followed him anywhere. I started to determine what my future would be depending on his future. My actions were a direct result of his life. I was living for someone else, and I had lost myself along the way. My journey with him had taken me so far away from the person I was – the person I wanted to be – that when I was left alone, I was stranded. I was lost. I was an empty shell of an old friend who didn't know where to go.
3. The realization
The journey back to finding myself felt foreign. I didn't know how to live my life without him in it.
Suddenly, there was no one to wish me “good morning,” or “sweet dreams.” There was no one for me to revel in good news with. Listening to his voice on the other end of phone calls was a thing of the past, and his touch was something I would never feel again.
I started to look at myself differently all over again, only this time, it wasn't better. I looked at myself and saw nothing because I foolishly had been losing myself in the process of loving another. I didn't know who I was anymore.
4. Rebuilding yourself
After a lot of sulking and sadness, I realized I had lost the part of me I didn't want to be anyways. Slowly, I realized the emptiness that consumed me post-breakup was actually an opportunity to rebuild myself as the person I deserved to be all along.
I realized I didn't need another person to define me. I realized the last thing I want in life is for someone else's actions to determine mine. Like everyone else, I have dreams and aspirations and I'll be damned if I let anyone overshadow that. I picked up pieces of myself that I had dropped along the way and rebuilt myself stronger than ever before.
5. Start living your life for YOU
I focused on what mattered. I spent more time surrounding myself with people who loved me and were there to pick me up when I was down: the ones who were always there all along. I caught up with friends and vented to my family. Finding myself again was a strange feeling. It was almost like that disoriented feeling you have when waking up from a nap: I was hazy, but I was definitely getting there.
I did the whole “dramatically cut your hair after a breakup” thing because he hated short hair. I started to go out and enjoy myself with my friends the way he had always hated. I started searching for gratification from myself, not others. I started living for me.
6. Reflect on where you were, and where you are
At rock bottom, I would have told you I would never move on. I thought I would be stuck in that phase forever. It seemed so dark and so permanent that I didn't know how I would ever find myself. Now, I look at myself and I see the real me. I'm confident and happy and know what I want and deserve in my life whether it be in relationships, friends, careers – anything. I became independent and with that, I became strong.
There were days where I let it get the best of me and thought I would never pick myself back up. But I look back and instead of seeing that girl who cried herself to sleep every night over some boy, I look back and see that girl who stood her ground and never gave up in the process of finding myself and starting over on my own. Despite all the changes I was forced to endure, I moved forward. The journey to find myself was far more rewarding than the journey he took me on.