When my ex-boyfriend of three and a half years told me he wasn't in love with me anymore, I felt my ribcage crack into a million pieces. I could almost see it breaking, like a China Doll crashing into the ground in slow-motion.
I thought I would never breathe again without him, and for awhile I practically didn't. I held my breath, letting things happen and life pass me by. Nothing was the same. More importantly, I wasn't the same.
But eventually, I learned to live in this new world without oxygen. I grieved him, and then I started to advance my life again by pushing myself harder than I ever had.
I even met someone new. We were together for a couple of months, but then once again, I learned to wave goodbye, this time more gracefully than the last.
Why was I able to let go so easily this time? Well, it's because I realized something very important after reading this passage by author R.M. Drake:
"All the people we have met and all the people we have yet to meet, are meant to exist so we can find them. So we both could exchange a set of directions, which will guide us to the next place we are meant to go. And as we go, we must always believe that maybe this could be out last stop. That maybe the next person we meet will not have a set of directions, that maybe they will have more, and that maybe they will offer us something beautiful enough to inspire us to stay."
This quote gave me the profound realization that people are brought into our lives to teach us valuable lessons. But like in school, once you've learned all you can from one teacher, you have to say goodbye and move on to the next one.
When someone can no longer grow with you, he or she stunts your growth. And when this person leaves your life, it's easy to only focus on the pain from his or her absence. But if you take a step back, you'll see that this person leaving was for the best.
I witnessed this with my own eyes when I decided to catch up with my ex after almost a full year of not seeing him.
Seeing him made me aware that I had truly outgrown him in every way. From all of my experiences without him, I learned a laundry list of important lessons and values.
To name a few, I learned independence from being single. I learned patience from dating someone who was struggling with demons. I learned about different cultures from traveling.
On top of this, from my breakup, I learned that you never know when you'll learn your last lesson from your partner. So you should cherish your time with him or her while you have it.
I used each day after my relationship ended as a springboard to move forward. But in all this time apart, my ex had stood completely still. He had learned nothing. He was the same man he was a year ago. I felt like Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" when she stumbled across the Tin Man begging for some oil while stuck in the road.
I actually felt bad for my ex. I grew up, and he... well, he grew muscles.
I allowed myself to learn from every mistake and evolve into something greater than I had ever imagined. My ambition took me to 15 countries. I have a passport stamp to show for every time I got hurt.
I might not have went anywhere if I had remained glued to my ex's stagnant side. He would have weighed me down.
Shortly after catching up with my ex, another ex re-entered my life in a different way. Not so surprisingly, the same thing was happening to him: He was also still doing exactly what he was doing when I was with him. He had become another Tin Man stuck in the yellow brick road of life.
Honestly, it is pretty surprising how little these men had to show for their time since our relationships.
Yet, luckily for me, these moments of reconnection with my exes made me realize that people are removed from your life not as some sort of punishment like I initially thought, but because they are simply not built to go where you are going in life.
When someone leaves, don't question it because 'the one' would never leave you. There's always a bigger picture to life that we can't see just yet.
It's good to reflect on a relationship after it ends, but sometimes endings really aren't your fault. Sometimes it really is just time for someone to leave once they've taught you what you need to know. But don't fight someone leaving; just embrace it, and let go of the people who are not meant to stay.
I couldn't see it at the time, but during my relationships, my exes had become dead weight to me. Perhaps they got smoked out from all of my fire.
Like releasing sand bags from a hot air balloon, my exes had to go so I could ascend into the person I was meant to become. I had to literally face my past in order to understand my present.
Looking back now, I have never been more grateful for the temporary agony in my life that led me to my greatest pleasures.