Our lives shifted in March 2020, leaving us with little sense of normalcy or familiarity when we looked at the state of the world around us. I had a bit of a head start as my relationship ended abruptly just a couple days before Valentine’s Day, and I felt my world completely and absolutely crumble. Just as my relationship fell apart, I was forced to watch through the shattered lens as couples and singles partied around me, celebrating love and happiness with St. Valentine just as I was losing mine. Everything I had come to know over the past two years was gone in a moment, effaced by one short phone call. I was left confused, hopeless, and lost. But, more than anything, I was angry. Angry that I had allowed myself to completely melt away into another person, leaving only hazy glimpses of individuality. There was no ‘me’ anymore; there was only who I had tried to make myself into in efforts to be everything that he wanted or needed. It made me so angry that I was so… so weak. How could I have let this happen? Is that what love had done to me, or was it something else entirely: a developing insecurity that had manifested as a desperation to hold onto the person I loved most in this world. I had thought my sense of self was strong, but eventually I spent so long trying to be someone else’s version of perfect that without even realizing it, any sense of identity I once had had been warped and folded so many times that it just broke and fell apart.
After a breakup, most people pick back up where they left off in their singlehood. They rediscover their individuality, reacquainting themselves with their ‘single self,’ and move on. For me, the problem was that when he left, I realized it had been so long that it felt like there was nothing left. I didn’t feel like anyone. I was an empty shell waiting for myself to move back in. I couldn’t work on getting in touch with my old self, because quite frankly she was gone. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but whoever I was before seemed entirely unrelatable at this point. I felt as though I was 18 again and I had no idea what to do with myself. I was having a full-blown identity crisis, in the middle of a global pandemic, with no clue as to how to move forward and discover who I wanted to be. I couldn’t just find myself again—there was nothing to find. I figured that eventually I would come to know myself, and that it would just take time. This actually happened to be the case; it would just take far longer and be much more difficult than I expected. I also thought I could do it alone, and that wasn’t the case either.
My friends were my biggest support system, simply through distraction, forcing me to live my life and stop dwelling on something I would never be able to change. They forced me to acknowledge my worth, something that seems so ridiculous to me now, but it was an essential part of rediscovering my self-esteem, which had been at an all time low. However, while my friends did their best, unfortunately not everything can be fixed for you by other people. I needed to work on myself by myself, I just didn’t know how. The truth was that I still felt very alone. After three months of crying myself to sleep, routine nightmares, no appetite, and frequent nights of little to no sleep, my mom had seen enough and scheduled me an appointment with a therapist.
I used to cringe at the thought of telling someone that—let alone putting it on the internet. I was unable to acknowledge that I had self-esteem issues or that I had lost my independence somewhere along the way. My ex had told me that these were things I struggled with and there was absolutely no way I was going to allow him to be right about me. I cried through my entire first therapy appointment as she pointed out what I needed to work on, and without having even mentioned it, I listened to her list everything my ex had told me he didn’t like about me. And so, there it was: he was right. And it was my fault he left. But I kept going, and it has been the best decision I have ever made (or someone else made for me).
I started in July and I have grown more in the past six months than I have in the last five years. I’m not going to lie, it’s not always particularly enjoyable. Sometimes I don’t want to go, but every single appointment has taught me something about myself or about how to be better, and I wouldn’t even be close to where I am now if it weren’t for therapy. It’s hard work. It’s hard to admit things to someone else that you’ve never even been able to admit to yourself, but if I wanted to be the best version of myself, there was no other option. I had decided that 2020 was dedicated entirely to myself and I wasn’t going to flake on myself just because it could be hard at times.
I can’t say I owe it all to therapy though, or even therapy and friends. My family was a massive support system and often in the smallest of ways. My brother became one of my best friends, mostly because I no longer had a best friend, and he was the only one who would spend hours watching Lord of the Rings with me. Every unsolicited text I received from a family member helped. Every hug from my mom, every late-night conversation with my dad, even the nights when they could have asked where I was going and what I was doing but didn’t; it all helped, not just with my moving on, but to learn to love myself again, to recognize my worth, and to regain my confidence. My parents recognized that I needed room to grow, and they let me stretch out as far as possible. Quite honestly, sometimes they were more lenient than I expected, but it was probably the best thing they could’ve done for me. To be fair, I had just missed out on, like, two years of social development because I was so focused on my relationship.
When I look back at my year, it was simultaneously the worst and best year I think I’ve ever had. Yes, my life crumbled. Yes, I laid on the floor like shattered glass for maybe a month or two longer than he was worth. But, after a while I realized I was the only one who would pick up the pieces and rebuild. I had help from friends and family and a therapist, but in the end, I was the only one who was going to work on me. I was the only one who could put in the work to figure out who I really was and who I wanted to be. For me, 2020 was the year in which I lost the person I thought I was meant to be with and met the person I was actually going to spend the rest of my life with: Me. And guess what? She’s badass. She’s so much better than anything I thought I could accomplish in under a year’s worth of work and I’ve never been prouder of myself. I barely recognize the person I was a year ago today. I’ve fallen in love with my confidence, my personality, my determination, my iron will, and everything else I’ve learned about myself—even the parts that still need work. So, while I might have some beef with St. Valentine thanks to last year’s rather traumatizing experience, this year’s Valentine’s day will be entirely dedicated to myself: the best and most important relationship I’ve ever had, the person I know will always be there for me, who chooses me every time, who’s possibly the hottest person I’ve ever dated, and who loves me. Because I’m worth it.