‘Falling for someone doesn’t mean forgetting your own self’
– Parul Nigram
I’ve been a hopeless romantic for as long as I can remember. I’ve grown up seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses; immortalising each intimate moment as something special and unique. I recount my (seemingly scripted) dates back to my friends, as I indulge in every overly-romantic detail. The sparkling lights conveniently arched over our heads, a slow dance in the middle of the street, and the perfect first kiss moment.
So, when the person I loved moved halfway across the world for a year, I was left completely heartbroken. Practicalities and reasoning for his leaving, although logical and fair, did not ease my heartbreak. My ideology and fantasies of love were challenged and I was left plagued with the complexities of the situation in a corona-ridden world and unable to let go of the relationship we once had. Uncertainty, anxiety, and an overwhelming sense of loss were the prominent emotions flooding through my being.
The present was a time frame I was actively escaping; instead reminiscing in our final moments together. “This is not the end, I promise you. It’s just a pause in our story”, he said holding me tightly in his arms. The hopeless romantic in me clung onto these final words like they were my final breath, in a tsunami of pain pulling me under, refusing to let him go. Repeated like a well-rehearsed sermon in my head, these words flew around my mind in a spiral, comforting me to some extent but also making the pain that much deeper.
In those early weeks after he’d left, we spoke relatively frequently on the phone, as I forced myself to adjust to our new ‘normal’. There were no more “I love you’s”, no more free-flow of emotion, no more intimacy. Instead, it felt as though we occupied an awkward grey area of love, loss, and unutterable pain. I watched from the side-lines as he settled into his new life – an environment I didn’t know with friends I didn’t know and, as time went on, a person I felt I no longer knew. As his life blossomed into a world of opportunity and excitement, I felt mine concave. It was everything neither of us wanted and yet for some reason, be it love or denial, I felt as though I couldn’t let him go.
In a climate of such uncertainty, our reunion fell under the same vein. “I may stay here a bit longer”, he told me, “Or go to Australia for a year when I’m done”. All the plans we’d made, all the expectations I’d set, started to collapse around me and I didn’t know what to do with myself. “How can our love not be enough?”, I’d keep telling myself. But it wasn’t.
“I wanted to take control of my own life and dictate my own happiness”
The past year has been an unprecedented whirlpool of events. Lockdown brought to life many difficulties for couples: living together in a tight space, living far apart where distance was a bane that couldn’t necessarily be overcome, and all the difficulties of being in a relationship that exist even in ‘normal’ circumstances. All of us were challenged in some way, tested in a capacity, and many of us let down. Despite the poignant difficulties that 2020 may have presented us with, as humans it’s in our nature to recover, to heal, to strive.
I made the decision to set us both free.
Selflessly, I wanted him to charter his own course for his future; to make decisions that weren’t clouded with my own wishes. I recognised the unjustness of making him base his life decisions around me, particularly at such a young age.
But most importantly, selfishly, I wanted to take control of my own life and dictate my own happiness. I’d completely lost touch of the present; either reminiscing on our time together or day-dreaming about our future. I was waiting anxiously for the return of someone I loved to make me happy again – when I already had so much in my life to make me happy in the now.
The pain of letting go would allow me to live in the present; to enjoy my final year of university. I could make plans on whatever foundation was best for me and prioritise my own mind, my own health, and my own happiness over anyone else’s. It was a heart-breaking decision, but I found happiness in letting him go.
My world of opportunity came back to me: I became motivated again, I focused on the present and all I could achieve off my own back. My happiness was not tangent to a FaceTime that day or a “good morning” text – it was from my own actions and desires. My new-found freedom was liberating; I was once again my own person with my own emotions entirely dependent on myself.
Despite the pain that I experienced over those few months, it was worth it when I could see how much I’d learnt and how much I’d grown. The hopeless romantic in me was not diminished, the rose-tinted glasses still as fixed as ever – the only difference was that they were gazing in my direction at my own independent future.
“There is no exact timeframe and no revolutionary science”
There’s nothing particularly glamorous about heart-break. It’s deeply painful, sometimes unbearable, and utterly embarrassing (especially as you’re replaying that Lewis Capaldi song for the fifth time in one day). But what I do know, and what a lifetime of great romances and great heartbreaks has taught me, is that the pain ends eventually. There’s no exact timeframe and no revolutionary science but it does end.
In the meantime, in those months where I experienced the deepest of pains and on-going questions, I gave myself the biggest gift I could afford; patience. I let myself process my emotions at my own pace: to cry as long as I wanted, stay in bed as long as I needed to. But I had done the hard thing; I had let go of him. Pain is not a weakness and accepting these emotions can only make you stronger. It means you’re feeling everything in all its agonising glory. It means you’re alive.
And how lucky I am to be alive. To be so alive that I have the privilege of loving someone so deeply and sincerely. The magnitude of my loss, which felt unbearable, reflects only the magnitude of my affections. And my ability to let go and overcome, the magnitude of my strength.
I loved him, I still love him and while I may always love him, I love myself more. Letting go allowed me to hold onto something better; myself and my future.
Words by Summer Goodkind
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