When you have ended a relationship with someone whom you’ve been seeing/dating on-and-off over the course of four years, you start craving change. Your first impulse will be to mope around in your pajamas nursing your emotions with the requisite tub of ice cream and chips while binge-watching re-runs of your favorite shows on cable or Netflix. This is something you’ve just got to stop doing. Fight this impulse. You’re not an irrational emotional wreck. You’re a grown woman with the misfortune of dating someone who just quite simply did not deserve you. Of course, it still hurts. It will continue to hurt for quite some time, for those memories will always stay with you because they were precious to you. But you cannot, and must not give in to such irrational impulses to sit around and mope all day pouring over every dreaded detail of those final moments in your mind while shedding more pointless tears. You need to pick up your heart and whatever shards of it were crushed. You must carry it with you as you move forward.
The only socially acceptable impulses to get over a bad/awkward break-up consist of the following:
No, really. It’s a miracle what combing through the clearance sales can do for a person (just don’t do resort to it too often). Go ahead and get yourself that cute pair of designer pumps that you’ve been eyeing at Macy’s for the past few weeks. If you can get it for a discount, all the better for your wallet.
The bright side is that you won’t have to worry about exchanging the soft button-down flannel shirt you got him for the holidays because the shirt turned out to be too big for him. Even if your motivation for buying him that shirt for the holidays was because you pictured yourself snuggling next to him and feeling the soft fabric and his warmth against your cheek when you hug him, that’s his problem figuring out what to do with it now.
2. Trying A New Look
This relates to shopping, since you might choose to purchase some items to help revamp your current cosmetic or wardrobe collection. Maybe you’re looking for a new shade of deep red matte lipstick for that perfect pick-me-up, or a new shimmery rose-gold eyeshadow palette. Or maybe you just need to change up your skincare routine; those moisturizing eye creams and facial masks work wonders to heal and rejuvenate your skin from all the stress you’ve endured for the past few weeks.
Perhaps a new A-line dress and an adorable pair of party heels caught your eye and you can just picture yourself wearing them confidently the next time you’re out hanging with friends. Other women decide to cut or style their hair differently so that they feel like a “new and improved” person starting fresh with a new chapter in her life. (Just don’t get a haircut when you’re still overly distraught. Rather, after you’ve had enough time to contemplate and process the abrupt changes in your life, you should be clear-headed enough to know what you want and make your mind up on a style.)
Whatever you decide, don’t ever change yourself simply to get someone back. Do it for you. Because you’re a beautiful person inside and out, and you deserve to treat yourself this time. So put on that lipstick and go out with some friends for a celebratory toast to your newfound freedom.
Some women are a bit more adventurous. After experiencing a bad breakup or sudden setback, some people decide to either travel or relocate to an exotic place just to change the scenery so that they won’t have to be reminded of the remnants of their previous romance. They usually traverse on eye-opening getaway vacations to someplace exotic and do something daring, like learning how to surf the Pacific waves in New Zealand or go zip-lining across a Costa Rican forest.
Of course, if they’re anything like me, perhaps they might choose an urban setting. A different city altogether, maybe on a different continent. I mean, I’ve been to the Philippines (mostly to vacation there with my family and visit our relatives in Manila) and have explored some of the beaches there. However, I’ve never been to Europe. I would love to hit all the historical places in cities like London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Milan, Madrid, Vienna, and Copenhagen. I want nothing more than to roam the streets and snap pretty shots of the scenery, throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, walk into the original location of the Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop, and surround myself with Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel. I want nothing more than to breathe in the breeze, and sip a nice cup of cappuccino or café au lait with a pastry while sitting outside of a quaint little corner cafe on a balmy and sunny day while mapping out my next destination.
I’d also love to go to the West Coast (admittedly, I have never been to L.A., San Francisco, or Seattle yet). I also want to explore Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts. Go whale-watching or drink wine in a lovely small vineyard, you know? Or just sleep in and read a book during a weekend getaway at a cute little bed-and-breakfast place. Something fun, and something relaxing to help with the rejuvenation process.
4. Cleaning & Reorganizing
Other people take out the trash, do their laundry, clean out their closets, scrub their kitchen floors until the floors shine, or take inventory of their cosmetic collection to figure out which colors just don’t work for them anymore. It’s a good opportunity as any to take another look at your stuff with a fresh new outlook on life. What don’t you need anymore? Which things have you outgrown or no longer fit into your current lifestyle (or the life you want to achieve)? Cleaning, like shopping, can also be therapeutic, especially when you rummage through your belongings to mix and match your pieces again before deciding to either toss or donate some of the items.
Or perhaps you need a new bookshelf in the room to house all of those new novels and writing and design books you’ve accumulated over the years. Maybe you need to rework your kitchen pantry or clean out the fridge, or redesign the decor in your living room. If the dynamic doesn’t feel right to you, you might decide that you need to change the ambiance of one of the rooms, maybe repaint your room with the shade you have always wanted.
5. Setting New Goals
In the midst of all these changes, some people might choose to throw themselves into their work or embark on new creative projects. Some take on a new hobby or a new challenge, like photography, painting, creating handmade crafts items and selling them on Etsy. Some go out and try out new food at restaurants or food festivals, or enroll in cooking class. Others decide to do some research, write stories, create a website, etc. Others might decide to enroll in a dance class, sign up for a gym membership, join a marathon, or go hiking for the first time. You can choose to do whatever you want. You have more time for it now; might as well make that time worthwhile rather than wasting another minute, another second on the things that bring down your spirit.
So what did I end up doing?
I spent most of my Sunday on January 11th cleaning out the clutter from a desk that’s been situated in one corner of the living room of my family’s apartment. Dried-up highlighters, ink-less pens, crumpled receipts with faded ink, unopened letters from credit card solicitors, and stray bobby pins – all tossed in the trash. My boyfriend had broken up with me two days right after the new year had started. A week after that is when I decided that I needed to declutter the desk – as well as reorganize and restructure the rest of my life. Thus began the process of decluttering in the wake of reorganization of space, reinvention of creativity, and rediscovery of self.
He had invited me out that Saturday evening at Grand Central Terminal, and I decided to go because I knew it would be the last time I would get to see him before he left for Florida for a week-long job assignment. The crazy part was that he had finally felt comfortable enough to define our relationship and admitted that he was, indeed, my boyfriend. “I know you’re comfortable with calling me your ‘boyfriend,’ ” he said, smirking, “and I guess this would make you my ‘girlfriend,’ but this cannot continue and it’s non-negotiable.” He had stated it as though our relationship was nothing more than a business transaction and he wanted out of a contract. He had no consideration for how I would feel, or how embarrassing it was for me to be dumped in the middle of a crowded food concourse at Grand Central Terminal, surrounded by eavesdropping strangers sitting nearby. What was even more odd was the fact that he not only expected me to cry, but to also embrace him and wish him well on his trip. I could tell that’s how he had imagined it in his head: that I would cry on his shoulder as he hugged me and said his goodbyes.
I did not give him that satisfaction.
Instead I just glared at him, shook my head, and walked away, seething in a swirling storm of bitter tears that I fought to hold back as I took the train ride home. I did not even cry for much of the following week because deep down, even though I thought things were going well and that we were actually headed somewhere in our relationship each time he brought up defining what we meant to each other, it did not surprise me anymore. Lesson learned: if a man keeps flippantly changing his mind about how he feels about you, then he doesn’t have much to stand for and therefore cannot stand up for you or your relationship.
At least now I won’t have to worry about what some silly boy thinks of me, or how he feels about me. Because my happiness should not be contingent upon someone else’s approval of my worth as a person.
I recall him stating several times that, “I’m an all-or-nothing type of person.” Yet he didn’t want to introduce me to his parents, his friends, the people that were important in his life. He always darted my question, “Who am I to you?” by replying that I was someone very special and dear to his heart. I never could shake off the feeling that he only viewed me a certain way: I was always just that girl he met in college, the prim-and-proper secretary of the psychology honors society and academic club that we had both been involved with as undergraduates. I remember replying that most women would have walked out on him already because he was always so indecisive about how to define our relationship. We had been eating at a French bistro in Chelsea that night, and I remember telling him, “Give me a reason why I shouldn’t just get up, walk out that door, and never look back.”
He held tighter to my hands, looked intently into my eyes, and said, “I want you to know that you’re important to me. You’re always going to be special to me, and I want to continue having you in my life.”
This was only a few weeks right before he had asked to meet me at Grand Central Terminal, the same night he denied ever saying any of those things and accusing me of making it up in my mind. His denial insulted my intelligence: I’m a writer. I have a knack for recalling specific details, especially during emotional and pivotal scenes. It’s how I am able to write case notes so efficiently when I’m in the office. I know what’s fact, what’s fiction, and when a person is circumventing the truth.
He had stated that our world views were too different and that our relationship could not work out in the long run. In a way, I suppose he’s right. I have always wanted to have a committed and deep romantic relationship with someone whom I loved and thought I could trust, and I was more than prepared to open up my entire heart. Whereas he just wanted to screw around with my emotions each time he said he just wanted to remain friends and then ask me out on dates again. I knew exactly what I wanted out of my life. He still had yet to figure himself out, and aside from taking odd jobs and writing his novel, he had admitted during one phone conversation that he didn’t really feel like he had a purpose. Of course, if you ask him this now, he’ll most likely deny that this conversation ever even took place and that yes, he has a purpose, and that his purpose is completing his book – parts of which I had eagerly helped him edit whenever he shared his ideas with me or emailed his rough drafts to my inbox requesting my feedback.
Once you realize and accept that the person you’ve been dating was indecisive (in the sense that he was always on the fence about calling you his “girlfriend”), insensitive (he did not want to admit that he had purposely led you on all those years you’ve known him), and just flat-out emotionally immature, you start taking several hard looks at the things surrounding you in your life. You start creating lists of the things you want to change and things you want to pursue to be happy. You start finding that you have more time to dedicate to yourself – extra time that you should be spending wisely to come to terms with your emotions, your mistakes, your sense of self, and your plans for your future.
So I chose to use the extra time I had during the week following the awkward confrontation I had with the ex-boyfriend. The desk in my family’s living room had been buried under piles of textbooks, papers, old receipts, dried-up pens and highlighters, random hair accessories, and countless other objects that shouldn’t otherwise belong on a desk. They were not only scattered all over the desk, but the drawers were stuffed with obsolete objects and an array of disorganized office supplies that hardly anyone in my family remembered was even there. It was time to give this desk the organization and decor it so badly needed.
I built that desk with my dad, and for the longest time, I had been wanting to convert that corner of the living room into my own creative workspace at home, where I can feel laid back and motivated enough to be free with my creativity and feel inspired by the ambiance I create in this space. I had been letting myself feel suffocated by too many expectations that others demanded of me, too many pressures to keep up with the changes in my life, too many disappointments dragging down my spirit. I wanted to change that. I wanted to rise above it all, break away from all my sources of stress, and set my own goals at my own pace without having to worry so much about whether I’m doing the right thing or pleasing someone else to make sure that they’re happy.
Cleaning out the clutter helped me find better focus as I came up with a list of new projects and priorities I wanted to get done for the rest of the year. The physical act of cleaning and reorganizing is a manifestation of the mind searching for a coping mechanism after a stressful event. I don’t have obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I do appreciate a nice clean, well-lighted workspace to keep me motivated and inspired about working on my creative projects. A small little corner where I can dream and do my own thing on my own time and just be myself.
A place where I can pick up the pieces of my once-broken heart and just shake them all off while I’m on the road to rediscovering myself again. It’s a painful and messy process, but it’s a necessary one if I ever want to heal again and begin anew. In the musical stylings of Taylor Swift (whose 1989 album I thoroughly enjoy, by the way, especially since she’s finally had a feminist awakening of her own):
‘Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate (haters gonna hate)
I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off
Heart-breakers gonna break, break, break, break, break (mmmm)
And the fakers gonna fake, fake, fake, fake, fake (and fake, and fake, and fake)
Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
I shake it off, I shake it off”
Some people will hardly ever change their ways. These same people will hardly ever learn that they need to break their own shady patterns on their own, without using you as a balm to anoint their fragile egos. It’s not your job to change them or fix them, no matter how much you want things to work out. Life will hardly ever be fair, and the sooner you learn to accept that certain people and certain things will never change, the sooner you can move on to the things that matter the most: your family, friends, professional growth, individual creativity, and the things you love to do.
I feel more at ease knowing that I can work on projects comfortably in this lovely little corner.
I still need to create a collage to decorate the walls. It’s been a long time since I’ve created one, or got involved in any mixed media type of art projects. I already hung up a watercolor of a flower vase that I made in high school, as well as an abstract piece. (See if you can spot them.)
I want to be more productive and produce more creative content. I want to build a community of fellow creatives who have ideas and want to share that spark of curiosity with others. I want to continue learning how to succeed in this field, and I want to further develop my professional and personal goals on the road to (hopefully) working as an editor-in-chief in the publishing industry.
I don’t want to distract myself with another one-sided relationship in which I end up feeling emotionally drained. I don’t want to let my confusion about how a person feels about me cloud my judgement and decision-making. I don’t want to be that person anymore, the girl who keeps waiting for an answer from someone else instead of becoming the driving force to make things happen. I’m too young to feel defeated and depleted. I need to start living it up more and embrace everything else that life has to offer me.
I decided that I’m just going to shake off the shards of my once-shattered heart and set them aside. Once I had done that, I came to find that life becomes a bit clearer, lighter, and carefree. I had already rolled up my sleeves; I had even worn my heart on it on several occasions. This time, I’m just going to let life unravel itself and see what else is up its sleeve.