Nothing makes me feel quite so vulnerable as talking about my past relationships. For good reason, though; although with each ending came a valuable lesson, they gutted me in the process. Sometimes, it still hurts, which I used to think meant I was hung up on an ex or I wasn’t able to “get over it.” That isn’t the case though. I read this quote by Barry H. Gillespie,
“The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”
I try to remember that when I’m driving home late at night, tired from a long day at work, and my thoughts drift to a particularly painful memory. I try to see it as circling through my healing process. It doesn’t always feel like I’ve gained “deeper truths” in that very moment, but as the years have gone by, I do have a greater understanding- both of those relationships and of myself.
Billy and I met working at the same fast food restaurant. I was 16. He was 21. The age difference wasn’t a big deal at the time because A) he never pressured me to move quickly or have sex before I was ready and B) our mental ages matched. We were together for almost five years. That’s a lot of growing. Towards the end, I had accepted that I couldn’t delve into deep, dark, hard-to-talk-about subjects with Billy without him shutting down. I couldn’t bring up relationship issues without him going AWOL for 3 days. And eventually, I realized I didn’t want to go to him for those things that were important to me: mourning a sick family member, questioning existence and what I was put on Earth to do, even my own goals and hopes. I went to others, or, more likely, kept silent.
Enter: my quarter-life crisis. I had flown to Arizona to visit a life-long friend for a long weekend. You would think we would have missed each other, but actually Billy and I didn’t talk the whole time I was gone. I had so many new experiences. I tried new foods, tried drinking (growing up in Utah, it was not the popular pastime of choice), met new people and encountered this whole different life than the one I was used to. My last night there, I met Paul. No dramatic betrayal happened. He and I just talked, a lot (more on that later). And it made me realize that I wanted that. I needed that deep, intellectual, and vulnerable connection with somebody.
When I got home, things were really strained. Billy came over with fast-food lunch a couple of times before I went to work or school, but somehow we didn’t see a lot of each other right away. I knew I wasn’t happy, knew I wanted to end things, but that is a big fucking decision when you’ve been together that long. I took a week. I literally got a therapist, and then burst into uncontrollable sobbing at my first appointment when she asked, “What brings you here today?” I didn’t tell my mom, who I knew would be heartbroken. I did tell my best friend, who was stunned but supported me no matter what (thanks, Cherish).
I still remember it so vividly. I walked into his parents’ house and into Billy’s bedroom. I said, “Hey I need to talk.” I explained that I was sorry for being distant recently but I had had a lot of thinking to do. I wasn’t happy being in a relationship. I wasn’t ready to settle into what we had built. I needed to explore more and I wanted to do it by myself. I said sorry so many times. I cried and cried over having to hurt him. When I got home, sobbing hysterically, I told my mom what I had done and that I didn’t care if she didn’t understand it, it was what I needed for me. And she was so confused but she supported me, still. Cherish slept over and listened to me cry myself to sleep for two days. But, also, I felt so much relief. I felt newly hopeful about my future. I felt so free and so ready to go after a life that I wanted. I ate my first meal in a week.
After we each had time to heal, we stayed friends (how could we not after 5 years?), which eventually faded into friendly acquaintances.
Not long after, Cherish and I made the decision to move to Arizona. We got a little tipsy at T.G.I. Friday’s (class af) and called Matty, who we had visited less than one month prior. “We want to move in with you,” we giggled into the phone.
He said, “Alright, cool.” And then life began to come together.