“I think it’s necessary to break up,” I said. The words seemed so flat and cold.
“I understand,” he replied.
Did he? How could he when I barely understood it myself? There I was, at age 23, telling the love of my life– the man that I had spent a third of my life being madly and wonderfully in love with– that we couldn’t be engaged anymore. None of it made sense. It was clear that we were supposed to be together. People say that when you know, you just know, and I felt it everywhere in my bones.
But I also knew that it was necessary to break up. It was a truth that I felt stirring up from deep in my heart, that I tried to push away, to drown it into a place of oblivion, where life could be everything easy and nothing scary. In the end, as the sun rises each day and the moon appears at night, the truth came out. As it always does.
So it went. I told the truth and he understood. I was in a place of limbo, just a girl trying to find her footing in life. In one hand was a Bachelor’s degree in English that I had no idea what I would do with. In another was his own hand, which I was holding tightly onto. I didn’t remember when I had begun to grasp it permanently, but one day I found myself unable to unhinge of his hand. If I made dinner, I needed to get his opinion on what he wanted to eat. If I felt like watching a movie, I couldn’t choose without checking with him. If I wanted to go out and he didn’t, my mood would adjust to his.
Some people call this being in a relationship. After all, it takes compromise for two people to share a life together. But to me, it felt less like compromise and more like… following. Like tagging along on someone else’s ride. After I had graduated from college, I headed straight to San Diego, where he was studying to become a teacher. There was no Plan B. Being with him was The Plan. I figured that I could figure the rest out later.
Within a few months of living together, he proposed. He made reservations for a table on the roof of a restaurant right in the heart of Downtown, told me to dress up, and ordered champagne the minute we sat down. And yet, I didn’t suspect a thing until he led me to the balcony to watch the sunset. Then it became clear: This is it. He’s going to propose. My heart raced and I felt frozen in time as he knelt. Many emotions rushed to the surface, but the emotion that won out was love. Love spilled over from my beating heart and I said yes. Yes, I would spend my life with the person I had first fallen for a decade earlier, the person that knew me better than any living person on the face of this Earth, the person I loved with every fiber of my being. Yes, of course. And yet, a little voice inside me said: Not yet.
Instead of being truthful about my insecurities, I shoved them aside and focused on sharing a life with him. At first, being with him was blissful after being in a long-distance relationship during my last year in college. Being with myself, however, had gotten to be dull. Watching him work towards his goal while I was staying in place made me feel as if I were losing touch with who I was and who I was supposed to become.
One evening, he caught me crying in the shower. It was the only place I could cry without anyone seeing me, but he found me anyway. I wouldn’t tell him why at first, feeling afraid to death that if I told him the reason, he would suddenly see it and begin to look at me the way I looked at myself. I didn’t want him to love me any less, which was what I had been doing to myself.
“I feel like I have no personality,” I finally got out.
“Aw, that’s not true!” he told me.
Relief washed over me. So he hadn’t noticed how I seemed incapable of making daily decisions, big or mundane, on my own. He hadn’t noticed that without the extracurricular activities I was involved in and the partying that I did in college, I was just a bleak canvas without anything concrete painted on it. But, I noticed.
A year after we had gotten engaged, life took us in two different directions. He had an internship in Texas and a job offer took me back to my roots, the Bay Area. For the first time, I was completely in charge of my own life. It was then I was able to face the ultimate truth that lay deeply layered below the place I hid all uncomfortable things. The truth was, I wanted to experience life on my own. And I wasn’t capable of doing that while I was still betrothed to the person I loved more than myself.
All this eventually came out of me and he graciously understood, making me love him more than I ever did. We both agreed to let go of each other. It was terrifying. I was numb. I felt sad for weeks. Sad, but a little stronger than I was before. Then life became unpredictable and exciting. Life presented to me its beautiful, wonderful, and raw moments and it was entirely up to me what to make of them. I also had difficult moments. I felt depressed at times. But other times, I felt invincible. I took on different alter egos. I learned what I really liked. Sometimes it seemed that I was changing so much that I could never be the same girl that he proposed to. That thought frightened me, but I soldiered on. I knew that I must.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
After we broke up, I didn’t see him for nearly a year. Slowly, we started talking again. We both had believed that the other had moved on, and maybe we both did in a way, but our love was still alive, still breathing. By this time, I had gotten to a place where I felt full-hearted by myself and I was ready to face him. The spurs of incredible joys and periods of heart-wrenching anguish I experienced through the year were mine and I brought them with me to Austin.
He didn’t recognize me when he pulled up to the airport. I suppose I looked different with my bangs, leather-and-denim jacket, and newfound independence. It makes me smile today to think of how it felt to be in his arms again. It was so familiar and yet so different. Like my home in a new place. It felt as if a lifetime had passed since we last kissed, yet it was as if we hadn’t parted for more than a week.
Two months ago, I married him. This time I was completely, undoubtedly, and wholeheartedly ready. I once feared that the person I was changing into would no longer be compatible with him, but the truth is, the only way love is true is when it supports the person you truly are. The truth is, when I needed him to make me happy, it was a situation of him giving and me taking. The truth is, we all deserve to listen to our hearts, even if that scares us beyond comprehension.
In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
Writing challenge prompt 6/30: Talk about a time in your life that you had to change courses.