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Starts With Goodbye

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As I stood in line at Dunkin’ Donuts, I heard a familiar voice. I couldn’t help but turn around, curious to know where I knew the voice from, and caught a glimpse that stopped me in my tracks.

It was my ex-boyfriend…

It actually had me thinking that if an encounter like this were to have happened five years ago, I would be on a roller coaster of emotions right now.

I’d be overanalyzing my outfit and wishing I wore something else because of how embarrassing it is to be seen in a hoodie and pajama shorts. I would be rethinking every word that we would exchange and later come up with different scenarios of how it could have gone.

It would have me brainstorming a story about my “perfect significant other,” and how happy I am with him.

It would have had me competing with him. I would be obsessed with looking better than any girl he’s with.

It would ignite a flame inside of me to prove to him that I’m doing just fine without him in my life and how my life has never been more perfect since he left me.

And after I walked out the door, I would call my best friend and be on the phone with her the entire duration of my drive home. She would be telling me how much better I am without him and remind me why he’s not worth thinking about.

The encounter would have had me thinking back on our relationship and build anger inside me. It would have me thinking back to when he did me wrong, time after time, and how stupid I was for staying with him for so long.

But here’s the thing, all of that would have happened if this encounter happened five years ago.

***

When I met him, I thought he lit the stars in the sky. And when he asked me out six years ago, I was convinced that the world was at my fingertips – that it would rise to new heights. Obviously though, this was nothing more than an illusion.

Our relationship was the kind where we stood in the middle of a dense fog, unable to see beyond each other. He made me feel unimportant and trapped when my curiosity was piqued as I wanted to see what was on the other side of the mist.

It was as though while I was with him, he didn’t want to see me fly – almost as if he chained my ankles to his.

I remember the many nights when I’d tell him about my dreams (back when I thought I saw my future in Homeland Security), he’d just shoot them down.

He’d say, “You’re crazy for believing in that. You’re never going to do that.”

He always knew how to shatter my dreams, make me cry, and feel hurt. That’s something he was a professional at.

Everyone told me he was bad news from the start. My friends always warned me, “Don’t lose your heart.”

But I didn’t believe any of them. It was as though his dark eyes dared me with danger.

Even after the countless fights, mini break-ups and him cheating, I took him back. I still remember my best friend’s words to me.

“If you think he’s the one, you must be either crazy or blind.” A little harsh, but she was right.

“If it was the first time, I’d understand. But it’s like the fourth time. There’s a fine line between an accident and being a loser.”

Once again, she was right. There was a fine line between an accident and knowing what one is doing. I was out of my mind for giving him one, too many chances. Believe me, I know.

I still remember my grandmother saying to me one day, “A boy going nowhere is no good for you. You can do so much better.”

Why didn’t I listen to her after she said those words to me?

I tend to blame it on my blind optimism. I had my head in the clouds but it was just a matter of time before I finally opened my eyes.

***

When I left for my first semester of college, we left it at, “when you come home, we’ll see each other.”

Well, there were weekends that would come and I’d go home, but never say a word. I felt like a mime’s greatest trick – not speaking a word of it.

Days would go by, and I felt like I was carrying the weight of him as I sat in classes, hearing my phone vibrate in my backpack, one after another.

“Where are you?” “What are you doing?” “Who are you with?” “Answer your phone now.”

I’d be left with angry and horrible voicemails, making me feel like I was doing something wrong. But what was I doing wrong? Going to class to get an education?

He’d become angry each time I gave him the same “excuse” (in his words): “Leaving for five minutes of a lecture could be the most important five minutes for a test.”

And I knew it would ignite flame inside and sting him with pain whenever I followed it up with, “You’re not in college. If you were, you would understand.”

It honestly felt like he wasn’t giving me room to grow and find who and where I wanted to be in life. Just because he wasn’t in college didn’t mean I had to hit pause on mine.

***

Growing up, we all learn the difference between wants and needs. Sometimes your wants just don’t compare to your needs, and your needs always come before your wants.

But for me, my wants and needs were the same this time.

I wanted to wander through uncharted territory because I needed to. If I wanted to strive and reach my goals, that meant letting go.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that I’m completely innocent in the matter, because that wouldn’t be true. 

But the truth is, he did me a favor. He made it easy for me to say goodbye. 

I didn’t realize it at first; it took me a while to uncover that I was in a way, already gone.

All the feelings I once had, disappeared. They vanished into thin air, almost like magic.

And what my family and friends always said about “a boy going nowhere is no good for you,” couldn’t have been more in color than it was that day.

Once I saw the blue horizon up ahead, waiting for me, I saw my opportunity. I knew I had to do it and I also knew he wouldn’t understand or like it. And as heartless as this may sound, it wasn’t hard to see myself without him. I didn’t feel my heart shatter into a million pieces like I thought it would. By this point, I really was already gone.

Like I said, I’m not completely innocent here. I ended a three-year relationship over text message. Many see that as the worst thing anyone could ever do. Even guys look at me like I’ve done something terrible when they hear this, yet most of them are the masters of breaking up like that.

If there’s one thing this situation has taught me, it’s that, life is like a run away train you can’t wait to jump on. When you see a way out, you take it without thinking or looking back. And that’s what I did. I saw my chance and I took it.

The night I texted him “it’s over,” hitting send was like freeing a caged bird. It was like turning the last page of a chapter and starting a brand new one with new obstacles. 

I was finally able to wander through the unknown, look past the dense fog and let go of the fear and sense of negativity I became accustom to while with him. I gained courage and strength to face reality alone. I gained a reflection of my self-image, instead of only seeing him.

I finally saw my capabilities and possibilities that I previously turned a blind eye to.

I guess that explains whenever I play my music and Patsy Cline’s stunning voice comes through the speakers singing ‘Crazy,’ I understand why she took Willie Nelson’s words and made them her own.

I was crazy for trying and crying. I was crazy for allowing myself to worry, wondering what in the world I did for him to do what he did to me.

I was crazy for even thinking I ever loved him.

But I suppose that’s what happens when you’re a teenager and you have your first boyfriend. You think he’s the one and start to believe you saw sparks fly, when in reality, they were warning signs.

It’s just a fact of life when you’re young and someone tells you they love you, you’re going to believe them. But that’s not always true.

It is, however, a little ironic, the two words I always feared him saying, were coming from me. I really don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner, other than I was afraid of the judgments.

But looking back, I shouldn’t have been afraid. When almost all of his friends sent me messages about how terrible of a person I was to say I chose school over a boy, and how he told them everything, I was portrayed to be the person in the wrong zone.

I let them believe what they wanted because their judgements didn’t effect me. And I, of course, wasn’t going to stoop down to their level and argue.

Why? Because, deep down in my heart, I left him, and I was never looking back. In order for me to get to the other side of the road I wanted to walk down, I needed to do this, regardless of anyone’s opinions.

And I did.

***

Next August, my cousin and his fiancé are getting married. They’ve been together since they were 15 and 16; they’re now 23 and 24.

When I look at them, I see two people who truly love each other. They want to empower each other, not knock or break the other down. They see each other at their best and never take advantage of each other at their worst.

That’s what I deserve.

That’s why, the encounter that occurred, was different than what it would have been five years ago.

Today, when I heard his voice and caught a glimpse of him, I felt extremely indifferent.

I didn’t care that I was in a hoodie and pajama shorts making a Dunkin’ run. I didn’t care that he had another girl in his arms and the only thing I was accompanied by was my large iced coffee.

I didn’t care what she might mean to him, or what she may or may not know about me. I didn’t care enough to even engage in any conversation. I politely smiled and went on with my business.

I didn’t walk out the door and call my best friend once I got in the car, because that little encounter didn’t shatter me to pieces to see him again.

Instead, I got in my car and listened to Brad Paisley my entire duration home, singing on the top of my lungs with the windows down, and hair blowing in the wind (which is not out of the norm).

I didn’t care to compete in the “who’s happier” contest that most couples go through after they go their separate ways. But that’s because I have nothing to prove to him.

Seeing him today helped me realize that I am happy with the person I am today. My life has really never been this perfect. 

It actually made me realize, moving on with the rest of my life, started with goodbye.

Goodbye made me stronger. It made me happier. I was able to find my confidence and see who and where I belong in this crazy world.

Even now, as I sit here, writing on my deck, I already see more blue horizons out there, waiting for me. I can see them because I’m not trapped in a fog anymore; I see everything more clearly. And when the run away train called life rides by, I’ll be ready to board.

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Starts With Goodbye