So a year ago today/yesterday my expected life path changed entirely. I’m rolling my eyes at myself as I type this. Yes, I was that college girl who anticipated a ring by spring from her “serious” boyfriend because well DUH? We were totally perfect for one another. We loved pitchers of beer and weekends filled with football. We would make grilled cheeses at 3 am because what better drunk food was in our apartments? We’d go to countless dog shelters and swoon over each one and promise we’d adopt one soon. We celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and every moment we spent together. For whatever reason, my clearly dilluted mind thought that he was special because of this. Looking back, I realize that these are things that any guy who is “right” for me should do. But, at the same token, that same “right” guy, should do much more than that. But of course, with this massive slap of reality, I was forced to roll with the tide. There was no fighting it this time, which was for the best. Any sort of dragging out of this would, and did, end miserably. Lesson learned. In 365 days, I have made a complete 360 on who I am, how I live my life, and what I believe.
1. The only thing constant is change.
You can’t fight that. Things change literally every day. I wake up and think I want to cut my hair super short and by lunch I’m looking at extensions on Pinterest. Even though Pinterest has become my favorite method of passing time in boring lectures, it has also become the biggest thorn in my side. All these boards for different things caused me to come up with a plan. Not that having a plan is bad, but having one so rigid where any sort of deviation is simply not allowed for, is bad. Even in the business world, where numbers are supposed to be exact, there is always a certain amount of deviation allowed. Embrace that. If you spend your whole life planning, and fighting change, there is no forward momentum. The biggest lessons I’ve learned in life have come through change. You just have to ride it out.
2. Let the past stay there.
A few months post break up, Nathan wanted to make nice, which is whatever. I assumed it to be a nice gesture. Until it started messing with my head. I suddenly didn’t know if i should keep moving forward (right) or let him back in (wrong). After essentialy telling the nicest guy in my life at the time to leave me alone so I could figure things out with Nathan first, I realized the horrible choice I had made. Things ended for a reason. There was no point in letting what happened four months ago ruin the streak I was on. Nothing behind you is worth ruining what is in front of you.
3. Not everyone will hurt you, but some people will. Not everyone will lie to you, but some people will.
After break ups, I feel like most girls feel so vulnerable. The person you trusted most lied to you. The person you trusted with your most fragile pieces shattered them. After something like that, it’s only natural to keep yourself guarded. The fact of the matter is that you can’t do that forever. I found myself shutting people out after I could feel myself giving a piece of myself to them, only because I couldn’t be sure that I’d ever get that piece back. After this year, I’ve learned to suck it up. The only way to feel love again is to give it. You can’t expect someone to open up to you if you can’t give them the same respect in return.
4. Patience is key.
Seriously, why is everyone in such a rush to do things? I haven’t even graduated yet and people are asking what I want to do after graduation. I’ve had people tell me that it’s okay to adopt as a single woman. Seriously? I’m 20!!!! Because I’m single now does not mean I’ll be single forever… crazy people. Patience not only with relationships, but everything. I’ve been trying to teach myself patience, and I will say I’m getting better, but it comes with challenges. Everything happens when it’s supposed to, which is hard for someone who likes to know the next step to understand. But, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
5. There is nothing wrong with you.
I notice a lot of girls going through breakups suffer some serious self esteem issues afterwards, which is truly sad. Because things didn’t work with one guy, it doesn’t mean you have some sort of defect that makes you undateable. Seriously, you have to kiss some frogs before meeting the prince, no matter how cliche that is.
6. Get lost.
Don’t tell that to boys…. do it yourself. I mean this in every sense of the word. I learned a lot about myself when I got lost in Barcelona alone. It’s adventure, fun, maybe a little scary, but worth it. I learned a lot about myself when my “plan” went up in flames. The more you don’t know, the more you keep on learning.
7. Just go out there and LIVE.
Do what you want while you can. While dating Nathan, I put off studying abroad for fear of the type of strain it would put on the relationship…… cue the shaking heads. Trust me, I’m not proud to admit that. But, it was a choice I had to live with… or so I thought. After the break up, I made the choice to study abroad in Barcelona. I can honestly say that being able to focus on me, and only me, gave me the courage to do that. It was hands down one of the best experiences I have had in my life so far. In order to get these sort of incredible experiences, you have to take a chance. Start small, with trying a new wine or something. Before you know it, you’ll be traveling the world and going skydiving!
8. Some call it selfish, I call it looking out for yourself.
At the end of the day, you need to look out for #1 while you still can. Eventually, the days will come where you are married with a family that has mortgages, car payments, dance practices and football games to take care of. Focus on you while you only have yourself to focus on. I consider myself to be a very generous person; always putting others before myself. That kind of trait isn’t a problem until you realize that you have put yourself dead last. I tell everyone to take this single time to focus on yourself, but people struggle with that. It’s natural, after caring for someone else for so long, to not know how to live without taking care of others. I promise you, doing things for you is super fun, and super rewarding. You will not regret it.
9. Get the free drinks while you can.
Much like looking out for yourself, take the time to be young and flirty and fun. Accept the free drinks from the bar (as long as you watch them make them and there are no sketchy clouds in the drink). Smile if someone compliments you in line at Starbucks. There will come a day where your husband will surprise you with a 12-er after work. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (in fact, I look forward to that), but the thrill of the attention is nice while you can get it. Be single. Be fun. Don’t be a hooch.
10. Be thankful.
Sometimes, when a change happens, it becomes so easy to harp on the negative that comes from it. In reality, you can turn any happening into a positive. It isn’t easy, and it takes a lot of work. When you’re left what feels like “alone”, you can forget what is all around you. I took this time to get closer with my family, and especially my sisters. I got more involved in my sorority. I took on more jobs. I got out of debt. I am healthy. Most importantly, I am happy. It’s easy to forget what you have when you lose something. But thats the thing; you’ve lost something, not everything.
In the end, I have so much that I could punch Nathan for. But dwelling on the negative only makes me ugly inside, so instead I will thank him. So, Nathan, thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to live the life I deserve. Thank you for showing me what I am worth. Thank you, and your family, for showing me so many beautiful parts of the South. Thank you for making me realize all these amazing things. Thank you for the memories. But most importantly, thank you for the future that leaving you has made possible.