Heartbreak Appendix

I mentioned this briefly in my first post in this series but the hardest thing about this break up for me has been the forgetting.

It’s knowing I will forget the feelings I had for my ex over time, but also knowing that he will forget his feelings for me as well.

This is the part that truly kills me about this breakup. It’s the fact that we were literally part of each other for so long and we won’t be able to keep that anymore.

Eventually, I’ll forget the exact shade of blue of his eyes. Eventually, I’ll forget what his laugh sounded like. Eventually, I’ll forget how he would concentrate when making cappuccinos. I’ll forget that he would put brown sugar in everything. I’ll forget everything eventually. One day, he will just be an idea of someone I loved.

He’ll forget me too. He’ll forget how I got mad over open chip bags. He’ll forget what my skin feels like. He’ll forget the face I make when I’m trying not to laugh. He’ll forget what my shampoo smells like. He’ll eventually forget everything about me that makes me, me.

Of course, we’ll both remember events. Like our trip to Peru, or things we did in Calgary and LA. But those are just pins on a timeline.

I will eventually forget how it truly felt to be on top of Macchu Picchu with him. He will eventually forget how it truly felt to swim close to me in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Santorini. We will both eventually forget how it felt to people watch from Bottega Louie together in LA.

We may never forget that we did those things, but we’ll forget how we felt doing them together and that wrecks me.

The only bright spot I can think of in all of this is in the fact that the forgetting helps with moving on. It’s devastating to forget these feelings, but it would also be devastating to still feel them when you can’t even have the person that’s causing them.

In other news, here’s how I’ve been coping in real time –

  • I bought a slinky red dress, a ton of skin care, and a ton of earrings
  • I am actively trying to text my friends and family to fill my communication void. I already apologized in advance for spamming them.
  • I became obsessed with a certain anime. OBSESSED.
  • I also look at my old messages with my ex to talk myself out of reaching out to him (most times this works, sometimes  not)
  • I workout a lot
  • I’m also making a ton of life changes (more coming soon)

Do what you gotta do, right? This marks the end of my heartbreak series for now. If you want to recap, you can start with the beginning here.

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PC: Kiki Moussetis

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Heartbreak Part Three: Reflection

As I’m working through healing from this breakup, a super important piece that I wanted to call out is reflection.

Let’s be clear though, this is the third part of a series being released weekly, so even though I’m going to talk about the last part in my process, these things don’t occur in nice, neat chunks and they certainly don’t occur this quickly. I’m still working through some ugly emotions, I still have weak moments where I want to reach out to my ex, I still can spend hours wondering what could have happened differently. I cry, I rage, I pout. This is a process, it takes time. Lots of time. So even though the following is attempting to focus on the positive, I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that there is a lot of negative still mixed in for me – and that’s ok.

However, the negative emotions are almost the easy ones at this point. Anger, sadness, insecurity. They’re familiar now. I feel self-righteous in feeling them and that makes them comfortable. He did this to me, I was stupid, I don’t have this anymore, and on and on.

But then I think there’s an inescapable fact about all of this – we couldn’t have grown into the people we were meant to be without having loved each other. We also couldn’t have grown into the people we were meant to be without having left each other.

No matter how angry or frustrated or weary I am about all of this, the relationship caused me to grow and change and for this, the only thing I can feel is gratitude.

Before this relationship I had never done any of the following –

Lived with my partner, been in a long-distance relationship, traveled with my partner, started a life from scratch, been to Canada, skied, mountain biked, camped, cross country skied, or compromised for a relationship.

Apart from the outdoors stuff, those are not small things.  Those are actually pretty intense buckets of development in a relationship that could have only happened in this particular relationship for me.

Additionally, I learned a lot of things about myself apart from a relationship. I confirmed the fact that I’m restless, and I realized that I am far braver than I was giving myself credit for. It takes courage to take risks for love. It takes courage to move, or to move countries. It takes courage start over. It takes courage to try and make new friends from nothing. It takes courage to own your decisions when you can feel the doubt rolling off people. And the thing is, I am not afraid of any of it. It was hard for sure – there’s no sugarcoating that – but I don’t fear it.  In fact, I realized I don’t actually fear very many things at all (apart from spiders EW).

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment I gained from this relationship is that I no longer fear failure. I used to be terrified of it. Any failure, big or small, would completely cripple me and deter me from getting outside my comfort zone. But doing what I’ve done for this past relationship proves that I don’t fear it anymore. I took so many risks, some paid off and some didn’t, but I loved the process of taking all of them and the experience is invaluable to me despite the result.

I no longer fear investing my money into things that may not pan out. I no longer fear investing my time into people that may hurt me in the end. I no longer fear being alone nor figuring things out on my own. These things still make me nervous and you bet your ass I’m still going to do everything in my power to make sure things don’t fail, but there’s no fear to prevent me from at least trying. I can’t find reasons not to take risks anymore because sometimes those risks pay off big time whether in actual results or personal growth.

So as much as I’m tempted to see myself back at square one, that’s really not fair. I am so much brighter, and better, and braver than I was before. This relationship started by sheer romantic whirlwind*. We met in France, he followed me to Greece, and we continued long-distance from LA and Calgary. We fell hard for each other and I took a chance and moved to Calgary. It didn’t work out and now I’m figuring out what to do next. That is a wild ride from start to finish.

Parts of me are still embarrassed at the failure (I’m not immune jeez), of course it sucks to tell people why I have no place to live at the moment. But that embarrassment won’t stop me from being honest, and it won’t stop me from doing it again, because carrying that fear with me to my future can only hurt me, and then what was the point of all this pain I’m going through now huh?

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Clara Yu coming in again with a great pic from my trip to LA last week ago

*In case you’re wanting to re-live my whirlwind romance those posts are linked here, here, and here. I made the mistake of doing this and ended up a sobbing mess so I hope you fare better than me.

Heartbreak Part Two: Healing

I’ve never written one of these articles because even though I use the same steps to get over a breakup every time, I wanted to make sure I gave this advice from a place of pain so I could actually analyze if these steps helped rather than just spouting the same fluff as every other heartbreak puff piece. So here we go, this is how I personally deal with a breakup, in no particular order –

  1. Retail Therapy. There is a reason we shop to fill the void. But for me, shopping after a breakup isn’t so much about finding things to replace a person, it’s about buying at least one piece of clothing, jewelry, or SOMETHING that my ex hasn’t ever seen, or touched, or had any contact with. It’s a piece that I claim as entirely my own, has no relationship with the past, and it’s the beginning of me claiming my individuality back. I already bought a killer red dress and some earrings.
  2. Change Your Look. This is similar to the clothing one in that it’s a way to reclaim your appearance. I never do anything too dramatic here, usually a different hairstyle, or slightly different highlights, or a new ear piercing. Doesn’t matter how big or small it is, it is still something that your ex has no part in now. You don’t have to listen to their opinions and it’s honestly the perfect time to try out something if you’d been considering it for awhile. And afterwards, you feel just new enough that you can almost fool yourself into thinking that you’re a completely different person than that girl who dated that guy, and for a little while, you’re untouchable. Even though that feeling won’t last forever, it’s important to get a taste of it early on, because that’s the feeling your aiming for consistently throughout all of this. I haven’t done this one yet but I’m most likely going to get some new highlights and maybe a tattoo that I’ve been putting off for awhile.
  3. USE your support system. I had been feeling so lonely, stressed, and sad in the months leading up to this breakup because I was anxious about what was happening to the relationship and I unintentionally isolated myself. I was embarrassed to let them in on how everything was falling apart. However, once everything went to complete shit, I immediately leaned on my family and my close group of friends from university for pretty much everything. I could write a book on how each one of these people helped me cope with this kind of pain, but the important thing here is that I had a support system to lean on and I used that. I vented, cried, asked for compliments, advice, empathy, and they gave it all to me. This obviously is cathartic, but using them also puts you back in touch with them and makes you realize how many people you actually do have in your corner throughout a tough time.
  4. HOWEVER, set expectations with your support system as well. You should never feel like you have to talk about it or that you have to be feeling a certain way at a certain time. Your support system should do just that, support. My friends and family were super great in the fact that they were constantly checking up on me, but didn’t pressure me to talk about it, instead they just wanted to make sure I was ok and we would talk about it sometimes but sometimes not. They should be onboard with what you’re needing at the moment, not with what they are interested in hearing.
  5. Say YES to everything. Anything you’ve ever wanted to try, go do it. Your friend invites you to a new class or something, go do it. Go out with friends, family, or just yourself! Go out and do things constantly (note – this does not mean you have to go out and party, just go out and keep busy). There will feel like you have a huge void in your life at first because you just have to get re-used to living without your other person and you have to fill it with things that keep your attention. For me, I am lucky in the fact that I actually had to move to a different location, I have friends all over the world that I can leverage work into seeing, and I just planned a trip for myself which I haven’t done in AGES (I’m going to Japan and I’m PUMPED) . Historically, my most productive periods of life have actually been immediately following a breakup so here’s hoping that trend continues.
  6. DO NOT WALLOW. Or, if you must wallow, put time limits on it. I know this is an unpopular opinion because many people say you should take as much time as you need, but I think we’re all capable of being a little bit stricter with ourselves. Only allow yourself a certain amount of wallowing per day or week. And if you absolutely must wallow, make it a productive wallow. Cry while taking an aromatic bath, go on an epic venting session while masking, make a blog post out of it (haha), etc. Wallowing without a goal can quickly turn into an endless spiral of dark thoughts ending in you scrolling to the first posts of your ex’s Instagram and that is helping NO ONE.
  7. Practice gratitude. Even if you’re not into the whole zen thing, it is important to be able to see the positive side to things. The thing is that theoretically, the goal is to eventually find a person to spend your life with, which means that the actual precious time is alone time now. Who knows when that person will waltz in and preoccupy your time indefinitely. Be grateful for this time alone, for this time to get to know yourself, to be selfish, to only worry about doing YOU.

Overall, the main thing for me is that I have so much more time and freedom to play with that I have to somehow utilize now that I’m not taking someone else’s opinion into account all the time. Everything has been feeling a little off because it’s like I’m missing huge chunks of a normal day. We don’t have our nightly phone call when I’m away, there’s no one on the other side of the bed, there’s no one to cook new recipes with, there’s no one that makes me cappuccinos, there’s no one to give my constant energy and love to… Aw damn, now I’m crying again as I’m writing this…it’s just the feeling that there’s a void that I have to fill and I use the above steps to do it. They’ve worked before and I’m hoping they’ll work again, but unfortunately for us all, time is the only thing that will truly tell.

An interaction from one of my favorite rom-coms (French Kiss, 1995) that I think sums this up perfectly:

Luc Why are you chasing after him after what he’s done to you?

Kate Because I love him! And I’m afraid that if he doesn’t come back that I’ll… it’ll hurt so much that I’ll just shrivel up and I’ll never be able to love anyone ever again.

Luc You say that now, but… after a time, you would forget. First, you would forget his chin, and then his nose, and after a while, you would struggle to remember the exact color of his eyes, and one day you wake up and, pfft, he’s gone: his voice, his smell, his face. He will have left you. And then you can begin again.

What do you do to get through a breakup?

*Author’s Note – I actually talked to my ex yesterday morning to work out some logistics with the stuff I left behind in Calgary and I completely fell apart on the phone, so just remember if you’re going through this that it is a work in progress and you’re allowed to have moments where you just CAN’T.

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I visited LA this past weekend and spending time with my friends here was MUCH needed

Heartbreak Part One: Broken

This was the hardest section of this series to write by far. I actually wrote the next two parts to this way beforehand because I just couldn’t bear to face this one for a while. If you couldn’t tell by the title – my relationship has ended. I’m not going to go into the mechanics of why or what happened because this is still a public space and I still respect the relationship and him enough to not share all the details. However, the reason this article was still important for me to write is that I wanted to talk about what it feels like to be heartbroken. I wanted to just kick off this series with my true feelings about how this went down and all the awful things that invade your mind when you’re going through a time like this because heartbreak isn’t as simple as packing up your shit, going out with your friends, and finding someone new. I was with my boyfriend for almost three years. We lived together. We traveled together. We met each other’s families. We were truly part of the fabric of each other’s lives and you don’t just ‘get over’ something like that. It takes time.

For me the first thing that set in was honestly panic. I panic because I had been planning on the relationship lasting. When I thought ahead to the future, the relationship had been taken into account. Future travels, living arrangements, opportunities, etc. But now that the relationship no longer exists, my plans have gone up in smoke. All my plans and my future have to be rethought, different plans have to be made and I’ve lost a key supporter in those plans, so I panic.

I’m not sure what the next feeling is called but basically after I’m done panicking, I have an intense need for closure. Especially with a relationship as long and intense as this last one, I feel that there should almost be a formal conversation, splitting up everything, and a proper goodbye. We did love each other for a long time and I hate breaking up over time, in pieces, because it doesn’t feel right to me. I respect the other person enough to want to face them in person and honestly, I need to be prepared for the last time I’m ever going to see or hold someone I cared about so deeply for such a long time. I feel I deserve a goodbye so I will do everything in my power to achieve that meeting. However, in the meantime, there are two other emotions that are pretty prevalent throughout this whole process as well –

The first is grief. Grief because I’m losing a best friend. I’m losing a lover. I’m losing all the little things we shared – inside jokes, favors, trips, nicknames. I’m losing an apartment. I’m losing a city. I’m losing the people I met through him. I’m losing a whole life I created and that makes me intensely sad. The hardest part about ending romantic relationships in my mind is that one day you’re best friends, and the next day you’re supposed to be nothing to each other. The part that hurts the most is that eventually you’re just supposed to forget each other and knowing that one day you’ll be forgotten by someone who loved you that much causes almost physical pain. There’s a reason people compare breakups to losing limbs because that’s pretty much how it feels for a while.

The second is anger. I can be a pretty bitter and resentful person when things don’t go how I wanted them to and this is true for breakups as well. With this one, in particular, I went through periods of being so angry that I had even moved to Canada, that I had taken a risk on him when I felt he wasn’t willing to take risks on me. I was angry at the way he handled things the last few months and even in the last few weeks before everything was decided. Part of how I have to cope, is finding the bad things in the other person. Somehow prove to myself that I dodged a bullet in the end, so I pick on things about the other person in my mind and I foster anger towards them. I convince myself that they’re a coward and immature and that they don’t deserve my time. These truly are ugly feelings but when I’m emotionally compromised, they’re hard to keep at bay.

Lastly, the nastiest feelings of all – the insecurity feelings. Why wasn’t I good enough? What did I do wrong? What could I have done? Was I stupid for believing him when he said x? Why did I say that didn’t matter? Was I stupid for hanging around as long as I did? Was I stupid to move for him? I know the logical answer to all these questions, but it doesn’t stop the doubt creeping in. Knowing doesn’t stop me from nitpicking everything in the last six months to uncover ‘the reason’ for all of this. Knowing doesn’t stop me from looking at myself in the mirror and tearing apart all the things that could possibly be considered unlovable about myself. I know it’s wrong, but it feels like I missed something. It feels like I was on a sinking ship that I refused to recognize was sinking because I was just too dumb to notice. It feels like I was tricked or betrayed, but I blame myself because it should have been obvious. I know these are irrational thoughts but when someone flips a switch on you like that you blame yourself for not noticing earlier because there must’ve been signs right?

This was horrible to write. If I’d been writing this on paper, there would be tear stains all over this article. I don’t enjoy wading through these feelings especially since normally I’m only ever experiencing one or two at a time, not all of them, because they’re painful. It’s embarrassing to tell people you’re feeling truly awful because someone else broke your heart. You wonder if other people are wondering what’s wrong with you and then you feel even more inadequate.

But the thing is – I’m not inadequate. I’m not stupid. I’m not oblivious and I am way past good enough. But these feelings are there anyways. Creeping around in my head, causing me to sob at work in the bathroom in between meetings, preventing me from getting out of bed in the morning, clawing at my reflection in the mirror.

*EDIT: I wrote the above paragraphs about a month and a half ago now. I couldn’t bring myself to release it or start this process until I felt a lot better. Part of me felt like posting this would put a stamp of finality on everything that I wasn’t ready to commit to. I’m at a much different point in the process than I was when I wrote this, and I’m definitely feeling a lot more stable now. However, I still thought it was important to release it in it’s more raw form because heartbreak can be ugly. The feelings associated with it are ugly and uncomfortable and even just feeling them can cause guilt on top of everything else. But when you’re in pain, rationality can sometimes take a backseat and that’s ok if that’s what it takes to get better. It’s important to recognize that no matter how ridiculous the feelings, you’re still feeling them, and they still affect you and it’s necessary to acknowledge them so you can eventually pull yourself and move forward.

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Beautiful shot taken by my sister at Knossos in Crete

 

What is Sexy?

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of fanfiction. THAT’S RIGHT, go ahead and judge me. If you don’t know what fanfiction is, it is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it.

Now, the reason I bring this up is because there’s a lot of sex and romance in fanfiction. People grow attached to certain characters, and certain character relationships, and want to create a space for those feelings. Unfortunately, because anybody and everybody can write whatever and however they want, there are a lot of bad sex scenes written out there. We are talking BAD. Worse than Fifty Shades of Gray. Worse than those period novels with half-naked men on the front. Worse than a Twilight fever dream.  Just bad.

Although some of these scenes are bad because the actual word choice and syntax is bad (who knew there were such terrible synonyms for ‘thrust’?), I also think some of them are bad because they focus on the wrong things. Obviously, I’m no expert, I just read a lot of these stories, but what I’ve noticed is that people like to focus too much on the actual sex part.

See…the thing is…sex isn’t actually that sexy. Sex is messy, animalistic, and if you think about it for too long – gross. The sexy part of sex is in how it feels, not what it is. But these writers focus on graphic portrayals of the act, rather than the feelings, which ultimately leaves the reader feeling detached and often cringing at the crude descriptions instead of losing themselves to the material.

As I mentioned before, I’m not an expert at writing these scenes (although, now I’m thinking I should give it a shot…), but the scenes that truly get your heart racing have perfected something that the others completely miss.

Anticipation. Apprehension. Tension. Uncertainty.

Maybe it’s just me, but the ‘will they? won’t they?’ feeling is where it’s at. One character noticing a flash of skin on the other. Eyes looking at lips. Lips brushing but not touching. Pulling close, pushing away. This can be maddening to consume in media, because you just want the characters to get on with it, but the tension it creates makes that eventual sex scene so much more believable and gratifying.

The feeling all this build up creates is similar to hanging out with your crush. Remember having a crush? Remember when we were all fifteen and hormonally imbalanced and everything felt extra EXTRA heightened? There were all these little things that happened before you eventually kissed. Hands brushing, lingering hugs, wandering eyes. Your heart beats unnaturally fast, your breathing is shallow, and there’s all this tingling in your stomach and below.

Movies and TV have a leg up on writing in this respect because they can simply show us the characters, and build up the tension through good editing and music. Reading forces a little bit more imagination into the mix which means these scenes must be treated that much more delicately.

So why am I writing this? Most of us probably aren’t trying to figure out how to write smut better in our spare time (no judgment if you are though), but I’m writing this to explain why the sex can never be the only sexy part of the journey. In media, and in life. It’s the hunt, the anticipation, the tension, the foreplay, that ultimately makes sex truly sexy. We often dismiss these feelings as merely a means to an end, but if we actually examine ourselves closer, we’ll find that we enjoy them. We want to work for it, we want the uncertainty, we want the chase, we want to go after things just out of our reach to see if we can catch them, and when we do, it’s just that much more satisfying.

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Me, attempting to be sexy. PC: The extraordinary Clara Yu

 

 

 

The Art of Vulnerability

If you’ve met me, even for only a few minutes, the first few words out of your mouth to describe me would not be anything along the lines of delicate, vulnerable, or emotional. You might say that I sometimes come off as a bit…aloof. This is partly because of my appearance (tall, athletic, with RBF of course), and partly of my own making. For years, I thought I had to handle everything on my own without ever betraying the difficulty of doing so. I thought that displays of excessive emotions, whether good or bad, demonstrated a lack of control, and asking for help? Oh my god, that was PEAK humiliation for me. I was pretty much this way all the way through my first year of university. I would bestow tough love advice on friends who got caught up in their feelings, and related the most to people, who, like me, didn’t rely too much on others.

This way of living took it’s toll though. I found that I would put a lot of pressure on myself, and I would implode frequently at home crying with my mom or venting to my sister. I suppose I only allowed myself to be vulnerable with my family because they were the only ones whom I completely trusted to actually support me without viewing me as weaker. In addition, there were many times when relying on others would have helped me do something faster or more effectively, but instead, I viewed it as safer to go it alone.

Then, finally, in my second year of university – two huge things happened.

First, I went to Shanghai to study abroad. I could literally write a book on how much this experience changed me, but for the purpose of this topic, it’s relevant because I couldn’t access my usual support system as easily. The time difference between Chicago and Shanghai is 13 hours so calls could only happen when planned. Furthermore, even though I had already gone across the country for school, it was quite another feeling to be across the globe. In California, I had always had it in the back of my mind that my parents could fly out and get me if things got bad. In China, I felt truly on my own.

The second is that the living situation in Shanghai was extremely close quarters. There were roughly 45 of us in the study abroad program, and we all lived in a couple buildings in our own mini campus. We were pretty much all living right on top of one another. Consequently, it was difficult not to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of every single person. At Pepperdine, there were quiet spaces you could go if you actually needed to be alone, but in Shanghai, even the most private areas were still public to an extent. So if you were going through something, you almost had to share it with at least a few people.

This was extremely uncomfortable for me at first. I felt as though I couldn’t escape the constant clamor of others and I’m sure I came off rude and distant more than once. But slowly, I realized that for the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by people who I recognized as happy, disciplined, and ambitious, but who also consistently asked for help, and consistently displayed emotion around others.

Never before had those two ideas been reconciled in my mind. But never before had I been able to observe my friends in such close quarters and truly realize that behind every face, no matter how tough, there is a story.  Nobody can be in control, happy, or strong ALL the time, including myself. The most amazing part was that when I did start opening up a bit more, nobody thought less of me for it. They still viewed me as a capable, strong person.

Although this was a huge personal breakthrough for me, the reason I just wrote almost seven hundred words on it is because this type of thinking is a skill. Recognizing vulnerability in others, and tying it to your own is a form of empathy than can be used in any situation. Of course, this is indispensable when it comes to your personal relationships, but it can be amazingly helpful professionally as well. For example, if a client or boss comes down much harder on you than normal, before getting angry or defensive, just take one minute, sixty seconds, to think about why. It’s actually super easy to do this because (if you’ve done this right) you’ve already spent time analyzing why you yourself get angry, frustrated, or disappointed. If you know that you get snappy when you haven’t eaten or right after you’ve talked to your mom, then you can afford the same grace to someone else. It doesn’t get much credit in buzzy business articles because it’s a soft, subjective skill, but I can promise you from personal experience that when people feel like you ‘get’ them, that goes a loooong way.

 

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You can be strong and vulnerable at the same time.

What to Sacrifice for Love?

Love is a funny thing. That’s probably my favorite adjective to describe love because even though it is so much more than that, the way that it affects us is truly funny. Falling in love is like going on the best vacation ever. The falling part is amazing, blissful, and extremely exciting. But if you decide to pursue a real relationship, it’s like going back to work afterward. Not that in the sense that it’s a letdown, but you realize that you both are separate people with separate personalities and desires and you have to work to reconcile those if you want to be happy together.

When I was younger, and romantic movies and books were my sole source of experience, I always thought people only broke up for dramatic reasons like cheating, or realizing their family hates you, but there are far more heartbreaking issues that can try and tear you apart.

There are big questions that inevitably have to be discussed in any long term relationship. Do we both want kids? Do we both know where we want to live? Is that the same place? How do our careers interact, does one of us have a lot of travel? Whose family do we live closer to? How do you treat money and deal with financial issues?

These are the heartbreaking issues because by the time you discuss them, you’re already attached and if you disagree it can be difficult to reconcile because these are topics of strong conviction. For example, if I was completely in love with my boyfriend but I find out three years in that he doesn’t want kids one day, we have a big problem. I know that I want them someday, so even though everything else in our relationship is going really smoothly, we would have to end it unless somebody changed their mind.

On the other hand though, I could think about it and say, you know, it’s fine if I don’t have kids. The caveat with these kinds of compromises is that you must be sure. Giving up your point of view on these issues is not to be done lightly. You may be able to fool yourself into thinking you don’t want certain things to agree with your partner so that you can be together, and this is a dangerous path. It may work for a while, your partner will surely be happy that you’ve changed your mind, but you may end up seriously unhappy and resentful that you had to give up something so completely important to you.

Why am I talking about such a heart-wrenching issue? Well, with respect to my own relationship’s privacy, our issue is the geography one. Where do we want to live in the end?

But wait Melina, I thought you already lived together, you made a whole series about moving to Canada!

Yes, you’re correct. Our current arrangement is that we live together in an apartment in Calgary, but it’s not the most ideal right now. I spend 3 out of every four weeks traveling for work and my boyfriend travels in spurts for work as well, sometimes for up to four weeks at a time. Furthermore, Calgary may not be sustainable for me at the moment since it lacks the number of career opportunities I’m currently interested in, and as an American, it’s extremely difficult to get hired anyway without already having residency status to work.

With my current job, we are just barely seeing the value of this arrangement. However, if I wanted to change jobs to something with far less travel, I’d have to move back to the U.S.. For the short term, this is fine. We have done long distance before and we’re confident we could do it again. The issue is the long term thinking. Where are we going to live? Where will we settle down and start a family? This is a question with no answer yet, in my mind because we are both so young and we can’t know what the next few years will bring, so I can’t commit to any place because I don’t want to close any doors as to where life could take me. On the other hand, my boyfriend really doesn’t have a huge reason to ever leave Calgary. His family and friends are all there, and his career trajectory fits perfectly with that city.

Part of me is desperately afraid that if I leave now, we won’t make it. He’ll realize how great his life is staying there and he’ll wish he had found someone else who didn’t present this problem. On the other hand, I also know I can’t stay. At least for now, I still feel the need to grow my career and my experience in other places. Part of me thinks that one day, Calgary could be my home, but I don’t want to make all my decisions with that end goal in mind since I want to be open to where my opportunities take me.

The only solution to this dilemma is time. We can’t know where we will be in five or ten years, and yet we’re still trying to plan for it, and we’re driving ourselves crazy with the possibilities.

Hence, my question of sacrifice. I love my boyfriend so completely, but would I be able to sacrifice everything else for Calgary? If I’m being honest with myself, right now it’s impossible, and later on, I just can’t know.  So how much is too much to sacrifice for love? I know the ‘right’ answer to my dilemma: I should go where it’s best for me. At least for now, I’ll be happier in almost every other area of my life and as for my relationship, if we both really want it to work, we’ll make it work. But knowing the ‘right’ answer doesn’t make this any easier. I don’t want to stop living close to him almost more than I want anything else, even if it’s not the best choice for me in the long run. And that’s the funny part of it all. The irrational part. The part that makes love so infuriating.

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I do like the skiing in Calgary…

I’m the Serious Friend

I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will never be the ‘fun’ friend. I love to laugh, tease, go out, and try new things. But I’m not the catalyst for ‘fun’ events. I’m not the friend you call when you want to get the party started. I’m not the friend you call when you want to do spontaneous events. And I’m not the friend with funny stories about that one time I got lost/was at a party/etc. I’m just not.

I’m the serious friend. The reliable friend. I’m the friend you call when you want to just go for coffee and talk about heavy shit. Or politics. Or business. I’m the practical friend. I’m the friend at the party that is sober to make sure everyone gets home ok. I’m the friend that will check on you when you’re not feeling well. I’m the friend that you can make plans with and who will be on time and who will never flake. I’m dependable.

This distinction used to bother me to no end. I would watch jealously while some of my other friends exuded this capability to infect others with spontaneity and charm. They attracted people to them and they knew how to just let loose, and perhaps more importantly, how to get others to let loose. I was jealous that they were so well liked. I was jealous that people always wanted to be around them, and they were the leaders of group social events. No matter how hard I tried, I could not emulate that carefree attitude.

I tried for years. But I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m not the fun friend, and that’s ok. Because I know from personal relationships that the fun friend isn’t always fun. They have bad days, they need alone time, they don’t always want to be out on adventures. They need to relax, and they need to process too. Everyone does. But that’s where someone like me comes in.

I get the most out of relationships where I can just have real, frank, one on one conversations with people. My friendships are built on coffee dates, and visits to new places, not parties, concerts, or nights out. Nothing against those kinds of evenings, I like to let loose (as much as my control freak persona allows), as much as the next person, but they don’t solidify friendships for me. So I realized I don’t HAVE to be the fun friend because I don’t need to have crazy times to build relationships. Plus if I think about it, I actually get a sense of pleasure from helping out my ‘fun’ friends. I don’t enjoy losing control, but I like making sure my friends are safe if they do.

So I think I’m finding my spot. I may not ever be the center of a social circle, but if the social butterfly needs to discuss some deeper stuff, I’m a great sounding board for whatever they want to talk about. And then that’s how I bond with them. Everyone needs to just talk sometimes, and that’s what the serious friend is for. My strengths lie in the smaller events. I’m a good listener. I don’t judge and I don’t shy away from serious topics. I will always go above and beyond to help a friend out and make sure they have what they need and that they’re ok.

So I’m slowly getting to the point where I’m glad I’m the serious friend. Not everyone is dependable and prefers conversation, just like not everyone can be the social butterfly. But that’s the point of having different kinds of friends anyways, everyone brings something to the table.

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Me visiting a museum. one of my favorite places to go with friends. I’m boring, I know.

What a Beautiful Wedding

Over the weekend, I experienced my first wedding as like….idk a real grown-up or something. It was the first wedding I’d ever been to where I was actually friends with the people getting married as opposed to a family member or one of my parent’s acquaintances. I was a bridesmaid and I ended up giving an impromptu toast in lieu of the maid of honor (she didn’t want to speak and I love public speaking so pretty much volunteered last minute), and as I sat there, slightly champagne drunk, with only twenty minutes to prepare it, I realized I hadn’t truly thought about what romantic love means to me in a long time.

I know that I love and am in love with my boyfriend…but what does that mean? What I came up with in that network-sitcom-length of time, is that love ultimately comes down to how that person makes you feel and how far you’re willing to go to make them feel as amazing as possible in return. There are multiple different kinds of love (the ancient Greeks had eight!), but romantic love is one of the ones you get to choose for yourself, which makes it all the more special when you compare it to family love for instance.

In my little toast, I talked about how even though I didn’t know the groom that well, I couldn’t be happier for them because what I did get to see was how he made my friend feel. We were living together when they first became a couple, and I got to see how her face would light up when he would send her a present, or her smiles at her phone when he would text, and I thought THAT’S it. Her happiness was the love part. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about it, it doesn’t matter what they look like in the end, it doesn’t matter if they tick off your theoretical checkboxes – it’s how they make you feel.

When you think about it this way, love becomes a whole lot clearer in my mind. There are no illusions about being with someone to please others, or to spite others, or because they’ve got money, or because of how attractive they are. All that matters is how you can make each other feel.

I know that I’m in love with my boyfriend because he makes me feel happy, he makes me laugh, he makes me feel strong, safe, beautiful, smart, listened to, I could go on and on. And I’m pretty sure I make him feel amazing too, but I guess only he can answer that 😉

The weird thing about the paragraph above is that it probably wouldn’t sound all that romantic to anyone else. That’s because the feelings are intensely personal and only something a much better writer than I, could truly put into words. Traits like – patient, kind, funny – don’t make up a relationship. They merely make up the blandest version of a person and it’s all the little things and feelings that make up that love.

Unfortunately, I think nowadays it’s easy to miss this crucial part of a relationship. We get so focused on the other person – do we have the same sense of humor? Do we both like Indian food? Do we both like to travel? – and we forget about the actual feelings part. Does this person make me feel happy? Wanted? Safe? Brave? If the answer is no, then why are we even bothering with whether we like the same food or not?

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Me with my bridesmaid bouquet. I had to leave it behind so of course I took pics with it first.

 

 

She’s the Brave One

It’s my sister’s birthday today! I’m sad I can’t be in Chicago to celebrate with her but it’s a Wednesday and we both have lives to live so we celebrated a little bit early. She turns twenty this year which means nothing so I’ve started planning for her twenty-first instead.

In any case, I had to, of course, write a little shout out post to her. I’ve written about my sister and my relationship with her a couple times before, and she’s even been a guest author on my blog so I’ll spare you all the repeats of content and focus in on one of my favorite things about her.

For those of you that don’t know, my sister suffers from a bit of social anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Sounds like a horrible combination to me, but she bears it like a champ for the most part. The crazy thing is that despite all of those emotional blocks, she is fearless.

First things first, she is studying to become a film director. Most parents I know would have a minor heart attack if their kid wanted to go into film because it’s just not a dependable career (this includes my dad who pleaded repeatedly with her to get a second major at first). Consequently, many kids would be talked out of such a path early on and go on to major in something boring to get a boring job that brings in good money (enter, me).

Not her though, she saw the special features on the Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, and said yep, this is the life for me. I’ve always been jealous of people who know exactly what they want to do, but she not only knows, she knows she has chosen a path that is very difficult to succeed on. She knows that to become a star director, there will be a lot of shitty jobs, long day, and bad pay. Or you know, she might submit a film to Sundance next year and become a breakout star at 21. It could happen.

She also never backs down. Ever.

Let’s compare us for a small moment. I have a pretty strong moral code. There are certain things that I just will not let fly and I will call people out on for the most part. However, I do have a threshold where I will flex my morals for my own personal gain. My sister does not. At least not one that I’ve seen. She will defend her views and others with every breath she’s got and no amount of personal gain could make her budge on that.

Her empathy for others is tied to directly to this moral code since she strongly believes that everyone should have equal opportunity and that people with more should help people with less. One of her common habits is eating lunch out in between classes, but if she passes someone on the street begging for food, you can bet she just gave her whole, recently purchased, lunch to that person and would go hungry that day instead. Most people I know would never do that. (Maybe I’m just friends with selfish people haha).

Furthermore, while she sometimes has trouble standing up for herself depending on the scenario, she almost never has trouble standing up for others. She refuses to let people be judged based on their demographics and will absolutely not stand for discrimination. So help anyone who tries to patronize or marginalize a group in conversation. She will RUIN you.

But in the end, it’s not about her witty insults or fiery conversation, it’s about the fact that she is willing to go to the ends of the earth to achieve what she believes in. Doesn’t matter if it’s her passion for film or her passion for others. Most people are like me, we compromise our ideals if there is something in it for us. We obviously have our limits, but we are much quicker to give up abstract beliefs when there is a reward. My sister is not. She will not flex, bend, or break.

There are tons of things I love about my sister – She can always be counted on to sing showtunes with me, she can calm me down literally within seconds, she’s the best writing teacher I’ve ever had, the best debate partner, she has fearless style – and so on. Of course, she also has flaws, but lacking conviction is not one of them and that is perhaps my favorite thing about her.

Happy birthday Kiki! I’m stocking up on sangria for next year!

 

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PC: Our loving mother