There are events in our lives we classify time as before and after. These are events that shape our lives, and we are never the same after them. Some of them are the big things, like before and after you graduate college or before and after you have children. One of the big before and after moments in my life is when I left the relationship I was in for over six years.
I was 22 when I started dating a man who was 37. I dated him up until two months before my 29th birthday. My entire twenties I spent with this man. I basically went from living in my sorority house to living with him. When I told him I wasn’t happy and was moving out, he told me he had bought an engagement ring. I had been with him for YEARS and the moment I was walking out the door, he wanted to commit. Talk about timing.
Once upon a time, I thought I wanted to marry him, I had pushed and pushed for it for years. We had fight after fight about it. Now, in retrospect, I don’t think I really ever wanted to marry him, I just felt like I should. That’s what people do, that’s what my friends were doing. I got caught up in the wedding fever. Then, I realized that wasn’t the life I wanted at all. Our relationship was never smooth. There were infidelities and depression on his behalf, but if I’m really honest, that isn’t why I left. I left because I NEEDED to so desperately. My soul was on fire. I needed to untangle myself from him; I needed to figure out who the hell I was.
I found myself at 29 living alone for the first time. In some regards I felt like an 18 year old moving out of their parents’ house. I had this idealistic notion I was going to go on all these grown-up dates, and some tall, dark and handsome doctor was just going to swoop me up. Needless to say, over three years later, that isn’t what happened. Thank God it didn’t.
My “before” was spent catering to someone else’s wants and needs; I had no idea what mine were. I was held emotional hostage for so many years I didn’t even know how to have fun anymore.
My “after” has been spent living as I please. I’ve had relationships, here and there. I’ve gone on, what feels like, hundreds of dates. I’ve travelled. I’ve learned to live alone. I’ve learned to sleep alone. I’ve learned to love it. I have learned being alone doesn’t mean you’re lonely. I’ve become a beautifully happy human on my own. Of all of the things I’ve done and accomplished in my life, this makes me the most proud; my happy doesn’t depend on another soul. It is mine alone.
I don’t know if I’ll ever live with another man again. I have no idea if I’ll get married, have a child, or settle down. There is a part of me that would like to have a companion in this life. There’s a part of me wanting to have the warmth of a body in bed next to me, for it not to feel foreign and strange. I’m terrified this will take my happy. When you’ve scraped together a life for yourself from nothing, the thought of losing it will send you running. Lately, though, I’ve been thinking maybe this happy is untouchable now. I’m learning what is right and healthy for me. I won’t make the same mistakes again. Maybe it’s time for a new “before” and “after”.