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How to Say Goodbye.

XX,

I hope you are okay with me returning all your stuff. I am not doing it out of spite, but because they no longer feel like mine to keep or to cherish.

For a long time, I operated on the belief that anything, absolutely anything, is possible if you worked hard enough for it. I was well aware that there were going to be challenges going into [this] relationship, something I had never taken on before–– challenges that would cause problems and conflict, but that with patience, communication, understanding and most importantly love, that the relationship could endure. That it would grow with us. That if we never gave up and if we stuck to our promises, that we could genuinely weather any storm, learn from our mistakes, and grow better together. This has and will always be the foundation of every relationship I want to last. I had committed to this with the full intention that we would survive the test of time and distance. That through forbearance and perseverance, it would see me to that future we built up together in our minds. I envisioned the home we’d have, the wooden chess set in the library and lock on the mancave, those German Shepherds in the living-room, the Stitch onesies and yellow shoes on the basketball court in our backyard, and how we’d tell our kids that we made it through that. That thing that everyone else fails at. That thing that tears everyone else apart, but not us. We could tell them that they could achieve all things with love, because we, ourselves, were a testament to that. & I committed to making the effort and sacrifice where necessary to make it work, and with the tenacity that love brings, to bring us to that future.

But I realize now that in order for that dream to have actualized, both parties would have had to believe it. & that just wasn’t the case. I wrongly put you on a pedestal, believing you could push through anything and everything because, whether consciously or not, I believed and still do, that I deserve someone on a pedestal. It was an act of self-care and self-preservation, a vain pursuit. I was imagining someone who was capable of fighting ceaselessly, and that isn’t reality. We are only human. I mistook you for someone who was invincible and perfectly hardworking and perfectly patient and perfectly vigilant. I thought you’d be the soulmate I’d create, not find. I apologize, now, for not seeing you, but casting you in a role. For, instead, seeing this person in my head of who I thought you should be, and not allowing you to grow naturally. I apologize for not seeing the flaws and faults that we all have. For not seeing your humanness, your susceptibility to buckle under the weight and strain, as we all have. You frequently told me, “I’m only human,” but because I was so blinded by my demand that you stick to this idea in my head of who I made you out to be or who I thought you could be, I’d get so confused, or angry, or annoyed when you’d make a mistake or step out of that role. And for that, I’m sorry.

I know now, too, that I relied too heavily on you for validation. When you [betrayed me], I thought it broke a part of me that I mistakenly believed only you could heal. So, I sought you time and time again, thinking as long as you loved me that I could love myself, that your reassurance would bolster my own self-perception, my own value. This, too, was a mistake on my part. I am not broken. I never needed you then, nor do I now. I only wanted you. & it, too, was a challenge I had never encountered before because I had never been so thoroughly betrayed by anyone else. It was a shock to all the fundamental beliefs I had of love, of hard work, and of my worth. When we failed, I felt I, alone, had failed and my attempt to fix something already broken was an attempt to control the situation and remove that feeling of failure within me. So, I clung onto you thinking I could repair, with my own hands, this broken thing. That by fixing it, it would justify and validate my own ego, my own capabilities. & I resented you for that even while I still loved you, even when I knew deep down that wasn’t the truth. Still, it brought so much anxiety and despair, but I believed that with time, I, you, we could grow better, stronger, more adept to each other’s styles. I knew then, as I know now, that love vacillates between easy days and hailstorms and I believed that once we passed this one, we could sail smoothly again. I’ve newly discovered though that some things and some people just need to be let go. Some boats really can’t weather all seas and sometimes you have to break them apart before you sink with it, hold onto the floating pieces to keep yourself from drowning and to keep yourself afloat.

So, this is my goodbye. [My thank you for the love and the effort and the heartbreak and the lessons]. My “I let you go and let go of the reality we carefully fashioned together.” My “I am doing well, and I hope you are too.” I hope our next futures bring us to a better place. That we both find ourselves and grow better for those already in our lives and those who are coming into them. & I hope you find the peace you are looking for.

The First Time I Fell In Love

The first time I fell in love, it was with my best friend. He was kind and smart and I was 16 and filled with the passionate exuberance of my first time. We sat next to each other during most classes and snuck touches past our teachers. I’d ask, “What if someone catches us?” and he’d dare me with his eyes, “Who cares?” The first time I fell in love was the first time I felt how soft lips could be, how excited your body could get. How deep conversations could run. We talked about our darkest corners and spent countless nights texting till the sun rose, walk into class with sleepy eyes and repeat. But we didn’t care. We were in love. 

When I first fell in love, I was naive. I balanced between being self-centered and too giving at all the wrong times. He’d tell you I was flirtatious but I’d argue I was just friendly. I’d say he cared too much about how others thought of him and he’d claim that that’s the world we live in. He’d say I was crossing a line and I’d retaliate, “We’re just friends.” We were reckless and irresponsible and too full of young love to understand that the world is so much bigger than the conversations we had in between textbooks. We were still finding ourselves.

The second time I fell in love, I didn’t fall right away. He was older and more experienced and I just wanted to have fun. It wasn’t a sudden spark in the darkness, but a gradual connection that molded itself into something I never saw coming. I had left my home to live in a new place and he stood beside me as I explored new experiences. He showed me how big and how small a hectare of land could be, how many worlds could be built in-between the space of two bodies. How I didn’t have to feel ashamed when blood would run down my legs unexpectedly or when he’d find deodorant marks on my black tops. I learned how to take as much as I give in the shadows of my bed, how to free my body from expectation and see my own skin as a home instead of a temple.

The second time I fell in love, I was still young and carefree and unprepared for heartbreak. I’d flirt with other guys to see if he’d notice and he’d pretend he didn’t. I asked if he loved me and he said, “No.” I lied and said I didn’t either. I remember crying for weeks, waiting for the moment I could listen to music or feel enjoyment without wanting to throw up. We agreed from the beginning that our relationship was temporary, that distance wasn’t worth the effort, but in-between the lines of every message we sent thousands of miles away from one another, were unspoken desires and hopes. But he showed me that memory is fickle and that details fade, grow dusty and crinkle like aged paper. Eventually pain subsides and we learn to grow and be grateful.

The third time I fell in love, I had no plans or expectations. I had no idea relationships and love could be so complex. That I could fall for a girl. I learned how to talk and listen and relate, how to understand the push, pull, and collision of emotional and physical connection. She taught me how to see and be seen, and how love–– real love–– should be given. I’d spend early hours working on papers and assignments and she’d drop me food making sure I ate, giving me the lemons in her water, and running with me even after a long day at work.

But the third time I fell in love, I learned how toxic I could be. How loud I could yell and how hurtful my words could be. How selfish and callous we can be when we know how much someone loves us. How much it hurts to let something go but how much better it feels to know we’re no longer poisoning something pure. The third time I fell in love, I realized I didn’t deserve more. She did.

The last time I fell in love, I didn’t want to. I wanted to live and grow alone for a long while with no distractions. I had a plan and he was in a different country. We barely knew each other and I told myself I’d never confine myself to a long distance relationship. He was in the military, wanting to come back home. I was in the middle of my busiest semester and I wanted to leave, to place roots somewhere else. It was everything I didn’t want. But you don’t really get to decide who you fall in love with.

We spent hours every day texting, calling, learning how distance can’t stop your heartbeat from picking up speed when you see their name pop up on your screen. Learning that the last time can be just as new as the first time. Learning how to squeeze a whole year in 10 days. Learning how to plan 5, 10, 20 years down the line with the same person–– what we’d name our dog, our kids, what color our sheets would be, who’d do the laundry and who’d do the dishes, and how we’d stop our Roomba from falling down the stairs.

But the last time I fell in love, I learned how forgiving I can be. That love alone isn’t enough. I learned that feelings scar and scare us. Remain vivid markers of things we’d rather forget, things we carry with us like a skin tag. That unkept promises metastasize into deeply rooted insecurities that we try to lock inside ourselves but that can never truly stay hidden. That even when we’re in love we can still be unsure, but still, we keep trying and hoping it was always meant to be. And maybe one day It will be.