With a little over a year having passed since my first significant relationship ended, I feel as though this is a good time to reflect back on it.
It was young love – filled with all of the passion and awkwardness it entails.
He was a year my senior, with the confidence and class of Cary Grant. He was effortlessly intelligent and brilliantly artistic. In my eyes, he was the closest man you could find to perfection and I fell so incredibly hard. Of course, when he began to take an interest in me, it was as though I was living in a dream.
Our time together was wonderful. We adventured in graveyards and on railways tracks, exchanged love letters for lockets, carved pumpkins, and watched silent movies. We adored each other so greatly. So when he suddenly called it quits, I was heartbroken. He told me: “I fell out of love as quickly as I fell in it.”
I was left in ruins. And given that it happened over the winter break, with all my friends gone or busy, and with no school work to distract myself, I was left to mull over every detail of our relationship and break-up. I had no energy, motivation, or appetite – I hardly ate for two weeks. The happiest I felt was during the moments when I woke up and thought we were still together. And so, I spent a lot of time sleeping.
Truly, I did not want to be that stereotypical heartbroken girl. In all honestly, I’m embarrassed with how I handled it. I wish I could have brushed it off like the strong woman I strive to be.
Yet I just couldn’t.
Looking back, I am starting to understand why.
Since our relationship began not too long before I started university, he became my person: my closest and truest friend on campus. And because of this, I tied too much of my self-worth to him.
When this boy who I admired so greatly admired me too, I gained a sense of confidence that I never had before. If he said I was beautiful, intelligent, or talented, I really began to believe it was true. Once, he told me that I was the better half. And that left me shocked. How in the world did he think I surpassed him?
So when things ended, the foundation that I built my confidence on crumbled. I assumed that the rose coloured glass he saw me through shattered, and he realized I was not that amazing girl that he initially thought I was. Perhaps, I thought, he regretted everything…
Now I know that these thoughts were irrational and stemmed from a lack of self-confidence. While I still do not completely understand why the relationship ended, he did admit that it was mainly due to his commitment issues. In reality, there is probably not much that I did to cause this.
But from the pains of heartbreak, I have grown. After dancing it out to Taylor Swift songs, venting with friends, and writing sappy break-up poems, I started to crawl out of my rut.
I realized that he was not perfect, and neither was our relationship. While our time together was wonderful, I finally recognized that I could find someone that would make even happier. Someone who wouldn’t fall out of love with me on a whim. And now I know not to accept anything less. Even if we do part ways, I know to appreciate the time we spent together rather than sulking over what could have been. Love is something that can be found time and time again.
I built up my confidence again. But this time, not on someone else’s opinion of me. I did it through recognizing my great qualities and accomplishments on my own. I realized that even though my ex was gone, all the compliments he gave me remained true. Now I know not to rely so heavily on another person for their approval. From this experience, I began to develop my sense of self through my friends, volunteer work, and academics. And I emerged as a much stronger, self-assured person.
In the end, my ex and I still remain friends. I still believe him to be a great person, but I have come to recognize that I am as well.
And while I may still be searching for that special someone, in the meantime I know that I am perfectly happy with myself alone.
Stephanie Bertolo is an Arts & Science student at McMaster University. A strong advocate for youth health and wellness, she is a founding member of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health, a volunteer at McMaster’s Children’s Hospital, and a subcommittee member of COPE: a student mental health initiative. Other than studying and volunteering, she spends her time baking, spending hours in used bookstores and coffee shops, and finding herself on enthralling adventures. For three years, she suffered from anorexia and orthorexia nervosa, and is still coming to terms with life as someone who has ‘recovered’.