Have you ever been in a car full of people and fought over directions? The other passengers think you should turn left, but you know you should turn right. You start to argue the logistics, but when it's three against one you slowly start to question yourself. Do you turn right? Maybe you have the wrong exit? Maybe you're the one who is wrong? And eventually, because you are outnumbered and everyone else is telling the driver to go left, you stop arguing and resign yourself to the fact that maybe you had it wrong and go left with everyone else.
Most of last year I thought my car should have turned right. I knew what direction I should go. I knew what was right for me, and even though I knew which path was correct, I allowed the outside world to make me question if I was absolutely sure I knew where I was going. Really, I allowed someone else to drive.
Memorial Day Weekend marked one year from when I made the decision to end my relationship with my boyfriend; the decision that ultimately put my life on a completely different course. The decision to end our relationship did not come easy, nor was it a quick decision. It was something I struggled with for months off and on.
To recap, I had pretty much everything a girl should want. I had a great loving, caring partner and best friend in my boyfriend. We lived together in a great apartment in the city. We both had good jobs and made decent money. We were planning on getting engaged soon. We had a plan.
I would tell my friends about these things, these boxes that had been checked that seemed to indicate that I had everything I should want. The great apartment- check. The great boyfriend- check. And yet, even though I had everything on paper, I felt uneasy and anxious about my future. But why? I had everything I wanted, right?
It just didn't make sense. How could someone who was happy and had pretty much everything they wanted (or should want) not be looking forward to their future? Why was I not as excited as I thought I should be? I kept coming back to this question of "What was wrong with me?"
I came up with various reasons to explain my increasing uneasiness. Explanations including:
1- I just have unrealistic expectations about what life can offer and need to get more realistic.
2- I am being too demanding and needy and should be happy with what I do have
3- I just have something I need to get out of my system and once I do that I'll be ready to settle down
4- It's just my personality to be restless and as long as I continue to do new things all the time I'll be fine
I used these explanations interchangeably for months. But these weren't explanations. They were excuses. Excuses used to justify a feeling I couldn't yet articulate. And over time I had trouble convincing even myself that these reasons were legitimate.
Leading up to and even after the decision to end the relationship was made, I struggled to explain why I did what I did. Friends and family kept asking what went wrong and what had happened. But nothing had gone wrong. Nothing had happened. So then, why did I do what I did?
The decisions I made felt like they warranted some sort of significant and complicated justification. Giving up a near perfect life? Surely that demanded an elegant, sophisticated, and well thought out explanation, right? But I didn't have one. Not one that I thought was worthy enough at least.
It took me until a few months ago to come up with the real "explanation" for my actions, as well as the answer to the "what is wrong with me?" question. And by "come up with" I mean it was there the entire time I just had a really hard time accepting it. I was almost ashamed of the simplicity of the answer. It was so simple and plain it didn't seem like a "good enough" explanation for making such a drastic choice, and for hurting someone who did absolutely nothing wrong. Surely there was something else going on, right?
What took me months to finally accept and to say out loud was that:
I did what I did because I wanted to and it was what was right for me.
And on top of that:
Seems kind of obvious and slightly underwhelming, right? Exactly my point.
I'm not sure why this simplest of answers was so hard to accept, but it took me about a year to truly believe this. I took me a year to stop feeling guilty for not having a better explanation than simply "because this is the right decision for me." It took months to stop feeling like a shitty person because I hurt someone whom I love over a "I just don't want this life" justification. If nothing was done to warrant a breakup and complete life overhaul, there seems to be an expectation that there is some grand complicated explanation behind it. And I didn't have one.
For the longest time that answer didn't feel like it was good enough. Occasionally it still doesn't. And that's kind of shitty isn't it? That I feel guilty and like I'm a bad person for doing what I knew was the right decision for me despite it going against the norm?
All kinds of people have reached out to me over the past year and have told me how "brave" and "courageous" I am for making this tough decision. And it was a tough decision. I don't want to take away from that. But it's a shame that doing what is right for you is somehow considered brave and is the exception as oppose to being the rule.
We all know it's a hell of a lot more comfortable to flow in the same direction as everyone else than to carve out your own path. It's a lot easier to shut up and agree with the car full of people who want to go left even though you know you should turn right. But why? Why is it so difficult to stay true to yourself? And why does going against the grain automatically make me question my character and self worth? Why did something have to be wrong with me for not wanting what everyone else wants?
I don't know why, but it never occurred to me that maybe, even though I didn't want what everyone else wanted, that didn't make me a bad person. And maybe, just because I am looking for something different, and following what is right for me, doesn't mean there is something wrong with me for wanting it.
And believing all of that, accepting it, and living that on a daily basis, is one of the hardest things I've had to learn and try and put into practice. I still struggle some days to convince myself that this notion is true. But there is nothing wrong with me for doing what is best for me. And I guess at least recognizing that is progress, right?