It seems that life has a funny way of giving us exactly what we need, right when we need it—even if, in the moment, it feels like the worst thing that could ever happen to us.
Back to back, two important things in my life broke. First, my heart. Then, my wrist. Both were unbelievably painful and difficult to adjust to, and I didn’t see it at the time, but I’ve come to believe that they were given to me on purpose.
Immediately following said breakup, I turned to partying and Tinder to distract myself—both of which, I quickly realized, were futile. So instead, I set out to find some hobbies that would get me out of the house and fill my time. I knew it was okay to be sad, but I didn’t want to be sad anymore. I was annoyed at my sadness. I just wanted to feel normal and happy again.
I’d bought a snowboard a couple years prior, but never really used it because the thought terrified me. My ex was obsessed with snowboarding, so I’d purchased a season pass thinking he could teach me, but clearly, that didn’t go as planned. I was going to have to take matters into my own hands. Snowboarding always helped him feel better…he told me so himself. Who said it couldn’t help me, too?
Life says, that’s who. The following weekend, on only my second day out on the hill, I broke my wrist. Not only that, but I needed surgery. My recovery time would be two whole months. Now, not only did I lose snowboarding as a distraction, but I lost the ability to do almost every single other hobby I’d been relying on to keep me sane since graduating college. Zumba. Ukulele. Photography. Writing. Coloring. Painting. I couldn’t even take a shower now without it being a hassle.
Instead, I had all the time in the world to sit around and think about how sad I was. For the first week or two, there’s no other way to put it: I was depressed. I slept a ton. I didn’t want to do anything, go anywhere, or talk to anyone. I resented my ex, because he still had a way to numb his pain, and I didn’t. The very thing that worked to distract him had made my life exponentially more miserable.
It took a couple more weeks and, of course, a couple of therapy, sessions, but I finally realized why: I was trying too hard. I needed to slow down and listen to what my heart was trying to tell me. I needed to work on myself for myself. On being happy with who I am, instead of striving to be some version of myself that would attract a new boyfriend.
When I was with him, and every guy before, I was didn’t have to think about how I could better myself. Dating was the perfect excuse: I always had a way to spend my free time. I had someone else to base decisions off of, and sometimes, even make decisions for me. I didn’t have to deal with finding happiness within myself, because my happiness could be external instead. And sadly, I think this is the way I’ve always been in relationships.
Here’s the truth, though. If you’re not happy with yourself, you will never be happy with someone else. You might be able to live that fantasy for quite a while, but eventually, it’s going to come crashing down. The reality is that searching for your value as a human being in a place anywhere besides yourself only creates dependence, breeds insecurity and jealousy, and ultimately, ruins relationships. Self-love is the best—the only—foundation.
Going eight weeks without everything that had previously defined me was such a wake-up call. If I was not my relationship or my hobbies, who was I? If I were not loving another person or accomplishing something, what value could I possibly bring to this world?
But once I finally had no other distractions, nothing I could possibly do but sit and ponder, that’s when it hit me: I do not need to be or do anything to be valuable. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
It took a broken heart and a broken wrist to get me there, but for the first time in my entire life, I came to the understanding that my own opinion of me is all that matters. I don’t have to wait for someone to do it for me; I can choose to be happy, and I can choose to love me.