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When I was 16, the coolest thing that could’ve happened to me was that a varsity baseball player asked me to be his girlfriend. For a chubby-faced, frizzy-haired, marching band flute section leader like me, this was the equivalent of being crowned prom queen.
The second year into the end of our relationship, our freshman year of college, was not so great. I admit I was in denial – oh girls are texting him at two AM? Probably just friends that have questions about a paper! Oh, his friends tell me his having sex with other girls? They must think “sex” is when you platonically study together!
Eventually we broke up because he cheated on me – it was painful, but I was a freshman at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. I was living the life of acting classes, ballet classes, running from rehearsal to class – thriving in Manhattan! I didn’t need a high school boyfriend to weigh me down anyway! Bye, sucker!
Then I decided to work at a camp for the entire summer of 2009 where I met a guy who was from Ireland and I immediately thought, “Oh my god. The accent! Ireland! He’s the one!”
Several things are wrong there, obviously, but it ended up that he had a crush on me so I felt, once again, like I was living some kind of novel. This time more along the lines of Nicholas Sparks, which I shouldn’t known, deep down, wouldn’t end well, but I couldn’t be dissuaded! Long distance, shmlong shmid—you get it. He had an ACCENT, okay?! Plus, this was my chance to live out my Harry Potter fanfictions!
We decided – YES! Let’s be in a relationship! Who cares that we have to cross the Atlantic to hang out? It’ll be worth it! I should mention that this was during a very bizarre conservative Christian phase of my life.
Most people go to college and experiment? I went to college (the most liberal of colleges) and became super conservative.
If you’re unfamiliar with Christian culture, you should know that if you date someone, you’ll probably end up marrying them. If you don’t end up marrying them, everyone lays hands on you and prays that your “heart is guarded” and there’s a man out there somewhere who God is “readying to be a Christ-centered husband.” I can only say I am glad I am no longer in this phase.
Obviously I was convinced I had just met my Irish Christian Godly Husband Who Reads The Bible Every Morning And Prays For Our Relationship. I was a walking praise hands emoji.
The beginning was great, but I should’ve seen the red flags and signs. For instance, when he was visiting me over Thanksgiving break here in the States, we stopped at a grocery store on the way to my family’s house. I saw a gumball machine, and since I love gumballs more than almost any other candy, I ran to it, frantically searching for a quarter. Irish boyfriend – or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – glared at me, touched my arm and said, “Stop acting like a child! Only children get gumballs!”
I was stunned, embarrassed, a justifiably angry. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Only children get gumballs?! What planet did this guy live on? Had he never felt the divine ecstasy of biting into a fresh cherry gumball!? The atrocity!
I didn’t want to make a scene, so I rolled my eyes and turned to let it go.
The second thing was that he didn’t know who Tina Fey was. I’ll leave that one as it be.
Little by little the signs got bigger and bigger. He didn’t let me go to a movie with a guy friend because he was insanely jealous, but he got to hang out with whoever he wanted. I’m angry at myself that I let that happen, but it doesn’t make it right either.
Finally, I decided (stupidly) to visit him for New Year’s. Hiccups aside, I really was clinging onto this idea that he was the one. I think, more than anything, I was clinging onto the idea that I could one day live in Ireland!!!! I was looking at grad schools, decided I would become a novelist, and we’d live in a cottage and have cherubic babies. My destiny was set.
I flew over – a big deal for me, since I was terrified of flying (which, ahem, maybe a sign that we shouldn’t have been in a long distance relationship) – and immediately felt something wrong.
He was distant toward me at the airport. I ended up crying that night on the phone with my mom, saying I was homesick when it’d only been one day. She tried to convince me to just come home early, but I was stubborn. I blamed it on jetlag. Writing this out makes me so angry at myself, but also, I want to give my younger self a hug, too.
The most confusing thing about this coldness from him was that he was the one who so desperately wanted me to fly over and spend the holiday with him, so, (silly me!!), I thought he wanted me there. It got to the point where he wouldn’t even kiss me.
When I asked what was wrong (a few days into the trip), he told me I was manipulative and that I was forcing him to break up with me. Which he did. Then an hour later, got into his car, and drove back to his flat, two hours away from where we were staying at his parent’s house.
I was left alone, in my now ex-boyfriend’s parents house, in Ireland. I immediately Skyped my mom and sisters and cried, a lot, and also read The Hunger Games, and then cried some more. Thank God that my father worked for US Airways, and I could easily get onto a flight that left the next morning.
I cried the entire, awkward car ride there while his dad said things like, “You’re very nice.” and “Who knows what could happen in the future!” I cried the entire flight, where I listened to Taylor Swift’s entire Speak Now album. And then I landed back home on American soil, and something snapped in me. I wasn’t sad! I wasn’t angry at myself for not being smarter about the whole situation!
I was not a perfect girlfriend, I know that. I know I’m not a perfect human at all. But if there’s anything I learned, it’s that 1. Movies like Leap Year are completely unrealistic and 2. Do not ever let another person make you feel like you’re crazy.
I hold this so close to my heart. No one is perfect or ever going to be the best partner to someone they can be, but no one should make you feel like less of the person that you are.
We are our own Beyonce’s! That’s been my mantra since this experience. I waltzed off that plane and I thought, “F*ck him! I’m awesome!” There was this insane surge of confidence that sometimes, when I’m feeling really down, I think back on and channel it.
And also knowing that I have faults and that communication – in any relationship – is key. If I had just told Irish boy that because he didn’t know who Tina Fey was that we had to break up, none of this mess would’ve happened!
The beautiful thing about breakups, or getting dumped in foreign country, is that you learn so much about yourself. You take these broken, little pieces of your life, and they help shape the person you are.
They make it so much sweeter when you finally meet a person who does treat you the way you deserve, and you finally say, “Yes. This. This is what I’ve been looking for.”
But most importantly, that break up helped me love myself unconditionally. I thought, well I got through that embarrassing situation! I love myself. I’m wonderful. I’m not perfect, but I’m pretty bomb. And honestly, that’s what will always matter most, that we love ourselves, truly and genuinely. And also, never date someone who thinks gumballs for kids!