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In the year following my first serious relationship crumbling like a house of sand, in one year, almost to the day, I went through a string of rebound dates...  I had been so used to having a partner, a go-to, and a best friend, that I craved to be reunited with that feeling.  But what I really needed was to find peace within myself and learn to function as an individual.  I felt like a part of me was gone, and it was, but that did not mean that I needed to fill it with another person. 

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The first rebound relationship was the worst and definitely kickstarted my emotional downfall.  I made a new friend in that year, and within a month of my single status, as friends sometimes do—we became lovers.  Let's call him ‘T.’  It was a whirlwind of two like-minded people unfolding each other.  He’s a freelance photojournalist and I was just getting started in the field of journalism.  I was his first relationship, he was ‘falling in love with me.’  He Skyped me every night, and for a short time, I was back to feeling like the void was filled.  He invited me on a road trip and, as a couple, we drove west through seven states to Salt Lake City, Utah, where he would stay for two weeks and I would fly home to Chicago.

Sounds romantic, right?  It was.  But ours was also one of the most problematic relationships I've ever been in.  He disliked my friends, the time I ate dinner, my shoes...all of these specific things, and I constantly made excuses for him.  We wanted different things and were at different points in our lives, but we were both so blinded by previous rejection and loneliness that none of that mattered—until it did.  I flew back to Utah at the end of the two weeks to accompany him on the 20 hour drive back to Chicago.  I did not know it at the time, but that drive home was the final straw for us.

Things felt great back in Utah and I was excited to bring him home to Chicago.  It started out small, like how he passed by the place he was going to take me for coffee.  That’s another thing, he thought I drank way too much coffee.  He had nothing but character judgement to offer.  I brushed off these comments because he would also say these reassuring things about how he was 'different.'  I didn’t know what to believe, but I pretended it was healthy and normal.

Two days later, he invited me out, had me pay for my own drink, and broke up with me in the park across from my apartment.  I was heartbroken.  Someone was leaving me again.  My 'perfect' summer romance wilted with the autumn air.

I learned a lot during that summer.  One: a person who wants to change everything about you doesn't love you, they love the idea of you.  Two: don't go the extra mile for someone who will not do the same for you.  Three: don't let someone manipulate you into thinking the people who truly do love you don't have your best interest at heart.

I have a bad habit of browsing online dating sites after heartbreak.  Although I gave myself some time before going on a physical date again, the feeling of thinking I was incomplete was still burning in my soul.

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I gave myself some time before going on a physical date again, but the feeling of thinking I was incomplete was still burning in my soul.

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A couple months later I started talking to a writer from a popular sports magazine.  Another journalist, are we surprised?  He was nice and we connected on an emotional level.  We went out a couple times and I thought it might lead somewhere, until the night he used me as a shoulder to cry on about his ex girlfriend.  I should have taken this as a sign; I didn't.  He slowly distanced himself; I didn't.  I didn't really learn anything.  They got back together eventually and they look happy.

At this point I was back in New York for the holidays.  I was surrounded by friends and family, but I was still a little torn up about the sports journalist.  It wasn't really about him though.  In two years, it was the first time I was single for the holidays.  It made me sentimental about my ex and the times we shared.  No matter how badly he hurt me, I missed him.  I was right back where I started.

My reliance on validation only got worse.  I resorted back to OKCupid and Tinder with no actual intention to date any of the people I interacted with—but to build my confidence back up.  That's a little awful to admit on paper, but it’s true.

When I returned to Chicago, I went on a couple of decent dates during the remainder of my holiday vacation.  Nothing stuck, mostly because I lost the energy to try anymore.  I was tired of sharing my stories and talking about my work; begging men to think that I'm funny, interesting, and worth keeping around.  I didn't want anything temporary and mundane, I wanted something lasting and extraordinary.

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I didn't want anything temporary and mundane, I wanted something lasting and extraordinary.

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I refocused my energy on my academic studies and career track instead.  I made myself as busy as possible with slight reckless abandon for my sanity.  However, I was able to accomplish so much, and that made me feel whole.  I wasn't made to complete someone, or for someone to complete me, but I was a whole person alone.  I got my confidence back from pursuing my passions and excelling in my work.

Eventually, I started dating again.  In the spring, I went out a couple times with an engineering student from Brazil.  We had a good connection at first, but he too distanced himself.  I was ready to confront him about it, but he brought it up first.  He just ‘wanted to be friends,’ and at first it stung, but I got over it fast.  I was tired of my effort not being returned, and I knew that I was worth more than that.  This was the first time in a while that I considered my own feelings.

It took a year to find someone worth holding on to.  It's the most basic thing to treat another human how you would want to be treated, but it felt so luxurious.  Like buying a new coat and realizing how much you let the old one go.  It was a good coat, but maybe it didn't fit exactly right to begin with.  A gently used coat will do someone else good.  But you need to sew the buttons back on and patch the holes before passing it on.  I was that old thrift store coat with a broken zipper people tried on and put back.

It's important to love and accept yourself.  Know your worth and take time to heal from emotional trauma.  Otherwise, you'll be in a continuous cycle of defeat and disappointment.

 

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