Each year after New Year's Eve has passed, I take a huge sigh of relief -- it's the end of all the holiday chaos and finally time to relax. Some reflect on the past year to figure out if they're indeed wiser or just a survivor of life's tribulations. For me, after the champagne was finished and 2011 was well underway, I discovered I felt both.
Last winter, I was dumped.
After dating casually for a couple of years and being accustomed to not meeting anyone I wanted to get more serious with, Andrew appeared in my life. I was drawn to him right away -- he was a blue-eyed Scottish guy who worked on film crews in Brooklyn, and he made me laugh. The night after we met, I knew he was different than the others, and I wasn't interested in dating anyone else. As obnoxious as it reads, we seemed to understand each other in a way that you always hope for on dates, but rarely ever find.
And so ensued one of those typical fall-too-fast tales: we saw each other as much as we could, spoke every free minute and became far too invested. Looking back, I'm positive a part of me knew I was in over my head, but it became obvious there was just no turning back -- we were falling for each other and I was unimaginably happy.
As time went on, I did what we're all guilty of doing when we care deeply for someone new -- I ignored one bright, red flag that waved boldly throughout our time together. Only six months before we met, Andrew got out of a four-year relationship. He was living with his girlfriend in San Francisco and decided to move to New York after their relationship ended. The signs that he might not be ready for something serious again were certainly there, such as mentioning her angrily without being prompted, but I deluded myself into thinking it wouldn't be a problem.
One night as I was leaving his Park Slope apartment, something felt off. He seemed preoccupied and it made me uncomfortable. Andrew strangely offered to walk me to the subway while grabbing my hand and it didn't even feel like him. All of a sudden, I was walking to the J train with a mannequin. And then he stopped me right before the entrance.
There on the sidewalk, he explained that he was still in love with his ex. He realized after all of our time together that as much as he wanted to be, he just wasn't ready. "I'm so sorry," he said quietly.
I heard someone once say, "I'd rather have a broken foot than a broken heart," and now I know all too well what they meant. The worst feeling of all, though -- perhaps the hardest part of breaking up with anyone -- is that the next morning you both have to go on and pretend you never met each other. It's expected that you become strangers, but how? How do we forget the people we've loved?
You can't. Or at least I knew I couldn't, so I wasn't even going to try. I had no interest in distracting myself with someone new or sleeping around, so that left me with only one other option:
"No more men for six months," I said to myself. And that's exactly what I did.
It wasn't difficult to give up dating at first. After all, I was still a mess, but I managed to get an internship for the summer in SoHo, which kept me very busy. I threw myself into work and became a pro at joking with the other interns who had no idea I was fighting tears half the day. I would think of Andrew on my humid walks downtown with mopey music haunting my ears through my iPod and reran our conversations in my head. I did, however, take solace in finding out he was back in the U.K. and at least I wouldn't bump into him.
But after the numbness of heartbreak began to wear off and I started feeling like myself again, loneliness set it in, which surprised me. All summer, everywhere I turned, I felt like I saw people on dates and I hated it. Why was this so hard? Could I really not enjoy myself if I was alone? I realized that even during college, there was always someone around -- maybe not a boyfriend, but always someone to have dinner or hang out with. At that moment, my vow became bigger than getting over Andrew. It became a test of my personality. I had to stick it out to prove to myself I wasn't one of those girls and, to be honest, I wasn't sure I'd last.
Strangely enough, with autumn in full swing, I wasn't thinking about it nearly as much anymore. I found myself being more available to my friends than I ever was in the past. I became a better listener because with no dating stories of my own, I got to live through theirs. I also learned there is a freedom that comes with having no interest in meeting new men. I would have dinners with a friend in the East Village on a Saturday night with no makeup on and my hair in a ponytail. I no longer cared about the hot waiter or the friend of a friend who wanted to grab a drink.
Last month, I rang in the New Year with friends. I had no date, no one to kiss at midnight and no one to text when the ball dropped. And for the first time in my life, I didn't care. I looked around a very cold New York City when I was leaving the party and thought of how a year ago I didn't know what I was going to do with myself. I wasn't gloating in a transformation, but feeling glad to know we can move on from what hurts us. Even when we're sure we won't.
As I'm in the midst of dating again, it's hard to regret what's happened to me or to be angry with Andrew. Yes, as humbling as it was (especially in print), I had my heart broken in 2010. However, it was also the year I didn't just accept or get used to, but became truly content with being on my own.