August 25, 2019 Leave your thoughts
As I type this post, it’s a humid Friday night in August, and I’m sprawled out on my bed. I’ve just enjoyed a glass of rosé and plate of figs while watching Queer Eye, laughing my butt off as the Fab Five desperately scrambled to suit up in firefighter gear. For the first time in my entire life, I won’t be going back to school in the next few weeks. Instead, I’ll be shuttling myself off to work, returning home to nothing other than a good book and a reasonable bedtime.
Lately, many people have commented that I’ve been “living my best life,” which is true, I suppose. In May, I graduated summa cum laude from NYU, finishing my degree in three years and receiving my diploma the day before I turned twenty-one. I landed a wonderful job as program officer at Allergic to Salad, where I spend my days writing recipes and lesson plans for children’s cooking classes across New York City, along with managing a team of incredible educators. My home is a cozy studio in Chelsea, a safe haven filled with books, flowers, and every kitchen gadget known to humankind. Free-time these days is spent doing yoga at Laughing Lotus, rolling my purple trolley to the farmer’s market, and having meaningful heart-to-hearts with the friends I’ve cultivated here. Everything seems rosy, and for the most part, I’m happy.
Despite these accomplishments (of which I’m very proud), 2019 has been a profoundly difficult year for me, and much of the past nine months has been defined by deep hurt and labored healing. I’ve hemmed and hawed over whether or not I wanted to say anything nuanced about it online: heartbreak is messy, and I like to present myself as high-functioning, put-together human being. But authenticity is perhaps the most important tenant of my personality, and lately, I’ve been feeling that tug to share. So, here I am, in all my imperfect glory. Ready.
As some of you know, I started dating my first boyfriend in the fall of 2017, during my second year of college. I had been waiting years to experience any semblance of a relationship, and he was my first taste of it all. Over the course of a year, we moved in together, met each other’s families, and planned a shared future, gestures that would have shaken my younger self to the core. Things were serious, and we were very in love with one another.
But one Saturday in January, everything fell apart. A relatively normal conversation turned into a meltdown, with my partner slamming the bathroom door in my face as he curled into a ball against the heating pipe, sobbing. “I need to take a semester off of school,” he kept insisting, citing his need for space and clarity. It didn’t make sense: we were both one semester away from graduating, why would he need a break now? Prying the door open, I tried to talk him down, and then, the truth came out.
My boyfriend — my first kiss, the person I slept beside every night — had been suspended from NYU for sexual assault. He hid everything from me for six months — through our anniversary, family holidays, discussions about moving away post-grad — all while knowing he couldn’t return to school until the spring of 2020. The kicker? He had no plan to tell me, and thought it was okay to keep a situation of such gravity to himself.
So, I made a choice. Still in sweaty yoga clothes, I threw a few nights’ worth of supplies in my backpack, told him he had 48 hours to get out of my apartment, and left. It was the day of the Women’s March, and I wore my pink hat with pride as I quietly cried in the passenger’s seat of my Uber, Maggie Rogers’s new album blasting through my headphones. I was twenty, a week away from starting my final term at NYU.
I can’t describe how excruciating the pain was; I had never experienced anything that hurt more. Nothing knocks you off your feet like betrayal, especially from the person you loved the most. Every night, I came home to that empty apartment, slept alone in that bed we once shared. I sat with that loss and heartbreak, day and night, through the dead of New York City winter. It all felt tremendously dark, heavy, sad.
But I refused to let myself slip: I wasn’t going to let some boy stop me from anything. When the semester started, I went to all my classes, showed up for work, didn’t skip a day of yoga. I journaled every night, talked to friends on the phone, deleted social media apps off my phone for months. I learned how to read tarot cards, watched all six seasons of The Great British Baking Show, and got comfortable spending a lot of time by myself. Oh, I was miserable, but over time, the pain dulled. I thought of my ex and the destruction he caused less and less. The weather warmed, the sun came out, the flowers in Washington Square Park bloomed in all their glory. By the time graduation day rolled around in May, I was mostly patched up, ready for the next chapter of my life and the new, exciting people that might come along with it.
Over glasses of champagne on my 21st birthday the following evening, my friends encouraged me to try some online dating. “You’re so outgoing, it’ll be fun!,” they insisted, commenting on how attractive I looked in the red dress I was wearing that night. My best friend Natalie was in town that weekend, so we decided to set up some profiles for me and give it a whirl. As luck would have it, I was very taken by the first person I matched with on one of these silly apps. He asked me out for a drink — a truly weird phenomenon to a freshly-minted twenty-one year-old — and I decided to give it a shot.
And holy cow, what a shot it was. My longtime friends know I fall hard and fast, but none of us had ever seen me like this before. Instantly, this guy and I had an electric connection, one only heightened by the lightning storm that raged throughout the night of our first date. He was four years older, tall, handsome, insanely smart, kind, dorky in just the right ways. I stopped sleeping; it felt like my entire body was on fire.
For six weeks, we spent hours tangled in each other’s embrace, listening to Maggie Rogers on repeat and sharing stories from our lives as only children. Friday nights, we’d dress up only to spend the evening at home, snuggling and taking bites of each other’s desserts while jazz music played in the background. “I’ll never forget this,” he said to me as we gazed at the Hudson River one afternoon in June, his arms wrapped around me, chin resting atop my head. He promised that he had no intentions of leaving, would never do anything to hurt me. He always told me how beautiful I was, how lucky he was to be with me: I was his favorite girl, “dollface.”
But one night, something felt off when I saw him. I didn’t know what was wrong, but suddenly, there I was at Pier 64, sobbing my eyes out for two hours as the sky turned magenta. Must’ve been a premonition: the next day, he FaceTimed me to tell me that with his recent promotion, he would be on various assignments for two months before being relocated out of New York City. He didn’t have time for a relationship and didn’t want to see me again. I told him I loved him and he was breaking my heart; he cooly thanked me for a “fun” six weeks.
“Here we go again,” I thought to myself. For the second time in six months, there I was, knocked to the ground by someone else’s circumstances, all completely beyond my control. I felt broken.
This time, I did things a little differently. I bought myself a $400 Pusheen the Cat stuffed animal, plunged headfirst into books, even slept with someone different to try and forget it all. “Hot girl summer!,” I screamed to my best friend Jeromy one Saturday night, sipping a watermelon margarita just a few piers down from that fateful mental breakdown spot. More like healing again girl summer.
So, that’s where I’m at. I haven’t spoken to my ex in over eight months. As much as I loved him, I don’t fuck with liars or rapists. In no universe would I have sacrificed my moral compass for some guy, even if I thought he was the love of my life. I don’t know who she is, but I hope that the woman who came forward feels a sense of peace, that she can sleep a bit better at night knowing her perpetrator was punished. So many survivors are denied the justice they rightly deserve, and I hope her courage inspires others to speak up and call out those who so gravely disrespect consent.
The sudden loss of what turned out to be my summer romance still burns, and even though our schedules and priorities were out of alignment, I miss him. It took tremendous courage to be vulnerable with someone new after what happened to me, to allow myself to trust and love again, to voice what I needed in light of my trauma, only to have the rug pulled out from beneath me again. But that’s life: uncertain. At least this time, the feelings are familiar, and I know they will consequently fade and pass. I’ll be okay, and you know what? I am okay.
While I’ve been through a lot this year (and am emotionally exhausted from the heartbreak and transitions), I have gratitude for all the things that have happened to me. Breaking up with my ex opened my eyes to my own strength and beauty, and I realized that I had settled for far less than I deserved for too long. What I lost in companionship I regained in respect, reverence, and love for myself, gifts for which I feel very grateful. And although his abrupt, rather unfeeling conclusion to our romance stung, my summer guy showed me that I was capable of loving as fully and deeply as I did before, even in light of the searing pain I’d endured. More than ever, I intimately know my perseverance, and that no matter what happens, I can land on my own two feet.
As we head into the final third of this year and the seasonal clock turns to autumn, I hope you take a moment to have compassion for yourself and the journey you’ve traveled: bumpy, smooth, or anything in between. Regardless of what you’ve been through, know that love is still possible in all shapes and sizes. Sure, it may be through a romantic partner, but so too does it stem from friends, family, community, movement, music, Mama Earth, and more. But above all, love grows from within. Nurture and cultivate it.
And you can bet your ass that I’ll cry my eyes out from my orchestra seat when I see Maggie Rogers in concert on October 2nd.
All of my love,