A Year In Reflection: A Story Of Love
by Ms. Millennial.
“I just can’t do this anymore. It’s over. I’m sorry”
May. One year ago tonight- to this minute, I heard the most painful words I had experienced in my lifetime. No one had died, no one was terminally sick, but I had just experienced a very deep loss.
For 5 ½ years, I was with a man who instantly became my best friend the day I met him. I had just graduated college, moved back home from Boston to live in my parent’s house, and became a singing cocktail waitress to start collecting a fast savings. I remember watching him sing at work and immediately needed to go talk to him.
He was quirky, silly, nerdy, independent, and a bit of a dark horse. I was young, bouncy, full of energy, and did I say young? We were 10 years apart.
We just clicked. We challenged each other. We were different, but so similar. We followed the cliché and exchanged “I love you’s”, on our first Valentine’s Day… fast forward not much longer after and, we moved in together… too early, in both of our later opinions. I was 23, and acting as housewife, silly girlfriend, and trying to establish a career for myself. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was having fun pretending to try. We toured the country together singing, and then both landed leading roles in large-scale Vegas shows. Were written about as a “power couple” in Las Vegas. We hosted large charity shows together, worked together, and became a staple “unit” in the Vegas entertainer scene.
No one saw it, but we both had inner struggles. Mine, as he would try to explain, were my lack of life experiences- I was still trying to find my footing in the world. Granted, I had accomplished a lot at a relatively young age, but I was naïve about life and okay with it. His, were quite the opposite. His life experiences had led him to have a bitter chip on his shoulder- something I was determined to try and resolve for him. (Instead of work on my own flaws…)
Fast forward years, and we battled back and forth about doing what society expects out of a couple who commits to each other: get married, buy a house, have a baby. I wanted those things, because… I just did! I enjoyed him, we had figured out our careers, we had a savings, and we shared intimate emotional experiences together. It made “sense” to progress to the next step. Not to him.
He wanted independence, but a relationship. He wanted me to be my own woman. He wanted separation, while living with someone you loved and was your best friend. It worked for him, and he was happy with it. I would ask him almost daily, “are we ever going to get married?” and he would always respond… “maybe someday.”
We bought a house in my dream neighborhood, though. Well, in his name, because I didn’t want my debt to affect our loan. But it was ours, and I put my entire life savings into it. I didn’t even blink an eye, even though my gut bubbled inside. We renovated the entire house (on our own) into our idea of a dream home- living in a construction zone for the better part of 6 months. We loved every second of it. Fights were infrequent, we had a mutual goal and idea in mind about what we wanted… we were distracted.
Whenever my emotional side would start to creep in, I would smother it. I had thoughts, questions, feelings of inadequacy… even though he was showing me how much he enjoyed my company. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, per say… but something didn’t feel right. I wondered why he hadn’t told me he was “in love with me”… only “loved me”. What was the difference to him after 5 years? And then one day- he did it. He told me. It was so powerful for him to say it- the only woman he had ever been in love with. So, I thought the someday was finally coming. I relaxed. We hit a depth in our relationship- focused on the positives, and eliminated the conversation of any issues.
Yet, the nagging of an “official” future together became more frequent from me… because, you know, female-hormones, age timeline, love, forward momentum, etc. I would show him wedding books when his guard was down, and he would show genuine interest. We would mindlessly stroll down the baby aisle at Target, looking at all the updated gadgets from when we were kids. And the someday still never came. I started daydreaming about him proposing to me- on my final night of my last show, on vacation, opening a Christmas gift…
We became busy in our own lives- what he had wanted. I was at 12-hour work days for my new show, and he was spending his time being social and enjoying the fruits of his labors. We went 2 months without spending much time together at all… and I thought maybe that would be the “catalyst” for him to realize he wanted me as his forever.
Instead, one night after a very long rehearsal, I was cranky. I was tired, and he was late coming home... again. To protect him and me and… “other”’s with the details, the continuation of the story stops here. Until the very last words, said on the floor in our beautiful customized master bedroom closet, “I think I’m done.”
Forever never came.
I was shocked. Broken. Empty. Sick.
I could barely speak. I packed an overnight bag and immediately bolted out of the beautiful home we shared together, because (he asked, and) it was technically “his”. At 2:30 in the morning, I immediately called someone who lived just a few blocks away… someone who I know would never abandon me. “Mom? I need you.”
I stayed there a few days… barely able to move. I had responsibilities- my new huge production show was days away from opening. I had to get up and work my ass off every day. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I came home and would yell, cry, and fall asleep. My life became a numb blur… during a time that should have been one of my most memorable. I realized then that I needed to be with my family… for awhile.
I lost 20 pounds in a month. I lived out of a suitcase. I remember a few of my best friends and mom going to our house one night and... packing all of my stuff up. "Our" dogs watched us, confused, scared. I will never forget leaving the house that night and watching my pup's eyes looking out the window as I drove away with my "tribe"... sobbing. Again, they were "his", even though I had raised them as my own for the better part of almost 6 years.
I tried to buy myself a bath rug in Home Goods, and I left sobbing… because we used to do that together. WE. DID. EVERYTHING. TOGETHER. For my entire adult life I had been attached to someone's side. I was realizing I couldn’t be my own person without him. I begged for clarity. Understanding. Reconsideration. He didn’t have any- he was trying to figure out his thoughts for himself. The hardest form of acceptance is to blindly do so- without a reason, apology, or understanding. I just… had to keep moving. Eventually, I’d feel less like I was running in place, but forward.
A few months went by, and I was finally able to crack a smile. I went to therapy a lot. I spent time with my family, friends, and new cast. I “got by.”
A few more months, and I actually went on dates. I had remembered months prior telling my mom, sobbing in her lap as a 27 year old woman, “the thought of finding someone else makes me sick”, and then actually running to go get sick in the bathroom from the sheer thought of it. And here I was... casually dating.
Little miss monogamous went on dates and had physical connections with men I wasn’t already in a relationship with. That was major for me- before, I didn’t even kiss guys I didn’t wind up seriously dating. All of a sudden, I found this confidence in my womanhood and my personality. I stayed out late, drank too much, and had the time of my life. I "lived my 20s"… for about 6 months. Shortly after, I started seeing a “high-profile” international artist who had taken to my “energy.” He was inspirational, kind, spoiled me, and treated me with compassion. We had a very raw connection. He forced me to believe in myself, he taught me the art of meditaton, and I truly believe he was the “distraction” I needed to get over my inner anxiety and fear of rejection. Nothing ever developed further with him, but we are friends to this day.
Some time passed still, and I had finally developed a life of my own. I found my own place to live, purchased a whole home’s worth of furniture, and just... moved in. I picked out my own designs without having to consult with anyone (even though I still wanted to). I remember sitting at my dining room table on my first night alone, eating dinner, and I felt… nothing. I WANTED to feel something, but for the first time in ¾ of a year, I realized what had happened… it was acceptance. I accepted who I was, where I was at in the moment, and where I wanted to go.
As the weeks went on, I stopped thinking about anything other than living the best life I could- for me. I was sensitively selfish, and I didn’t feel bad about it. For once.
Flash Forward to November 2- an old friend walked through the doors of a theater lobby for a CD release party I was attending. I don’t remember much, but I do remember glancing to my left, seeing his 6’5 stature in the doorway, him smiling with his major ray of positive light, and me open to the possibility of anything. We caught up and accidentally talked for the better part of 4 hours- not even listening to the music, and we even stayed so long we closed out the party.
We started to talk- often. Casually, friendly, getting to know each other. I was legitimately COURTED. We went on dates, and I even forced myself to see other people in the beginning. The longer we talked, the less interest I had in anyone else.
We lived a parallel life without realizing it. We shared the exact same story- losing ourselves for the hope and possibility of cultivating a healthy relationship. He had spent the last year soul-searching and rediscovering who he is, what he wants, and where he is going. (Sound familiar?)
ONLY because of those (somewhat forced) lessons, I am now in the healthiest, easiest, and most truthful relationship of my life. I no longer spend nights up at night worrying about my inadequacies in a relationship, or try to decipher every word my partner is saying. I no longer feel the need to fix anything or anyone. I don’t walk on eggshells, and I communicate my feelings. Best part is? So does my emotionally mature man. We put in the work, but it is not hard to do.
You have probably heard the saying, “relationships aren’t always easy”, but I think that is misleading. Relationships are, and will always be proactive work, but they should not continually make your life more difficult. They should be enhancing- to both partners, as often as possible. Then, when one person is on a low, the other rides high for the betterment of the partnership... no questions asked.The lessons I learned during the first chapter of my adult life will be ones I vow to never forget.
Looking back on a year of my life- I have seen some really remarkably trying times.
An ended partnership, having no home, reliving my 20s, moving into a new home, a new job, a severe voice injury, a fractured spine, lost sense of self, regained self-worth, and now a foundation in which to develop the most beautiful of all human needs- love.
In exactly one year, I found love- and it was from the most important person in my life… me.