Published in print for Lʼété magazine issue 001, created by Heather Taylor-Singh. Illustration by Grace Mazzucchi (@gracemazh)
There’s a calendar taped to my wall with the days marked off in pink highlighter. Each day is a day lived without any kind of romantic intimacy to fill the hole where my heart should be. My indefinite refrain from dating is best described as a break, like when you stop to catch your breath mid-run. It’s a breath of air that I desperately need after nearly two years of being in relationships. Two serious relationships, and multiple occasions of being in love and several date scenarios. At least 13 different guys. It didn’t once seem weird to me until now that I was never alone because I didn’t want to be. Being a serious romantic, I’ve always liked the concept of dating and pursued most opportunities for it regardless of the pain that it sometimes caused me. Only recently has so much heartbreak piled up that it’s starting to seem detrimental.
In the past three months especially I’ve started to forget what It was like to be by myself and was increasingly afraid of what would happen if I were again. If I love myself as much as any of those boys, I might be able to recall a time before them when I was single and just as happy, but I don’t. I can’t remember what ‘before’ felt like at all, as if I gave away those parts of myself and never got them back. Bring about the calendar and pink highlighter. While I’m writing this, I’m 28 days into my boy detox. I tried to initiate it a couple weeks before but couldn’t bring myself to say no when someone actually wanted me. That’s the part I was missing, the ability to say no. I realize now that choosing to be alone is something I have to be able to do before I can enter another relationship. From here on I can’t even blink at a guy until I’m able to really love myself the way I want other people to.
Rewind two years- A boy that I’d had a crush on for months asked me out and suddenly everything that I wanted from high school was possible. My world revolved around the idea of love and having a high school boyfriend was at the top of the list. That summer we spoke on the phone every night before bed. Tuesdays became my favourite day of the week because I got to go to his soccer games with his family. Those nights held a certain magic for me, a feeling that I’ve only ever felt when I was getting attention from a guy. I went on a two-week family vacation in August, and the Sunday night after I returned home he called to break up with me. My reaction will come off as dramatic, because well, it was. I cried until I couldn’t breathe, the same way I do every time a guy breaks up with me. Which suggests something beyond the dramatic; that I wasn’t content with myself whatsoever.
I imagine it like this: my heart is weak and damaged because I don’t take care of it. I don’t fight hard enough to keep it, so it’s easy for other people to get a hold of. Each time that I extend myself to a boy, he cuts off a little chunk of my heart. And then he leaves me and I feel increasingly empty. But I don’t care enough to fight to get my heart back so I move on to the next boy, hoping he’ll give me a piece of his heart instead. He doesn’t. He just cuts off another chunk of mine, leaving me even emptier than the last time.
Rewind again- A few weeks after the first boy broke up with me. I was head over heels for my childhood sweetheart, rekindling what I thought would be an epic romance. Everything about us made sense to me at the time. Yet nearly eight months later I was meeting him at the park to discuss breaking up. I wasn’t ready to move on that following month but I started seeing another guy regardless. The only feeling that could help me ignore the pain was love. And this one loved me. He told me that he did endlessly. He called me his soulmate. Until four months later when he could no longer say it. For no particular reason other than he wasn’t sure if it was true. Cue inevitable breakup and a series of tragic hookups that shredded me of what little confidence I had left.
For clerical purposes, the idea in taking back my heart is to endure enough loneliness that I’m forced to turn to myself for help. It’s indefinite because I hope to eventually be healed enough that I can love someone with a whole heart. A heart that doesn’t expect anything in return. In order to make that happen, I need to love myself so much that I no longer view having romantic feelings for someone as a life altering experience. I need to love myself so much that I can love others without giving up parts of myself in the process.
This brings us to my last relationship; the one that brought me to write this (rewind four months ago). On the night that we first crossed paths, I was still spinning from two previous heart breaks.What really caught me was the way that he looked at me after sex. During even. Like I was the only person that existed to him in that moment. But a month later he broke up with me and took another chunk of my tiny heart with him.
Resume to the present- still 28 days boy free. I can see now, when I look back at each lost relationship, that part of myself is missing. Deep down I might know where the different pieces went. And since I have yet to take those pieces back, I wish that the boys who hold them would give them back. At least then my heart would be a little closer to whole.These of course, are the thoughts that I have to fight off every time I scribble out another day in pink highlighter. The pink highlighter is the only decision I’ve made in the interest of love that was solely for myself. It’s how I’m going to get my heart back.