Over the past couple of years so many aspects of my life have changed. Going through a pretty traumatic breakup left me broken into pieces and unsure of nearly everything about myself. I had gone from happily engaged to suddenly single and felt like I had lost all sense of control. I moved back in with my parents halfway across the country and had to figure out what I was going to do to get my life back on track—quickly. The healing process was certainly a bitch, and every once in a while, it still is. Though my life has changed dramatically, I have learned a lot about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, and what I want out of life. Mainly, I’ve learned to no longer be afraid of my own voice. So here I am, trying now to share my thoughts with you, opening myself up to criticism and judgment, and I’ve never felt stronger.
So what have I learned?
1. You’re allowed to be a little bit selfish.
For so many years I tried desperately to make someone else happy that I forgot that I deserved some of that joy myself. Maybe if I had focused more of my energy on myself, our relationship would have been different as well. Oh well, you live and you learn right? Right now my selfishness is directed at bettering myself.
2. Everyone leaves your pity party at some point.
Grieving any great loss is incredibly difficult, and the process should not be rushed, but there is a difference between grieving and dwelling. We can’t change what has happened in the past, we can only move forward and hope that we don’t make the same mistakes again. For a long time I let my sadness overwhelm me and affect every aspect of my life. I struggled at work, distanced myself from friends and family, and became a sort of hermit that never smiled, never laughed, and spent most of my days in tears or in silence. I was miserable and I wanted everyone to know it.
Looking back now I see that there are a lot of things I would have done differently, and I realize that had I focused on my strengths rather than my weaknesses I could have come out of my funk a lot sooner. At a certain point your friends may also tell you that you have to pull yourself out of your misery or you’ll be stuck in it forever. They may also force you to try to be happy, and eventually you’ll thank them for it.
3. Social media is a great way for you to share your voice with your friends, but remember that what you post is seen by many people.
I can’t even tell you how many people told me to keep my life off of Facebook when everything was happening, but I thought what business was it of theirs? I feel pretty foolish now about many of the things that I posted while succumbing to my sadness. Nobody wants to be that weird, sad girl at her 10-year reunion that everyone thinks just lost it. Use the internet wisely, there is always somebody watching, reading, and acknowledging the things you do. Some actually care, and some are just curious. You’d be wise to know the difference between those who hope to see you succeed, and those who are only there waiting to see you fall. I definitely learned that lesson the hard way.
4. Your friends and family are an amazing support system.
They may not always tell you what you want to hear, but that’s what you love about them. They support you and love you, but they also know when it’s time to set you straight and get you moving. They will hold you accountable for your actions, but support you even when you act like a bonehead. Heed their advice. They may be thinking more rationally than you. Take advantage of their alternate views of the situation.
5. Nobody wants to hear this when going through a tough time, but everything happens for a reason.
Sometimes we get our hearts broken, sometimes we lose somebody we love, and none of it ever seems rational. Everything takes time, and we are often too impatient to just wait things out and let them happen organically. Pain is temporary. We all have the ability to survive; sometimes it just takes a minute or two.
6. Sometimes a change of scenery is necessary.
One of the best things that I did was quit my job. Ideally I would have had another job lined up before leaving my previous one, but I’m so glad that I finally had the strength to walk away. I used to love my job, but over the years it had started to wear on me and I just wasn’t happy anymore. It was also a reminder of my ex, and I needed that to be scourged from my life. Leaving my job was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make, but I thank myself every day for it. But if you’re not in a position to leave your job, make time to take a day trip—get in the car, hop on a train and get out-of-town, if only for a little while. It will clear your head and put all that sadness and anxiety in perspective.
7. New hobbies are new chances to find happiness.
Be adventurous, be brave, be unafraid. If things don’t work out, try something else. There are so many new things to learn and new people to meet! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there again.
Don’t be afraid to be you, don’t let your sadness become you, and don’t let your grief define you. You are wonderful, you are loved, and you have so much to offer. Sometimes you have to fight for your happiness. My battle was one of the hardest things I had ever faced in my life, and every single day I am thankful that I didn’t give up and that I learned so much from my struggle. Happiness is my reward and my light.
Sarah Burtoft is a freelance writer living in L.A. She can often be found laughing wildly or with her head in the clouds. You can find more of her writings at misadventure.blogspot.com, where an extended version of this essay was published.