I remember my first heartbreak like it was yesterday. We all do, right? The first time that someone really took your heart like a piece of glass and shattered it into little pieces that you’ve somehow manage to misplace specks of. We can all look back on our life in some retrospect and remember the first time we cried over someone, the first time we said “I love you,” and knew we wouldn’t hear it back, or the first time we had to walk away from something we truly, deeply, madly wanted to last forever.
Heartbreak is funny like that. Sometimes it can be the darkest and most desolate type of memory. You think back on it and it becomes a black cloud of oblivion over your mind and just like that, your day is overcast for hours to come. It’s like a societal stereotype that when we think about heartbreak and the times we have failed in love, it has to be this terribly gut-wrenching and depressing episode of our life. Like we tuned into Netflix with an entire pint of ice cream in hand, waiting to cry over the reel of our failures past.
And, that’s really it. The “failure” part of it all.
Society makes us believe that if we feel heartbreak, or pain, or somehow don’t get what we entirely expect out of a romantic relationship that it means we’ve somehow “failed.” We have somehow managed to completely tank at the one thing that is supposed to be “effortless” and truly carefree. Unconditional. But, who determines why it’s failure? Who is to say that that first heartbreak wasn’t a blessing in disguise, taking you away from something that you thought you wanted, and truly thought was right, but could have turned out to be everything you never wanted for yourself? Who is the one who decides that we’ve bombed at finding our “soulmate” because one person decided that it just wasn’t meant to be?
I remember my first heartbreak. And I remember my second. And my third. And even my fourth. We remember the names and the moments and the times, but most of all we remember the pain. We remember how much we ached for someone else who couldn’t return that admiration, or that companionship, or the confidence in ourselves and our commitment. We remember how much it tore us apart when they walked away. We remember how lonely and dark we felt for days to come.
And then what?
Heartbreak, like all feelings life, isn’t permanent. It’s fleeting. It’s temporary, only there to prove that we’re human. We’re capable of feeling. Feeling everything from pain to love to desire to hurt. Like the shattered glass, we’re pieces of memories and obstacles and challenges that we have endured, all pieced back together to form a masterpiece of stained glass. One that shines infinite colors in every which direction of our world and showcases all of our scars.
I’m a firm believer that all of those heartbreaks and scars, they make us who are are. Who we were meant to be. Sure, at the time, it feels like utter disaster. We’ve all spent those sleepless nights in bed, crying into our pillow as if the world was being pulled out from beneath us and we don’t know when we’ll ever breathe again. But, eventually, we get up. We stop the tears. We find new light. We find new purpose.
I was always someone who looked back on my relationships as failures. For a really long time, I always asked myself a simple question: “What did I do wrong?”
It was never a sense of timing. I never wondered about my partners. I didn’t look at the circumstances. I never sought out the true reason, or the downfall, or the catalyst behind why things ended—instead I looked at how I, personally, tarnished what I first considered to be an everlasting love.
As I’ve gotten older, and I’ve seen more heartbreak (is it the tenth that I’m on now? Eleventh?) I’ve come to realize that it’s not about what I’ve done wrong, or what my partner has done wrong, or even the heartbreak within itself. It’s looking at things in a deeper, more meaningful and symbolic way to understand why things ending means something terribly sad. When did we decide that endings have to be so dark? Who was it that painted the word “heartbreak” black across a midnight sky and told us it all had to be so droopy and sad and horrible?
I changed my narrative.
Instead of looking back at all of the heartbreak in my life as terrible mistakes and awful ways that I did people wrong, or messed up my own life, or lost the “what could have been” fairytale ending that I longed for as a girl, I changed the narrative to look at how everything I thought I wanted actually wasn’t for me at all.
Sometimes, we need to force ourselves to look inward and see how at one point in time, love can be everything we think we want at that given moment in our life. We can think we need it more than sunshine and air and moonlit skies. But when it’s not for us, eventually we know. We hold on with all of our might to simply feel a connection to someone, but if it’s just not there, it’s just not for us.
Heartbreak doesn’t always have to be a devastation. It can be a fond memory to look back on and remember that at one point in time, that person and that relationship and that part of our life did fulfill us in some way. But, now, who we are as people and as a whole, beautiful, vibrant human being is because we took that pain, manifested it, and grew from it. We became a stronger, more humble, more complete person because we had experienced this kind of hurt and now, we know what we want and need moving forward.
I look back at a lot of my heartbreak in life and I bask in fond memories of road trips with one, backpacking with another, late night diner meals with someone else, phone calls until 3AM, handwritten love letters—all of it—and I remember the smiles, the laughter, and the glow that I felt around myself at that point in time.
At one point in your life, before the devastation, that glow was everything you wanted and more.
Losing it sucks. It hurts—at first.
But then I look at my partner now. The person that loves me whole. Complete. And, I know deep down that all of those memories brought me here, to this very point in time. Where I am full of happiness. Hopefulness. Pride. And for those heartbreaks, I am grateful.
Lex Gabrielle is a lifestyle writer who believes in messy buns and 3+ cups of coffee a day. When she’s not writing, she teaches high school English, journalism, and creative writing. You can see more of her work at www.lexgabrielle.com.