It’s September. That time of year when the air is cool enough to let you enjoy the sun beating down as you sit on a terrace sipping a glass of sangria. I’m laughing with my best friend about her disastrous dates. I used to be able to relate, but recently, it has been all about which flowers will be in my bouquet, who makes the guest list, what to do with those relatives I haven’t seen in 10 years but Mom says I “absolutely need” to include. The venue is booked, we’re having a ceremony in an intimate chapel, the caterer and menu are planned, and I’ve even met the perfect photographer.
I’m sitting on the terrace, laughing with my best friend because she’s just helped me pick out my wedding dress.
It’s been eight months since the proposal — a totally unexpected, exhilarating moment of my life, solidifying the feelings I’ve had with my partner for over five years. It started as puppy love and turned into full-time jobs, a shared apartment and two actual puppies. (Really freaking cute puppies.)
And then it came undone.
It’s September, and the love of my life comes home to tell me he doesn’t want the responsibility of being with me. After crying and begging and having him stomp out of my apartment, I call my best friend, and she comes over to help pack my suitcases.
I’m 22 and have an ex-fiancé. It takes another year for it to stop being a pity party. There are sloppy drunk texts I don’t remember, rebound dates that move way too quickly, deleted photos, e-mails and memories. There’s a void next to me in bed. I drink until blackout to deal with the weddings of other people I continue to attend.
And then I hit rock bottom because my ex-fiancé moves in with a woman he’s dated for about a month. So much for not wanting responsibility. I get drunk in front of my family — like really, really drunk. I cry and cry until I realize that this isn’t the life I want to lead.
I decide to change my situation. I realize that I now have no responsibility and I can do anything I want. I decide with my best friend that I’m going to do things differently. I’m going to conquer things head-on, challenge myself, find what I love, and do it with passion.
Just when I start liking myself again, I find someone else to like, too. But it’s complicated because I don’t want to relive the past. I don’t want to fall head-over-heels for someone, move too quickly, and let go of newly found single-hood, where I can do anything and everything.
So I get on a plane without a return date and wave goodbye to the guy I just uttered the words “I love you” to. Because it can’t be true; it has only been one year since my heart was torn to pieces and flushed down the toilet. We’ll know if it’s real when I’m on the other side of the world, pretending not to love each other, pretending I need space to figure it out.
We both date other people while staying up to wee hours of morning to catch a “hello” from each other in different time zones. People pass through both of our lives, leaving their own marks, but the only person I want to tell about my thoughts and perceptions of the world is on the other side of a screen, waiting for a “ping” to tell him I’m online. I’m online because I hope he’s online.
And then the world leads me through some really great moments and some really bad moments, and I decide to come home to figure out my life because now I’m confused. At 22, I had everything planned out, and now at 25 I haven’t got a clue.
Then I see him for the first time, and we’ve both changed a little. He’s taken on new hobbies, altered his career, lost a bit of hair, but is still just as damn charming. And me — I’ve changed my views on the world. I’ve become more me, whoever that might be.
We end our night in a warm embrace, talking about the details of our lives that were left out over text messages. My friends back home are now older, and engaged and planning babies. But I’ve been through that — I’ve been through more than that.
It’s September. We’re moving in together, planning a life together, planning to travel together.
I’ve been through heartache and adventure and love. I might not know what comes next, but I’ve realized there are more important things in life than a wedding dress. I had an ex-fiancé at 22, but at 26, I have my life.