It’s been a year.

Even before Timehop reminded me, I knew today was the day. Even in it’s last days, March has never been kind to me.

A year ago today, I drove an hour to get dumped. Apparently around 10am it happened, and by noon I was already back in my college apartment planning a party for that evening. I drank tequila. I went to a bar I’d never been to. I danced. Some of my friends who live far away showed up for the occasion, proving they were still there for me, even if he wasn’t. Not that they had to prove anything, but it truly meant everything to me that they were there. I needed them that day, and they had my back. He never did shit like that for me.

I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been truly broken up with. He would occasionally break up with me for a week or so, but this was nothing like that. So the last time I was dumped would have been in high school, I guess. But I was usually the one to end relationships… so maybe eighth grade was the last time. Almost a decade ago.

I still don’t really know if I got my heart broken that day, though. Of course, I’m older now, but this didn’t feel like when my heart was broken the few times in high school. It hurt, of course, and I cried whenever I would try to talk about him, or think about him, or have to break the news to someone else… but after a few days of that, I just felt free. The anxiety I’d had for weeks or months that I thought was about graduation and job searching, was really about him. That relationship should have ended years ago.

It felt like I got divorced. It felt like I wasted the best four years of my life on someone who didn’t want to share anything with me, let alone give up anything for me. I missed legendary weekends with my  friends, because of him. It meant my dad was right, again. That this boy wasn’t willing to sacrifice anything for me, and yet I was always bending over backwards for him.

I judged the shit out of other people’s relationships. I thought I had the healthiest, most functional relationship, and thus the right to judge. We never fought, we had fun together, we liked the same shows. We had some hobbies in common, but also had our own interests. I thought those were all good things, that we didn’t need anything else, that he would eventually stop smoking. But it wasn’t that we didn’t fight because there was nothing to fight about – instead it was because we stopped communicating a long time ago. Those couples who always fought, at least they were telling each other how they felt. The ones who spent every waking moment together were obnoxious, but at least they knew each other.

I had plenty of things that were his, but none of them with any sentimental value. Always practical things – an old TV, some sweatpants I’d never seen him wear, a fucking wireless router. The normal things a girlfriend would have, things I always wanted, he barely let me touch. His college hoodie, mostly. I did have jewelry from him, I guess, but the chain to the necklace he gave me broke, and he never bothered to find me another one even though he promised he would.

I told him I didn’t want any of my stuff back. I still don’t know what he did with it. Maybe he threw everything away. Maybe, since he never cleans, those few possessions of mine are still there. I wonder what he thinks when he stumbles upon them while he’s looking for something else. I wonder how he told his parents. I wonder if they still ask about me the way my aunt or my grandparents will occasionally ask about him.

Months later, I was still breaking the news to people. Half a year later, I will have a bad day and be insanely mad at him, and myself, for putting me where I am now. About 10 months later, I was headed back home, driving the same roads I’d driven with him so many times. The weather had finally broken, I was driving with my windows down, and “Breakin’” by the All-American Rejects came on my iPod and it about killed me. I put the song on repeat and belted it all the way home.

All your tears
Couldnt match the bitter taste of all these wasted years

You take take
Everything that wasnt even yours
Wait wait
You dont got a hold of me anymore

And that’s the truth. He doesn’t get to me anymore, I’ve lost all romantic feelings for him months (maybe even years) ago. But it’s all those wasted years that still have the tightest hold on me. It’s the feelings I have about myself that still get to me. It’s the anger; the hot, burning kind of anger I thought I left behind with teenage angst, that gets to me.

So, it’s been a year. One hell of a year. I learned a lot. And I could have spent this weekend feeling bad about it, but I decided to be fearless instead. (More on that tomorrow…)

“So, what do you do?”

Every time I see someone I haven’t talked to since I got my job, of course we ask each other what we’ve been up to. I tell them I graduated, got a job, live in a different part of the state, etc. Then they ask “So what do you do?” and I tell them my title, which like most titles, essentially means nothing. Sometimes they actually accept this as an answer, which is awesome, and maybe they ask what company I work for. Which, again, most people haven’t heard of most B2B companies so me telling them means nothing. They’ve heard of the main client I work for, but I can’t exactly tell them that so I continue being vague. If none of this is acceptable, they then ask something to the effect of “Soooo what does that mean? What do you actually do all day?”

Here’s the weird part for me. I have no idea. I mean yeah, I know what I do on a daily basis. I know what my job description is, vaguely. But, for example, I don’t know what to put on my resume. I never do. I mean, I know the tasks I do and what they’re used for, and in theory what the client uses them for. However, to anyone not in the industry, anything I say isn’t going to make sense. So I either ramble out some jargon about panels, verbatims, reporting specs, and testing scenarios, or I just say “I sit at a desk all day.” Neither of which actually answers their question, and it doesn’t sound the slightest bit glamorous, but neither is my job. And I get that I’m entry level, I really do. I understand that I’m just a glorified intern. And yet…I constantly feel like anything I do has no significance, no impact, and no value whatsoever.

That’s not exactly selling myself, is it?

Maybe if I was less ambitious this would all be ok. I would sit in my cubicle, put in my time, and wait until it was time to retire. Follow the suggested path, keep my head down, etc etc. I just can’t do that, though. On the other hand, I’ll be the first person to admit I can be a lazy piece of shit. Motivation eludes me for the better part of the day and maybe even week – but only when I’m not interested. If I can find a task or project that is challenging and interesting, then I also find it motivating. What I do now, is neither of those things. Some tasks, occasionally, yes. Any new things that break the monotony of my normal job routine, I will jump at the chance to tackle those projects on my own and I’ll spend all day trying to figure it out and how to do it well.

But how do I do that on a daily basis? Where is this magical job that makes me passionate about my work? Of course I understand there will always be good days and bad, but where’s the job that motivates me to do more than just kill time in my cubicle?

I love that I know things about economics and I even appreciate that I had to suffer through a few accounting classes, but that is what I really wish they would have taught me in college. How to find my perfect fit of what I’m good at and what I’m passionate about. I don’t know even how anyone would have taught such a thing…but I wish someone had. How do I figure out what I want? Once I do, how do I get there?

“Give it time,” they say. Maybe patience has just never been my strong suit, because I’m only 23 and I couldn’t be more restless.

Cautionary Tale – With Wine

This is a long read. So I’ve opened a bottle of wine. It’s pretty great – Malbec is my new favorite red. But if you’re someone with a short attention span – start at the quote and just read the few sentences after that.

I promised I would tell you how I got to this place, over 70 miles away from most my friends. “This place” happens to be a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Not someplace I would have chosen ordinarily. It has it’s own kind and charm, but…my wanderlust seeks bigger and better and different things.

Once upon a time... no, that’s too much, let’s try again:

Once, I was in high school. Specifically, I was sorta-kinda-talking-to a boy in the winter of my senior year of high school and simultaneously trying to decide where to go to college at the same time. Being the intelligent, mature high schooler that I was at the time, I waited to officially date the boy and fall for the boy until I had made a decision on where to spend the next four years in college. I didn’t want this boy clouding my judgement.

As it turned out, I chose the school geographically closer to the boy and to our hometown, so I decided to fall for and date the boy. I didn’t think we’d date for very long, but then somehow we were still together when I graduated high school, and when I left for college. Three and a half years later we were still together. Then, we started making plans for after I graduated. I’d find a job and move somewhere near his seemingly permanent location, a suburb of a bankrupt rust belt city. Since I’d be living up there, it would just make financial sense for us to move in together.

Before we made it to the four year mark, he decided that just wasn’t going to work for him. He didn’t want to move in with me right away, he said. Then he decided he didn’t want to move in with anyone, ever, that it wasn’t my fault. Now it’s just a month and a half before I graduate college and I am “…” <— this close to landing a job. Near his bankrupt rust belt city no less. Then, he decides we shouldn’t be together, since he doesn’t think he can truly, fully commit to anyone, ever. It’s not my fault, of course. It’s all him. I’m just too nice or selfless or sweet or something. And he’s the asshole who doesn’t deserve me. Of course, he won’t ever change. Even for cute, sweet, selfless me. So I get this job near his godforsaken city because it’s the only place I looked for jobs. Suddenly, instead of looking for apartments that my boyfriend and our two incomes can afford, I’m grumpily looking for sad studio apartments in less exciting suburbs. The boy I have followed has left me. I’m just alone in this suburb of a city I never wanted to be a part of. I’m in a new state so I have to get a new driver’s license, my insurance goes up, and I can’t afford to get a dog. Which is really the one thing I wanted when I graduated and was living on my own.

Even worse – I’ve always had wanderlust. I grew up in various parts of the Midwest, went to college in the Midwest… I wanted to get out of the fucking Midwest! Don’t get me wrong, the Midwest can be spectacular. But I just wanted a chance to get out, even just for a minute, while I still can.

I used to be unapologetic. I used to be unrelentingly independent and opinionated. There was a time when I wouldn’t even think of allowing another person (especially a boy) telling me what I could and couldn’t do. Where I could live. Yet, I let this one boy do just that. For some reason, I thought the ‘happily ever after’ would justify everything. I thought, sure, I could sacrifice this one small thing for him. Because no, I don’t have a reason to live anywhere else, I just really want to leave the Midwest. He has aging parents and other “reasons” for staying in his home state. I thought…I don’t know, I thought I was done dating forever and I was sort of cool with that. So I tried to quiet my wanderlust.

But, turns out, I’m not done dating. Turns out, he’s just a medium-sized blimp in my long-ish dating history. Maybe he’s a fairly important footnote, but still just a footnote in the overall text. Now I’m in “this place” and I wish I had sacrificed less, whether we ended up together or not. Now that I’m no longer with him, I realize I lost a part of myself in that relationship. Mostly, I lost four years of my life. Was it truly a complete waste? No, probably not. I did learn a lot about myself. Mostly I learned some of what I ultimately want and deserve in my next relationship(s). I also learned and realized I need to return to being unapologetic. Also importantly, I’m starting to figure out what I want out of the person I ultimately decide (if I decide) to marry. Between the failed relationships and all of my Tinder/dating experiences since this relationship, that list is starting to become a weird collection of things. If nothing else, it’s at least one step forward in answering the question ‘what do I want?’ in one small facet of my life.

So – bottom line – ladies and men alike… don’t give all you have to a significant other. Or a friend, or family member for that matter (maybe kids are an exception, I’m the opposite of an expert on that topic). It’s just not going to be good for you in the end. Especially if the other person won’t do the same for you. Compromising to make you both happy is one thing…pretending to be something you just aren’t is another thing entirely. I gave so much time and effort into a relationship and to a person who…who knows, maybe he did care and just sucked at showing it, but either way wasn’t willing to make any sacrifices for me while I was making plenty for him. He didn’t care enough, and not to the extent I expect and deserve. As my grandfather, a wise old man, would say:

You gotta look out for number 1, because number 2 won’t.

Look out for yourself. Do what’s going to be good for you, not for them. Be a little hedonistic from time to time and do what makes you happy. Because, ultimately – who else is going to look out for you, if not yourself?