A guest post by Jamie Hoang
At the age of 23, I thought I had my life figured out. My boyfriend was a music video director and I worked beneath him as a production designer. I had the next 10 years of my life mapped clearly mapped out and I was in a comfortable place. Then one day I came home from work and we had a conversation that changed everything.
The discussion wasn’t very long, and I don’t think I said more than a few words. I can’t remember the exact words, but I remember having a kind of stoic reaction as I packed my things into large black trash bags.
What it came down to was simply, that he didn’t see a future with me. He said he was sorry but that he felt that our relationship wasn’t enough. I briefly considered a counter argument, but ended up saying nothing.
Somehow having to explain or define my self-worth seemed insulting – or maybe just sad. I wasn’t an arrogant person; however, I firmly believed that I was a good person and if he couldn’t see that, than he didn’t deserve me.
That was a mantra that I would repeat daily. Regardless, my self-confidence plummeted fast. I was single, jobless and confused about who I was. Did I even like production design? Or had I simply taken on that role because I felt like he needed me to?
I quickly came to the realization that our break-up wasn’t a 50/50 split. He took everything. My confidence, my work contacts, my idealism, and my identity…I had never been so lost.
Two weeks after it happened—once the tear ducts had run dry and I’d shed 15 pounds—I had just enough energy to turn around. To stop facing the past and look toward the future.
Looking around, I found myself standing at the middle of a deserted intersection. There was nothing–not even a bus stop–only long roads stretched out into the distance and the blazing sun beating down on me. All I had with me was a suitcase filled with a few good friends, and pieces of the life I had built prior to falling in love.
For a while, life seemed to progress without me. I didn’t want to stand on the sidelines of my own life, but standing still seemed like a safer than possibly having to feel the agony of heartbreak again. I had to learn how to deal with disappointment.
With a giant push from a friend and little help from my savings account, I decided to fly. The decision was made in a matter of minutes; the ticket booked within the hour. I was going to Peru.
Traveling with just a backpack, good hiking shoes, and a Peruvian tour guide I set out on a journey that would revitalize my sense of self.
For four days I hiked along the lush green Inca Trail while listening to water cascade down the mountains. I took in deep breaths of fresh wild flower. Leaving behind, the familiar sights of: streetlights, concrete, a vehicle, business suits, steel, cell phones, and horns.
Like so many self-help books and blogs that I read, I expected to find happiness or meaning while abroad, but without those everyday distractions and noises, my loneliness was actually heightened. I would lie awake at night wondering where the relationship had gone wrong. Fighting the urge to blame myself was difficult and all the while I was searching still, for some kind of direction.
Then I funny thing started happening, I started to remember the things I used to love. Some things like: Jawbreakers, Boy Bands, skorts (skirt shorts, popular in the 90’s), bad highlights, paper journals with mechanical pencils…I didn’t need anymore. Others were fundamental interests that formulated my identity: Classical music, swimming to the very bottom of a pool just to get away from the noise above, traveling, writing, history, and the belief that I could do it all.
I came back from that trip far from perfect. I was broke, still single, and living in an unfamiliar city. But my life was my own. Everything I did, I did for me and I came out four times stronger as an individual than I had even been as a couple.
Heartbreak is not the only way to rediscover one’s sense of self (though I know many people who have found it to be catalyst). I am not by any means proposing that people should break-up with their significant others and run around the globe. What I am saying is that life’s disappointments have an interesting way of yielding progressive results.
For two and a half years I worked as a consultant while I traveled around the world collecting experience and searching for wisdom.
I learned that life was not meant to be figured out. It’s meant to be lived. Discovery was a wonderful thing and I no longer needed to know the outcome before asking the question. Life can be a roller coaster of ups and downs; but that’s the beauty if it. If today is bad, tomorrow will be better.
About the Author
Jamie Hoang is a Los Angeles based writer, designer, world traveler, tea drinker and lover of the great outdoors. A firm believer in trying everything at least once, she’s always learning. Her work can be found at heyjamie.com or tweeting as @heyjamie