“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
~ Pema Chödrön
It’s been 12 years since my first boyfriend. I was 14 at the time. He went away on exactly the three months mark, which is longer than most boys who followed, with only a few exceptions. It was the traveling, the constant re-locations, the pursuit of dreams, the hours I needed to practice, the not having time… But the truth was, the truth is, that when I wasn’t emotionally unavailable (most of the time), I was looking for love in all the wrong places (all of the time). The two are not mutually exclusive; they mix like drugs and alcohol.
Loving someone is perhaps your best art, but love is a battlefield. All is fair, but the deeper you love, the deeper you cut. The best of love is when you lose yourself; the worst of love is when you’ve lost yourself.
I’ve loved and lost, to varying extremities, and here are what my battle scars translate to:
I. Love yourself first.
I forget where I read this, but wherever it was, the author distinguished men and women as follows: concerning the purpose of life, you would ask a man, “For what do you live?” whereas you would ask a woman, “For whom do you live?”
This is not an essay on gender, so I’ll side-step what I see wrong with the approach, but I will say that it’s accurate. Churchill, Einstein, and Mother Teresa have all been attributed to the quote, “a life not lived for others is not a life worth living.” As women, naturally, there are so many people in our lives we give our love to. We are selfless, sometimes to a fault. We are loving, yet, what I’ve learned is that you can’t love others, unless, and until, you love yourself first. And it’s not that easy.
What was easy was loving them. Even loving the bad boys was easier than loving myself. It was like draining all of my love into a black hole…and it left me empty. And that void—we can’t give love if there’s nothing to give. It’s that simple. It’s that raw. Love yourself not only to love others, but love yourself for self-preservation.
Self-preservation, let that echo for a while…
It is not anyone else’s responsibility to love you. It is your own. Under all circumstances.
II. A mistake made twice is a decision.
We’re young; we’re wild; we’re free. This is a dangerous mantra to repeat too often. It’s empowering, but there’s a tipping point. Once it becomes our anthem, we tend to do stupid things. We’re impulsive, we’re pressured to “be in the moment,” but sometimes, those are god-awful moments. Sometimes, those are pre-meditated moments. Sometimes, those are planted moments, constructed to lure us, to take advantage of us, because predators exist, and they feed on our vulnerability.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice? There’s no shortage of bad boys out there. If that’s your thing, the next one will come in no time. Whenever I got back together with an ex, and heard the same sh*t replaying inside my head, I realized what they’ve said about insanity is true—doing the same things over again, but expecting different results.
Why would you reuse bad material? Doesn’t make sense, right? Clearly, it just means I’ve lost it. It’s not our job to heal people, but it is our job to make our own decisions. A mistake made twice, is a decision; decide to not be crazy.
III. If he wants you, he won’t leave you waiting.
He won’t deprive you of attention. He won’t leave you wondering. He’ll call. He’ll text. He’ll show up.
A ghost is not worth chasing.
Perhaps as women, our need for closure far exceeds that of men. There have been three ghosts in my trajectory thus far: age 20, 32, and 41 respectively, when they wanted me, and when they disappeared. I list the ages only to show, ironically, that it has nothing to do with age at all. If he’s not ready, he’s not to keep. Reasons are pointless, reasons are fabricated, reasons are the worst of excuses to cop out. If he’s not ready, then he’s no good. Everything else is irrelevant.
Oh, though they do tend to reappear… they all do, eventually. But what did I say about a mistake being made twice? I, too, can not give a f*ck. After all, I’ve learned from the best, or rather, the worst.
IV. You are enough.
Perhaps worse than being rejected, is the intensely debilitating feeling that you are not enough. That’s how I felt in my last relationship. I exhausted myself in becoming essentially, a genie for him: whatever he said, however casual, I would make it my mission to bring it to life. I’m not a genie. And there were others.
I exhausted myself in a world where I largely didn’t exist. To this day, I still don’t feel enough, and I feel most incomplete when I’m with him. I’ve never quite felt that way before, but I felt less than nothing. I can’t quite put it into words, but I can say with certainty, that it was the worst feeling on Earth. Whatever happened, and however I got to that place, I can’t quite pinpoint, but I know it was dead wrong. The healing process from that is still on-going. That’s my yoga.
V. Be the prize; not the secret.
Boys are bad when they keep secrets from you. Boys are bad when their ego steals the show. Dating bad boys, you are but a few things: muse, sex, prize, or secret. I’ve been them all, and as thrilling as a secret may sound, it’s deceitful, and the aftermath, most self-destructive. Even the worst of boys would want to show you off. It’s not vanity; it’s to honour your own existence.
VI. Be brave enough to walk away.
All good things come to an end. Perhaps bad things will reach expiration sooner. When things get sour, a quick exit is the best for all. It’s never easy. Detachment is a practice of a lifetime, one day at a time. Over-extending a stay in a bad situation is a downward spiral into depression and dark town.
To be passionate, is to be vulnerable, is to put yourself at risk. To be passionate with the bad boys is putting yourself in danger. Playing with fire is all exciting until you get burned. Love yourself enough to save yourself. We’re back to number one.
Author: Xiren Wang
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons