“Opinions aren’t facts. Stop worrying about what other people think of you.” ~ Unknown
Dear Friends and Family: I’m breaking up with you.
Actually, I’m breaking up with the me I used to be—someone who was so insecure after my marriage ended that I still looked to other people to tell me who I was.
Back then, I still needed someone else to draw me the boundaries of what my life should look like.
I love each one of you, and I can’t imagine my life without the experiences and smiles we have shared, but something has changed. While I know we will have a million more bellyaching laughs ahead of us, I no longer need you to tell me who I should love.
I realize that I’ve been a mess ever since my marriage came crashing down in rubble and debris. I made a ton of bad choices, and I was floundering—unable to really know what kind of man I need, because I didn’t know who I was.
There was a time when your opinions were the only thing keeping me together. I needed them. I needed you to tell me I was wrong or that I was making a bad choice. I needed you to tell me what decision to make.
But I realized something recently—that girl is no longer here.
While I know that each of you love me and want only the best for me, you really have no idea what my life is like. None of you have had to deal with divorce, separation, loneliness, or even dating as an adult—which is lucky for you, but it also makes it impossible for you to truly understand my situation.
Perhaps I am making a wrong choice, and maybe I will even have my heart broken, but I need to make these choices for myself. I need to follow my heart and figure out what I need (and want) in spite of whatever it is you think that means.
When I love someone, they mean everything to me—so I eagerly lapped up your opinions on what kind of man I need, and I pondered your thoughts about my love life deeply. I questioned everything until it simply became nothing—and in that process, the only person I truly doubted was myself.
I somehow became accustomed to the notion that all of you somehow knew what I needed more than I did, but no matter how uncertain things are—or how much I still haven’t figured things out—I do know who I am now.
I know myself—and my own heart—inside and out. I know the way my soul feels at two in the morning, and I know what it needs to keep going. I know which qualities call to me in a man, and I know what I am looking for. I realize now that I knew all along, but I just didn’t trust myself.
I love you—but these choices are mine and not yours.
I know that I will still talk to you about certain situations or thoughts—and you’ll give me your opinions, and I do want that to happen. My world is made of words, so I’ll still need to talk through the rumblings of my heart. However, I suppose the only difference is that I won’t need them in order to know what I want to do.
When we listen to everyone else, our own voice (and heart) often gets lost in the chaos. Our inner compass becomes confused, because we are trying to navigate ourselves based on what everyone else is telling us.
And so, we make choices—or don’t—and find ourselves living the life others think we should be living, regardless of if it’s the one that makes our hearts light up with passion. Sometimes it happens without us even noticing, and it sneaks in under the guise of good intentions.
But what I’ve realized is that no matter how good it looks on paper—and regardless of how my friends and family feel about a situation—if it’s not in my own heart, then it will never truly feel right.
I can’t kid myself. Deep down there’s always been a part of me that was too scared to say what I really wanted.
There was something within me that felt bad for what I wanted or guilty for how I felt—and so, not only was I unable to stand up and say it to others, but I also was unable to admit it to even myself.
I choked on everything left unsaid, until it seemed I wasn’t able to breathe any longer—until I had given my last breath trying to live the life everyone else thought I should be living. Until I had no other choice than to peel back the layers of my heart and see what’s been growing there all along.
It’s funny how something that seemed impossible for so long can suddenly feel like the deepest release, now that I’m finally able to say it aloud—if only to my own ears.
But maybe that’s the thing about listening to everyone else…perhaps we only do that when we know the real answers have the power to scare us—to change us and to uproot the entire life we’ve tried to build for so long.
As I said before, I love all of you, and your opinions are important to me—but no one else can live this life for me. No one else is going to have to live with my choices, and no one else is going to have to wake up to whatever man I choose—except me.
And this is why I must say that my love life (and what happens in it) is my choice only—not yours.
“The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them.” ~ Unknown
Author: Kate Rose
Image: Flickr/Christian Lauer
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina