Looking back on 23.

Exactly two weeks until my 24th birthday and I find myself in an unfamiliar yet extraordinarily freeing place in life. 23 has been a year. Let’s recap…

March 18, 2016: I started my 23rd birthday sitting on a dock in Gainesville in the middle of the night next to my big sister and two iced coffee’s. She was crying and I was trying to shell out all of my you-have-to-decide-what’s-best-for-you relationship advice. At that time, her world was rocky and mine was smooth. My ex and I were doing good; we were happy and actively building  our future in our fixer upper camper. Life in my world was perfect.

April 28, 2016: Fast forward a little over a month and boy, have the roles reversed. My sister is comforting me as I go through my 5th breakup with the same guy. In order to fully understand the impact this last breakup has had on my life, you need to understand that relationship from the beginning. Grab your popcorn, it’s a long one.

We met on October 10, 2010 at a friend’s 21st birthday party. I was a 17 year old senior in high school, he was a working 20 year old figuring out his life. We dated for 2 months before we brokeup because I had dinner with another guy (break up number 1). This was typical Lindsey, ask any of my friends who knew me in high school. I didn’t do commitment and didn’t stick with anyone longer than a few months. That being said, I knew I made a huge mistake. There was just something about him. It took some begging and a batch of homemade cookies, but he took me back. The next 1 1/2  years would be the best of our relationship. He was the perfect boyfriend. I couldn’t think of a complaint about him if I tried.

Around Spring of 2012 things started changing. He stopped doing the sweet things he had always done for me. He stopped coming over. He stopped putting in the effort to keep us afloat. But I didn’t. This led to resentment on my end, and no matter how many times I tried to explain to him what I needed, he just didn’t get it. I held on until Summer but then I broke up with him (break up number 2). I started dating a sweet guy from one of my college classes; he took me on motorcycle rides and even met my family. As wonderful as he was, he wasn’t what I wanted. Our fling ended with the Summer. My ex and I were apart for about 2 months before we got back together in August. During our breakup there wasn’t a day that went by that he wasn’t trying to win me back. This included a trip to a lake, a list of promises filled with things he was going to fix, and even a promise ring. I finally caved; I missed him, and he promised he would be different.

About a month later, we were broken up again (break up number 3). This time it was because I was upset that he wasn’t going to college. You may be asking yourself two things: 1. Didn’t you know that from the start? and 2. What’s the big deal? The answers to those questions are tricky. For 1, he was and always has been as ever changing as the tides. One minute he’s going to school, the next he’s owning a business, then he’s going to trade school. He never had a set plan, and was constantly changing his mind. So no, I didn’t know from the start that he wasn’t going to school because he probably told me 13 times that he was. For 2, it wasn’t a big deal, but it took me a little while to recognize that. I was raised in a family that firmly believed in continuing your education. Both of my parents graduated college and it was expected from the start that my sisters and I would follow suit, as would our potential husbands. This was never a problem for us, we all value education and understood why this was an expectation. That being said, I was so closed minded at that age and expected everyone to have the same beliefs as myself. I couldn’t see that he hated school and didn’t want to go to college. I couldn’t see that college wasn’t for everyone. It took a conversation on the beach with my aunt to open my eyes to my shallowness. I realized that I couldn’t walk away from someone I loved simply because they had a different future path than my own. We got back together in October of 2012.

December of 2012 brought about one of the greatest hardships of my life up to this point. The discovery of my dads long term infidelity to my mom, and the breaking up of our family. This, along with the excitement of being back with my boyfriend, led to him and I deciding we needed to move away. In February of 2013 at the age of 19 I moved out for the first time in my life, with my boyfriend, to Anna Maria Island, FL. We got a tiny apartment, low paying jobs, and even a cat. Friends and family came to see us and we loved showing them around our little beach town. We made some amazing memories, had a blast playing house, and spent countless hours in the ocean. Rent and bills got paid every month and we even built up our savings while we were there. Things were going great. Until about 5 months in… the apartment was getting smaller by the week. We were growing bored without friends or family nearby. We missed home. SO, we moved back to Lakeland in July.

We lived with his dad while we got back on our feet and moved into our rental house. This house was teeny tiny and yellow with black shutters. We got a dog named Bear and watched football on Sundays with the windows open and a house full of his rowdy friends. I loved it. We lived there a year before I had to move out in September of 2014 to move in with my mom. She was getting back on her feet after the divorce and needed me, so I went. My boyfriend wasn’t a huge fan of this idea, but he supported me. Once she was on her feet, I would move back home to my boyfriend and my Bear. That was the plan anyway, until we broke up. Again (breakup number 4). This time it was for the same reasons as break up number 2 – I wasn’t being treated the way I deserved. I still did sweet things for him, bought dinner, made gift baskets, wrote notes, gave him little surprises. I pulled my weight in our relationship but he didn’t. He never wanted to spend time with just me anymore, and didn’t make an effort to do things that I wanted to do. It was always what he wanted to do. Again, I tried everything I could think of to fix this and make him see what was lacking, but it didn’t work. We would have a conversation about it, he would promise to change, he actually would for about a week, and then it went right back to the way it was. We were apart for 7 months. During our breakup I went on so. many. dates. I was out until after midnight every weekend, and some weeknights. I was also in school and working full time. If I wasn’t on a date I was catching up on sleep. I met a lot of guys and found out what I did and didn’t want in a partner. I even dated a guy for a few weeks (One of those “what was I thinking?!” moments) and I knew from the grapevine that my ex had a girlfriend as well. It hurt a little, but I thought I had moved on and was okay.

In June of 2015 I got a text from him in the middle of the night and you shouldn’t be surprised to know that I immediately went to meet him at our old rental house where he still lived. We got back together, another shocker. By this point I am sure you are thinking why on earth did you get back with him? Clearly you guys don’t work well together. Men don’t change. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks. All valid points, and I wish I had an answer for you. The only thing I can muster up in my defense is that I truly loved him. Being 22 and loving the same man for your entire adult life makes you do things that don’t always make sense. So, we got back together (I’m still living with my mom) and things are going good. We buy a camper to fix up and live in, make plans for the future, and spend a lot of time at the beach. Everything is great until one day we are loading up my car to take another beach day trip and we don’t even get halfway there before we get the into the last argument we would ever have. I don’t want to get into too much detail about this, but suffice it to say that we have very different views on some very important things. Views that we ran circles around trying to find a compromise with. Trust me, if there was a way to stay together without one of us resenting the other we would have tried it. All roads led to a dead end and neither of us were changing our minds. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade. I made the call to end it that day, he didn’t argue, and I cried in his lap until we both knew it was time for him to go. That was on April 28, 2016. Our 5th and final break up.

Since then, we have seen each other. There have been moments that we sat in the pouring rain both crying and wishing like hell we could fix this. There have been times we’ve laughed like we used to laugh and spent the day together like we were best friends. I’ve talked to and seen his family. He’s congratulated me on my recent accomplishments and told me his plans. These conversations and visits would happen once every few weeks or months, and I used to love hearing from him. But as of a few months ago, I knew I couldn’t handle that anymore. I wasn’t truly letting go of him and us because I always knew I’d hear from him soon. Every time we talked, after we said goodbye, it was like breaking up all over again. The last time he texted me I asked him to please stop, and told him that as much as I loved hearing from him I had to let go and move on. I haven’t heard from him since and I can feel myself really and truly starting to completely heal. It’s been almost a year since our breakup and it’s taken me this long to feel normal.

Looking at our history, it’s easy to wonder if we will ever get back together again. For a long time I stood by the saying “never say never”. However, with each day that our 5 1/2 year relationship goes a little deeper into my past, I can say very confidently that I don’t think we will. With fresh eyes I can see how the way he chooses to live his life is so different from the way I choose to live mine. I can see how our views do not align. I can see how unequally yoked the two of us are. That is not to say I don’t love him, because I am sure a part of me always will. That is also not to say that I don’t miss him, because I surely do most days. What I’m saying is that I can finally recognize that those two things are not enough anymore. I love and miss him because I spent all of my adult life with him. He was there during some of the most difficult and most incredible parts of my past. I grew up with him and learned so many things about life with him by my side. He was my best and truest friend for those years, and that is not something I expect to ever fully go away.

 

So, now that you can understand my history with him, you can probably understand why 23 has been a unique year for me. I have navigated the waters of adulthood solo for the first time in my life. I have nobodys schedule to worry about aside from my own. I look to myself and God to make decisions in life, and I answer to only Him. It is completely freeing and liberating to plan your life with only yourself in mind! I have been able to focus on finishing school and completeing my internship successfully. I have found things that make me happy. I’m discovering more about myself than I would have if I wasn’t single. I have also had to heal a broken heart, learn new routines and habits, and try to battle lonliness along the way. 23 has had many ups and many downs, but I feel like I am coming out of it finally freed from my past. I can look forward to my future and I can design it the way I want it with nobody else in mind, and I love that. I started my single-and-23 year off dating a few guys and had a boyfriend, but I found it to be too distracting. Because of that, it’s been part of my new years resolution to stay single in 2017. I’m being selfish with my time and my schedule. I am not answering to anyone. I am going to bed when I want, doing what I want, spending my weekends how I want, and being concerned with nobody else for the first time in 6 years.

As I wrap up 23, I can look at 24 and know that the hard part is out of the way for me. I am moving on. I have goals, plans, and dreams that I will share soon. But for now, I am going to take the next two weeks to end 23 on a positive note. This was the year of learning and healing for me. See you soon, 24.

 

 

 

 

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