Let me tell you a love story.
There was this girl. She was a jack of all trades, loved to read and loved her high school sweetheart, a.k.a. her career.
She didn’t give a f*** about dating.
It just wasn’t a priority. Her relationship was with her career.
And then a boy came around. Sounds like a rom-com, doesn’t it.
Well, it didn’t end like one.
Girl comes home, boy (and boy’s aunt) are packing his belongings without a word, and girl has an emotional breakdown.
He tells her not to ask questions even though she interviews people for a living (too specific?) and then she goes on to (as promised) Write. About. Him.
If you hadn’t figured it out. I am that girl. And I’m hoping to be who that girl was before that boy some time very soon. She is my role model.
I’ll give it to the past three years of my life, they were good at times. And now they’re prime writing material.
Fortunately, I’m getting back to who I’ll henceforth refer to as Role Model Brittany. In true Rory Gilmore fashion, as my mother has always joked, I have a five-year plan. I HAD a plan when I was in high school/college/happily single, and Mr. Undecided just f***ed it up.
Pardon my French, it’s been repressed since I was supposed to visit France six years ago and still haven’t been.
Now, as in before, the wrong man could screw up that plan.
I have a plan to dedicate a certain amount of time with this job that I love, move back to Washington then move abroad.
Of course, as a good United Methodist, I know the direction of my life isn’t totally up to me, but I like to at least try to structure it myself or give myself something to move toward.
Now, back to Role Model Brittany.
Before Mr. Undecided, I may have had some moments of weakness when I worried about the fact that I was nearing adulthood never having been in a serious relationship. I was afraid that when I tried dating the little things would get in the way, like my personality, my job, my skin disease … those are little things, right?
I remember fighting with my mother in high school at the peak of my skin issues (I have hidradenitis suppurativa. Google if curious.) I’d get into a rather self-deprecating and self-loathing mood and cry about how my “ugly skin” would keep me from being intimate with anyone — ever. My mother, not a fan of this side of me, would practically yell at me that I was wrong.
Having been engaged to Mr. Undecided and in a committed relationship for three years, it’s safe to say that she was right. At least for one person.
That fear does still rear its ugly head. I have recurrent outbursts and a lot of scars, but I try to remind myself that my personality and other physical attributes counterbalance that aspect of myself.
For the better part of my life, that self-affirmation worked well. Role Model Brittany was confident and didn’t care too much about other people’s opinions. I’ve pretty much always been perceived by people as confident, but a majority of the time I laughed when told that because I didn’t feel it.
I did feel it to an extent as Role Model Brittany.
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific characteristic that distinguished Role Model Brittany from who I am now, but if I had to try, I’d say confidence is definitely on the list.
Now, six months after being unceremoniously thrust back into singlehood, I strive to become that person again. In college pre-Mr. Undecided, I wasn’t just more confident, I was seemingly less fearful. I took chances and when I took those chances I encountered them head-on with drive and ambition.
My senior year I flirted with failure by taking on a second major in political science. In determination that I was going to be successful and not have wasted my time on a degree I’d never earn, I spent an entire afternoon with spreadsheets of when classes were offered in both of my departments, printouts of the major requirements, a calendar and a pad of paper, mapping out how I would accomplish graduating with two degrees.
Sure, I was planning – intensely so – but it was to fulfill an ambitious and rather spur-of-the-moment, gut decision.
I look back on that version of myself with so much admiration for someone described by many as “self-deprecating.”
Very recently, I started feeling her coming back. As of August 17, I started a new chapter of my life, moving out of the apartment that was mine and Mr. Undecided’s and into an even better space of my own. It was stressful, since it’s hard to do my job and also take enough time to pack up one’s life and unpack it again elsewhere. I barely have time to unpack my thoughts at the end of the day, let alone the ten tubs of clothes I own.But I did it. And this new space feels … right.
The weekend after I moved, S visited and went crazy organizational on my new space of boxes – as I would do for her. She also helped me take a step away from my past relationship by encouraging me to join Tinder. That is something I vowed I’d never do but have been curious about for a while.
As a journalist, my entire life is creating connections and I enjoy that, but I don’t always feel I have time or the personality to focus on creating romantic connections, especially when there’s no connection there at all to begin with.
With Mr. Undecided it was pretty effortless at the start. We were friends. I was a confidant. He fell for me first, then like a man in freefall grasping for a hold, grabbed me and pulled me down with him.
It’s safe to say in some ways he helped me fall for myself even more, even now that I’ve fallen out of love with him.
In the past week I’ve done a number of things I would have never done as the late 2016/early 2017 version of myself. In December of 2016, Mr. Undecided and I moved to Portland and into our first (and last) apartment together. I started my current job with a small community newspaper, and almost immediately let every stress in my life push me off the edge. Every added responsibility or unknown made me question how I’d go on. Why I would go on.
I wasn’t me and I also didn’t feel I could muster being me. I wanted to let myself drown. I just wanted it to all end.
I threatened the life I’d worked so hard to create. I was so down I considered giving up. And that’s not me.
That Brittany wouldn’t have been okay living alone or taking on new responsibilities at work or creating new responsibilities for herself at work. A sure tell sign I’m me is I’m creating. Not just stories, but opportunities. I love collaborating with people and helping others thrive. And this past week I’ve had several ideas for how to do that.
I’ve also let that paranoid, over-analyzing voice in my head (which sounds a lot like my mother) take a bit of a break as I explore a possible new relationship, AND, I have taken time to myself to do so, not letting my work have every second of my waking life. I can see that former version of myself beginning to glow through. And apparently that’s attractive to people. Go figure.