I had my first "boyfriend" when we were in the seventh grade. It didn't work out, but you probably aren't surprised by that.
Flash forward eight years later, and we were in a coffee shop in our hometown in Connecticut catching up. We hadn't spoken at all in the past eight years, so there was a lot of catching up to do. We had each just moved back home from different parts of the country. I had gone to college in Boston for two years, and he had lived out west for a while. Somehow, we both found ourselves back in our little hometown in the same week.
Some would say that's a sign. In reality, it was more like a warning signal.
I'll spare you the intimate details, but to make a long story short, we fell in love. This is right around the time that I took a semester off to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I got a full-time job in retail and my boyfriend even got me part-time hours as a hostess at the restaurant he worked at. I did all this while living at home, and that didn't last long.
After only a few short weeks as a hostess, the restaurant manager put me on server training. I was terrified. I never thought I'd be able to be a waitress. But, it turned out to be one of the best things I'd ever done.
While all of this is going on, my boyfriend often talked about his mother, who had moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina a few months prior. He shared with me how amazing she made it sound. One day, when we were driving home, he confided in me that he wanted to move there, and he wanted me to move with him.
Of course, I said yes.
It took every ounce of willpower to not immediately start packing. But, there were logistics that had to be worked out. We spent a few months working extra shifts at the restaurant and saving up every dollar we could. We spent hours on the computer looking at and contacting apartments in Myrtle Beach.
We scored the perfect first apartment, and it came fully furnished. We also contacted the Myrtle Beach location of the chain restaurant at which we worked. The managers from each location had a brief phone conversation about each of our work ethic, and we were hired! I submitted an application to Coastal Carolina University and was accepted. We had jobs, an apartment and I had college waiting for us in Myrtle Beach.
We planned to leave the day after Thanksgiving. So, we packed up 20 years of our lives into his car and drove 1,000 miles to South Carolina. As someone who loves planning and doing things by the book, this was the biggest leap of faith I've ever taken.
I can't even say that it didn't pay off. Even though he sat me down the following summer at our kitchen table, and said, "I'm leaving you," my life didn't fall apart like I thought it would. I'll have to move back home, I thought. We split all of our expenses in half, and I had no idea how I was going to afford anything on my own.
But, I did.
Instead of dwelling on how heartbroken I was, I picked up extra shifts at my new restaurant job, and I made sacrifices in order to make ends meet. I proved to myself that I didn't need him in order to survive. I got to keep the apartment and everything that came with it. That gave me the room to be truly on my own for the very first time, as well as the room to grow.
Do I think my situation is especially unique?
People move in together and break up all the time. I just didn't think it would happen to me. I'm aware that I'm young and naïve, but it honestly worked to my advantage.
It just so happens that I fell in love with someone else. I don't feel alone and scared anymore like I did when he left. I feel like I can do anything. Even though I used to curse his name and hate him for what he did to me, now I can actually feel grateful because if it weren't for him, I never would have moved to this beautiful place and been out on my own at my age.
This is a classic case of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The worst difficulties of our lives force us to become the strong people we are meant to be, and as they say, time heals all wounds.