This post is part of my The Alphabet Series project.
I asked him flat-out if he was happy.
He paused for a few moments, thinking over his response. When he finally gave it, silence followed.
He didn’t ask me the same question. At first I was surprised that my rather direct and somewhat invasive personal question wasn’t tossed back at me, but then I realized that maybe he didn’t ask because the answer was self-evident.
I used to think that I needed him to be happy. That my personal happiness was a measure of our successes and failures together, of whether or not I had him in my life. That with him, I had a better sense of what happiness was, of who I was as a person. That without him, I could never truly be happy because there would be a gigantic void in my life that nothing could possibly fill.
I’m sure it’s a surprise to no one that towards the end, I hadn’t been happy for a long time.
I had always been one to put my happiness in others, particularly boys. It never made my life easy, but it took a devastating breakup for me to begin to understand just how foolish that tendency of mine was.
To put it bluntly, it was a stupid habit that came at the expense of my happiness and very often brought me not much else but misery.
My unhappiness had stretched for so long that by the time I was actively trying to get rid of it, I couldn’t fully remember what it was like to not be weighed down by it. It was a terrifying feeling, one that burdened my heart heavily.
Learning how to be truly happy from within for the first time is one of the strangest things. I had been unhappy for what felt like an eternity; I had almost forgotten what it was like to have a heart that wasn’t weighed down by the albatross of a love that was no longer meant to be.
But learn how to be happy I did. And as we sat there on that park bench in the silence that followed, I thought about how freeing it was to no longer feel like I had to bear the sole burden of the wrongs we shared together, the subtly shifting blame, or the misery we had been putting each other through. To know once and for all that I no longer put him or anyone else above my own happiness, that I had learned to look after myself first and foremost before even beginning to consider to care for someone else.
For the first time, it wasn’t just my brain but also my heart that knew I didn’t need him, or any other boy, to be happy. And for a fleeting moment, I was almost grateful for that devastating breakup he put me through because had I not survived it, I wouldn’t have learned what I consider to be one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever known.
It was a liberating feeling.