November 19, 2014

Sorry, I’m Not Sorry for Doing a Ted Talk

As I sit in a cozy hotel room in Nis after a long day of interviewing high school students, it’s hard not to reflect on this time of year two years ago.

Almost to the day, I was sitting in a far lonelier hotel room in this very same town. I was similarly drained from the day’s work, but beyond that, I was emotionally exhausted. My eyes were swollen from tears, my throat constricted from fighting, and my muscles sore from tossing and turning for countless nights. I sat staring at my computer screen blankly, at the Skype window that had long since switched back to the chat dialogue from the call. Noticing the blinking indicator to type a message. Something. Anything.

My self-confidence was practically shot. I simultaneously felt frustrated with myself for not being able to make up my mind and stick to a decision and furious for even considering what I had on my mind. His words kept ringing in my head:

“If you don’t make this work, nobody will ever love you like I can.”

“Someday, you’ll tell your grandkids about the one who got away and how you never found true love. Then you’ll realize what you’ve lost.”

“Why can’t you be more: romantic? Crazy? Loving?”

“Why can’t you change?”

We’d been fighting about the same subject for so long. He’d wanted to get married for months. I simply wasn’t ready and everything in my gut was screaming: this isn’t right.

Though it would be years before I began working on defining my core desired feelings, identifying my top five values, and doing daily yoga, I had already begun a journey of personal growth and self discovery. Through reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed and having many soul searching conversations, I thought I was narrowing in on our fundamental differences. I deeply and honestly believed that we needed to be happy individuals before we could be a happy couple. He wasn’t that. And his favorite response to my encouragement to move past his grudges, discontent, and general belief that the world was out to get him, was to say:

“You’re not a damn Ted talk. Stop talking like one.”

Thinking back, there were so many red flags that it wasn’t going to work. It was a perfect storm of circumstances that led to us even starting to date in the first place. I had been in one of my most vulnerable periods of life – terrified to graduate college, depressed about leaving my friends, and uncertain about my future. Few of my close friends were graduating with me, most wouldn’t until the next year, and I struggled to find someone who understood my dilemma. In he stepped. So confident and assured. Equally nervous about the future, but with much more clarity. He became my lifeline. My safe place.

Things between us were rough from the start. He was demanding. We had very different cultural perspectives. He expected me to change instantly when he didn’t agree with my choices. He was controlling, possessive, and jealous, but all under the guise of romantic. He was simply so passionately in love with me. Sometimes it made him go crazy.

I’ve heard it said that the first time you grant forgiveness in a relationship sets off a slippery slope to co-dependence and often emotional abuse. I’m all for second chances but in my case I believe this is precisely what happened.

I forgave something early on that never made sense. Even now, looking back, I have no explanation as to why I took him back. But in doing so, I gave up a piece of myself. My voice.

Months after we broke up, I hashed out the ugly details of our relationship with a therapist. I shared how angry I was with him for hurting me, but more than that, how angry I was with myself for letting him. When we would fight, I would lose my words. Somehow, I would become so lose in the hazy mist of his anger, that I couldn’t formulate what I needed to express. Fortunately, this therapist broke down to the core of my lingering bitterness: that I was still blaming myself, just as he had blamed me all those months.

From that point on, I refused to take the blame anymore. I’ve forgiven myself and moved on. I’ve found my voice and I won’t let anyone steal it from me again.

Oh, and by the way, I AM a Ted talk:

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