When most people think of breakups, they think of the 3 T's: tissues, tears, and (at least) two pints of Haagen-Dazs. But what I think of is life-changing, soul-shaking personal growth.
I've had three great loves in my life, and as a result, three profound losses. But looking back, if I could go back and change anything, do anything differently... I wouldn't.
My breakups have been the things that have propelled me forward, shifted the way I see things, transformed the actions I take. Yes, I felt hurt and pain, but I also gained strength and resiliency.
In the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy returns to Kansas at the end of the movie, she is home but forever changed -- back where she started and yet different somehow -- wiser and stronger because of all the people she met while she was in Oz.
I feel the same way about my relationships. When they haven't worked out, though I ended up back where I started, I was different somehow -- changed for the better and prepared to claim new possibilities.
Let me explain.
My first love was Adam -- my college boyfriend. We met at a party senior year, and from the moment of our first conversation, we were inseparable.
I think it was his smart sense of humor that first attracted me to him, but he is probably best described as one of the most logical and rational people you'll ever meet. Decisions for him were always a careful weighing of all the elements. Timelines, checklists, venn diagrams -- you name it, he had one going.
I was, of course, sad to lose my first love after two years together. But, as a result of our two-year relationship, I had learned how to be more thoughtful and purposeful with my decisions. Because of our time together, I'm now better able to figure out where I want to go and what I need to do to get there.
After our relationship ended, I took this newfound ability, coupled with my desire for a fresh start (a desire that I find often goes hand in hand with my breakups), and made the decision to enroll in graduate school -- a decision which in hindsight is one of the best I've ever made.
My second love was Ben. A mutual friend introduced us during my last year of school, and I've yet to encounter someone more kind, loving or devoted. From heartfelt notes to my favorite dinner waiting when I had a long day -- I couldn't have asked for a better boyfriend.
Though we dated only a year, my breakup with him was my hardest (we're talking four pints of Haagen-Dazs). But from Ben, I learned to be more open and vulnerable in my relationships, to share my heart and my feelings more fully, to be more giving.
After our relationship ended, I decided to move to San Francisco and create a new life for myself -- a life that, because of what he gave me, is filled with deeper and more meaningful relationships than I ever experienced in the past.
Lastly, and up until a year ago, there was Liam. I met him shortly after I moved to San Francisco at a friend's BBQ. He was strong and confident with an ardent desire to change the world -- a desire that was accompanied by unstoppable action.
Liam inspired me with his boldness and authenticity. After a year and a half with him, I'm now able to speak up and ask for what I want. I'm now able to confront situations head on. I now think big instead of small. And it was through his commitment to having an impact on the world that I found my own strength and sense of purpose.
After my relationship ended with Liam, I was emboldened to leave my job to start my own company -- something I never would have thought to do, or had the courage to do, until I met him.
The people I've shared my life with have unmistakably shaped me. And although I had to face sadness and heartbreak, I was also given the gifts of greater wisdom, heart and courage.
Every profound relationship you have, whether it lasts or not, is a chance to grow -- a chance to experience love and joy and, unfortunately, loss and sadness too -- but I've found that as long as you move forward from these relationships with something learned, something gained, transformed for the better somehow, they don't hold power over you. Instead, you become empowered by them.
So, yes, my breakups were sad... but in hindsight they were breakthroughs, and I wouldn't trade them for the combination of head, heart, and strength that I now embody because of them.
What breakthroughs have come from your breakups?