This is for my friend, Courtney, who heard some tough news today. Some of us will know what I'm talking about and feeling the second you read the next sentence. With glassy, wet eyes, Courtney told me that her ex-boyfriend got engaged. Let me re-phrase it in the way we choose to hear that: Her ex-boyfriend asked someone else to marry him.
There's no way around it -- that feeling sucks. It sucks because it hurts. It hurts because it hits you in the heart and the brain. In that moment, you've lost someone. Or at least if you don't feel like you've lost that person, you feel like you've lost that wee ounce of hope that solidifies at the bottom of the bottle. You know, that little chunk you don't think about often, but it takes a good ol' shake to dislodge. And then... it's dislodged. And you've got to deal with it. Even after you've stopped dating, you live with that wee ounce of hope for a long time. That 'well, just maybe...' feeling. Well, just maybe he'll come around. Well, just maybe we'll run into each other in the grocery store -- me, in a hipster-like, knit toboggan hat and him, in a ratty, old baseball cap -- and we'll talk and things will be "different" this time. Well, just maybe he'll call late night to say I was the one. Or I'm still the one. And the soundtrack to any these aforementioned scenarios rivals that of Garden State. Then, you hear -- or worse, read via that precious little box in the top, far right corner on the book of faces -- news like Courtney did. And everything changes. And that hope closes up shop. No last call. And you're suddenly aching with emotional exhaustion. He got to a place with her that he didn't get to with you. And you want to know why. Why her? Why not me? What am I not doing? What's wrong with me? What am I going to do now?
As children raised in the glorious 1990s, my sister and I grew up playing Jenga. As much fun as it was to experience the challenge of building this block tower as crazy and tall as possible balanced on what felt like a toothpick, there was something really stressful about the fear and loathing that you'd be responsible for moving that block to higher ground -- to the worst place ever, mind you -- and destroy the whole thing. Because that's what always happened. The thing would fall. You'd feel awful and sad and guilty for one more second before relief washed over you when you remembered that that meant it was time to start a new game. And anything could happen in that new game.
So, here's what you're going to do right now -- you're going to start over. Because you can. And because you must. I can't tell you if it's going to be OK. I don't know that. Because it's up to you right now, my friend.
Don't get me wrong -- starting that new game is scary as hell. And I think, if push came to shove, that I wouldn't choose to do it at age 22 or age 26. But now at age 29, I'm pretty sure I choose to do it almost every week in at least one category of my world. And some weeks, it's maybe every day. Because that's what makes me 29 now and not 22 or 26 anymore. Because I must keep going. Because I can keep going.
And this time is not the last time you'll do it. You'll sit in the car by yourself crying and staring off into space and eating frozen yogurt you told yourself an hour ago that you wouldn't eat. And then it will hit you -- you've got to start over. I've got to start over. And that's OK. Because you've learned something. Or you should have learned something. If you haven't learned anything, I don't know what to tell you. Other than this: Go to Starbucks with your headphones and the Garden State soundtrack and think about it by yourself. You learned something.
When I initially wrote this, I referred to Courtney's news as 'bad news.' That's entirely irrational logic on my part, and, in thinking it through, it occurred to me that it's not bad at all, really. It's just... there. You don't have to do anything with it. Except pick yourself up and start again. And there's really nothing bad about that all. Because it's going to be OK.