I sat down at the back corner table.
I was in the dining hall of a large hostel in Barcelona.
The place was buzzing with activity as my fellow travelers impatiently waited in line to receive the free plate of spaghetti and bread served every weekday from 6 to 8 PM.
This day was like any other during my adventure abroad. I had seen the sights, taken in the local culture, and was back to my temporary home base to check in with the outside world.
I opened my laptop to read my email.
That’s when I saw it.
An email from my ex-girlfriend. I had been communicating with her nearly every day since my departure from the U.S. Over the previous two months I began to realize how much I cared about her, how much I missed her, and subsequently became overly optimistic that we would get back together when I returned home.
The message I was about to read would quickly dash all hope of such a fairy tale reunion.
Without reading a single word I could tell, solely by the length of this email, that nothing good would come from it. I began to read anyway.
It started like all well crafted bad-news-letters do: a statement of how much she enjoyed our time together and a short list of everything that was great about our relationship. It’s a great way to ease the pain before dropping the hammer.
“I don’t think we should see each other anymore when you get home.”
I read the rest of the email, but retained nothing because of the loop playing in my head… I don’t think we should see each other anymore… I don’t think we should see each other anymore… I don’t think we should see each other anymore.
My eyes began to well up as my empty stare gazed into the masses. It was as if the crowd of activity that once lived all around me – loud, obnoxious, and full of excitement – no longer existed. I was in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from everyone I loved with no one to confide in. I used every ounce of my being to refrain from crying uncontrollably in that dining hall.
I have never felt more alone than in that moment.
We don’t always get what we want, but we always experience what we need.
The email was not malicious in any way. She explained her reasons and I completely understand why she did what she needed to do. In fact, I deserved all of it. I was the one who originally broke her heart by uprooting our lives together and taking off on an adventure – alone.
I got what I was seeking: solitude.
The next couple years of my life would be a constant emotional struggle between letting go and holding on to something that didn’t exist anymore. There was no more us. And as the brain loves to do, it held on to only the best memories of both her and our relationship. Nearly all previous accounts I continually thought of were a romanticized version of the truth.
It wasn’t until roughly a year ago that something finally clicked. Ironically enough, it was another email.
While it’s often fashionable to dwell upon what might have been, what’s usually overlooked is that really and truly, it couldn’t have. Because, invariably, any romanticized versions of how things “might have been,” are based upon fictionalized versions of the past. You see, most of the time when people think the present could have been different than it is, it’s because they think the past was different than it was. Happily, the future can still be anything…
– The Universe (delivered by TUT.com)
The pain I endured led me down a path of self-exploration. My experiences traveling and the people I met had unknowingly changed my life. The lessons gathered from counseling, self-improvement books and seminars, the incessant journaling, and even the writings of this blog finally began to resonate with me.
Life has a way of moving forward regardless of whether you want it to or not. For the last few years part of me has been waiting to rejoin my amazing group of friends from San Diego and relive the past. But as time has progressed something interesting has happened.
My goals have become clearer, I’ve met new people and made new friends, and I’ve come alive. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m not waiting anymore; I’m living.
I’m not looking for the golden opportunity to move back into a previous lifestyle, I’m not longing for past love interests to reexamine their feelings for me, and I’m done sitting around hoping that something, anything, will happen to me. I’m taking small steps forward to make things happen for me.
How am I doing this? The biggest aid has been a concept known as Radical Appreciation (*learn more below). When we begin to appreciate all we have – our car, home, health, money, relationships – our perspective of life starts to change. When we stop constantly yearning for greener pastures on the other side of the fence, past regrets evolve into nothing more than lessons learned.
There is no altering the past. More important is the realization there is no need to when you appreciate the present.
Enjoy The Journey
*The Radical Appreciation Project was introduced to me by a great friend and mentor George Ira Carroll. It’s a no bullshit, very simple, very effective method to alter your perspective and learn to appreciate what you already have in your life. And it’s FREE. In 30 days, for roughly 30 minutes a day, you can tweak how your mind operates. I’ve done it myself, and am about embark upon this journey yet again – just in time for Thanksgiving.
How would your life be different if you already loved everything about it?
Photo credit: Gilderic Photography