Why I’m Grateful for Heartbreak in 2020

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Note from Ayngelina: Sharing your deepest insecurities and difficulties online can be excruciating. So I was thrilled when my cousin Brett wanted to share her story. At 26 years old, she has been through the wringer and yet still wanted to share what she has learned.

This type of thing isn’t something I would normally do. But after the year I’ve had, I thought if someone find comfort in these words then maybe it would be worth it.

This has been a long year. There is no denying that.  

As 2020 started, I had a stable job, was in a healthy long-term relationship, and was finally starting to think I maybe had things sort of figured out. 

By early January, we had heard of the “coronavirus” with funny memes comparing it to drinking a “Corona Extra” beer on the beach.

If only I could have known how it would change the world and our everyday lives. 

I work in finance and was working for a private wealth management company for a team of financial advisors in downtown Halifax.

The virus had started having dramatic effects on the market and the clients we serviced were becoming more and more concerned.

Then, in the blink of an eye, I was faced with what felt like the biggest challenge of my life.

Brett VanBlarcom new years eve

I got fired.

The words still echo in my head like it happened yesterday.

It was the most sobering experience of my life. I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, and in all honesty, I am still not sure their exact rationale.

It all happened so incredibly fast and the whole experience was a blur.

The next thing I knew I was walking out of the building, downtown Halifax in the middle of a workday with my box of desk things in my arms.

To those passing me on the street, I am sure it was obvious what had happened. I am a crier, in that I mean that I often express my emotions with tears.

However, I distinctly remember being in such shock that I could not even cry.

I got to my car with my box and things and just sat there for a very long time, trying to make sense of what had just happened.

I was in absolute disbelief. Me? Fired?

I was embarrassed. I was flabbergasted. I was ashamed.

I have never been told I wasn’t good enough for anything I have ever done!

I’ve made every sports team I tried out for, I always did well in school, and not being “good enough” was a challenge I had never faced.

I do realize this may come off as conceited or cocky, but it was the truth.

Being let go (a more polite term I have adopted mostly to make myself feel better) absolutely tore me apart.

I felt lucky to have my incredible parents by my side supporting me both emotionally and financially, something I know not everyone is lucky enough to have.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am, and I know that.

I was also lucky to have my boyfriend support me as I worked through a range of emotions.

Brett VanBlarcom in Paris with Eiffel Tower
Paris 2019

For a long time, I felt worthless.

It was my first time really going through the grieving process and boy what a ride it was.

There were ups – I don’t need that job, I am smart, and I will find something, lets use this as an opportunity!

And there were definite downs – I cannot tell you how much I cried and how heavily I leaned on the people who surrounded me.

I felt lost.

I didn’t know what to do with myself, especially during a time where it seemed like the whole world was shutting down. 

Nova Scotia, was under some pretty heavy restrictions. Everyone (unless an essential worker) was working from home, we were required to stay within our familial bubbles.

Two days after I was let go, all restaurants were closed for dine-in services and most retail stores were closed.

My world changed so drastically so quickly. It was overwhelming. It was honestly the strangest period I can ever remember.

Brett VanBlarcom at Citadel Hill

And during it all, I was unemployed.

I went from being super busy, and having a good social life, to feeling like I shouldn’t even be at the grocery store.

It was a huge adjustment for me. I had no idea how to fill my time and everyday felt the same.

I felt like I was living in that Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”

I will be the first to admit that I got into some bad habits during the lockdown period. I was drinking too much and far too often.

I was eating too much of the wrong foods, a very dangerous game when you are not in a good place emotionally, I will add. I gained weight that I didn’t need to gain

This led to my having feelings of poor self-image, something that I have struggled with on and off my entire life.

I didn’t know how to cope. But I learned that grief is like any other kind of sickness.

You feel like you got hit by a train and you feel like you are never ever going to get better.

And then it eases up and moves onto someone else. 

Brett Vanblarcom at White Point Beach

In late April, I found another job.

This was the first win I had gotten in a long time. Although the job wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I felt so lucky for the opportunity.

I was not immune to how many people were out of work and struggling and I was so grateful not only to have money coming in again, but honestly just a way to fill my time.

I knew it was going to be new and a bit of a challenge and it paid less than I was making before.

But I was thankful that it was still in my industry, and sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to get by.

I was finally starting to feel like my old self again and had had a wonderful summer playing golf with my girlfriends and enjoying the warm weather.

And then in August, came an even bigger heartbreak. A bigger challenge than I had ever expected to face.

Brett VanBlarcom at Eiffel Tower picnic
Paris 2019

Me and my boyfriend of almost three years decided to go our separate ways.

As broken as I thought I felt when I got fired, nothing compared to the heartbreak I felt about losing my relationship.

I saw the red flags, I knew things weren’t going well, but I ignored it.

I had convinced myself that everything was fine.

But 20/20 hindsight, looking back I know I wasn’t happy. I was pouring my whole self into a relationship that wasn’t offering me the same things back.

But I hadn’t known anything else and thought this was how it worked. And I have to say that when we broke up, I really wasn’t overly surprised.

I unconsciously could sense it, and when it happened it made sense. There is a moment that sticks out in my mind when I knew it was never going to work out.

And once you have that thought, it’s virtually impossible to shake it off.

I was hanging out with a couple of my girlfriends one Saturday evening the weekend before we broke up. My boyfriend was away on a boy’s golfing trip and I was spending the night at a girlfriend’s place, who happens to live with her boyfriend.

And out of nowhere the thought slapped me across the face: I could never see myself living with my boyfriend, this will never happen for us.

And that’s when I knew.

That’s when all the red signs I was trying too hard to ignore suddenly became blaring and impossible to ignore.

I need to make it clear that I have absolutely nothing but respect for my ex-boyfriend, and I in no way am writing this to “get back at him” or anything of the kind.

I loved him with my whole heart, and the realization that he wasn’t “the one” is one of the hardest things I have ever had to come to terms with.

He was everything I always wanted in a man: he was handsome, smart, funny, family oriented, and very kindhearted. I think that’s the hardest part – losing a great person from my life.

Nothing negative happened between us, we are very amicable, and I do think one day we can be friends.

But we both knew our relationship had run its course. It was a very sad day for both of us.

I was surprised and humbled by how upset he was about the whole thing; I hadn’t realized how much he cared for me and I hold that very dear to my heart. 

I am not going to sugarcoat it; I was in a pretty dark place for a pretty long time.

I cried a lot. But I knew we had made the right decision.

Maybe that was the hardest part of all, making such a mature decision between two people and working on moving on and looking ahead.

I didn’t know who I was without him at the time.

Without him I felt lost – we had been together since I moved to Halifax and I had no concept of how to be on my own.

I am sure as this was going on that I wasn’t the greatest friend to those around me, and to those that feel that way I apologize. I am sure I wasn’t the best daughter or the best sister.

It was the first time in a long time that I spent working on myself. I hadn’t realized how neglectful I had been of my own wellbeing and my own happiness to make others around me happy.

Brett VanBlarcom

2020 has been an absolute rollercoaster.

One hell of a year! But it has also been a year of growth. A year of acceptance. A year of learning who I am and my own strength.

I feel blessed to have been through what I have experienced because it has made me a stronger person.

You cannot have a rainbow without any rain. 

I felt like the unluckiest person in the entire world – which yes, I realized is very dramatic. Two absolute heartbreaks in two completely different ways.

I felt unwanted and like anything I did was not good enough.

Not for him, not for those I worked for, not for anyone. It’s an incredible low. But if I have learned anything, the lows help you appreciate the highs. 

I have learned, grown, and adjusted more this year than I have ever had to before.

I lost a lot, but I gained a new understanding of myself, my strength and what I am capable of overcoming.

You never know what you are truly made of until you face it head on. And yes, I know how cliché that sounds, but honestly it is true.

Brett VanBlarcom with craft beer in Nova Scotia

And there have been good things too!

My brother and his wife welcomed the most beautiful little boy into the world. I am honored to have been asked to be his Godmother.

I have made decisions, like applying to go back to school, that make me excited for things to come.

Who knows what the future will bring?

As bad as my year was, I have learned to see the good in most things. I have practiced looking at a bad situation that I perhaps find myself in and challenge myself to see the good.

I am a stronger, more confident, intelligent, independent woman because of the things I have experienced.

I picked myself up off my ground and put myself back on my own two feet, not once but twice.

I am a more gracious, thankful person.

Am I perfect? Absolutely not. I have flaws and I know other things will happen that will throw curveballs in my direction. But I am glad to know that I have the strength to put myself back together.

In the same breath, I am thankful to have experienced adversity and am glad I am beginning to see the other side.

It’s like when you wake up really early in the morning. It’s kind of light outside but the sun hasn’t risen yet. But you know the sun will rise and the sunrise will be worth the wait.

Good things come to those who wait. 

Join the Conversation

  1. Brett, after reading this I just want to reach out and hug you. You are courageous and smart and I know good things are headed your way. I’m so very proud to call you my niece.Love you to the moon & back.

  2. Shelley Meldrum says:

    Love you Miss Brettie! ❤️

  3. Matt Dempsey says:

    Very well written, courageous piece Brett. All the best to you in 2021!

  4. So many hugs to you! What a rough year you’ve had.

    And thank you for sharing your experience.

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