I realized that the blurb I wrote about myself “leaving an apartment, boyfriend, job and friends to travel” was a bit glib in that I say with ease that I left my boyfriend to travel. The truth is it wasn’t easy and I’ve spent most of this year dealing with it.
As I received emails from readers I discovered that I made it appear all too easy. I glossed over the heartbreak and self-doubt. I made it look like I was special; that I was somehow stronger than most for making this giant leap.
But I am not special. It was not easy.
This trip has been a huge sacrifice for me. I have gained so much but in exchange I had to walk away from love.
The irony of me breaking up with my boyfriend to travel is that he was the only one who never questioned why I had to go. He understood and I never needed to explain.
But because human emotions are complicated he was both proud of me for going and resented me for leaving. In return I loved him for encouraging me to go and resenting him for not insisting that I stay.
He once told me Live it Out reminded him of me, as if the lyrics were me telling him I’d go anyway even if he couldn’t. It gave me strength and became the most played song on my iPod.
My departure day he drove me to the airport and took a photo of me with my backpack so I would remember the moment. That was the end of the relationship. I promised myself I would not cry. My heart was torn between already missing him and the excitement of this adventure.
In Central America we Skyped several times a week, talking for hours. Somehow the distance helped us find perspective on our relationship and we became closer. I fantasized about coming back, moving in with him; I’d have a vegetable garden and in the summer and we’d host barbecues.
Everything would be fixed.
But things started to get complicated in South America. He was seeing someone else and struggling because his heart was mine. I started drifting and became accustomed to my new life – I no longer wanted to go back.
And so I decided instead of a brief trip home in February before heading to India I would stay in South America until June. It hurt him. In return he struck back and told me he wasn’t coming to visit in Peru. It wasn’t malicious; he had all the right, practical, sensible reasons (money).
At that moment I fell out of love.
By the end of the year we were only talking once every other week, for minutes instead of hours, on Facebook chat rather than Skype. I had started seeing someone as well.
We had both drifted too far apart to find each other. He told me he needed to move on. Rather than be hurt I was relieved.
I delivered the final blow when I announced I would stay in South America. Foolishly we thought we could immediately be friends and we held up the charade for a month.
But then in Peru, my last night with the Hare Krishnas I felt compelled to listen to Your Ex-Lover is Dead by Stars over and over again. I don’t know what drew me to it but this line struck me.
I’m not sorry I met you. I’m not sorry it’s over. I’m not sorry there’s nothing to say.
The next day I arrived back in Lima and caught up on emails. The night before as I was listening to that song he emailed to say he was removing me from Facebook, Skype, Flickr and unsubscribing from my blog. He could not longer talk to me. He had to move on.
I had nothing to say so I didn’t respond.
It hurt to be shut out of his life but I understood. Now ‘unfriended’ I find myself creeping his Facebook page thanks to liberal privacy settings. I wonder how he’s doing, knowing I can’t go back but still missing him.
And as I write this post the universe conspires to reassure me that things will be fine through the iPod shuffle setting. The same Stars song comes back on but now a new line stands out.
Live through this and you won’t look back.
2013 Update: I wrote this post over 4 years ago, want to know how it ends? Read: The Year I Walked Toward Love
2018 Update: My story isn’t over yet. I just published The Year I Was on My Own Again.