November 8, 2018

Forty-eight hours before Ariana Grande dropped her latest bop “thank u, next,” I, too, was revisiting ghosts of relationships past.

Flipping through an old journal, my eyes scanned the pages for an entry marked November 1, 2012. The entry that would detail all of my feelings three hours after my first love unexpectedly broke up with me over Skype.

It’s an odd anniversary that I mentally commemorate every year, but this year, I felt the specific urge to crack open the journals and drink in my sloppy cursive handwriting that chronicled how I coped with the break up. Blame it on Venus retrograde.

What I found was a one-sentence entry simply acknowledging the break up.

“Well, he broke up with me, so yeah.”

The pain had hurt too much and writing the details down would only make it feel more real. Ten days later I finally wrote down a comprehensive recap, recounting how he barely looked me in the eye, how I had to swallow back the tears threatening to spill down my face so I wouldn’t mess up my makeup for work, and how I threw up the next morning.

While I commend Ariana for being able to forgive and feel grateful for her exes within a month of calling off her engagement with Pete Davidson, my cold Capricorn heart needs a bit more time to thaw after a true heartbreak—with my brain blaming myself for ever getting so vulnerable with someone in the first place.

I’m just now healing the wounds left from the crush who moved to San Francisco—three years ago. I can’t even begin to calculate when I’ll bounce back from expressing feelings to a crush recently, only for her to confirm that she does indeed identify as straight. And recovering from the November 1, 2012 culprit? Well, let’s just say I’m still processing.

We know breakups ain’t easy. I mean, we all remember Elle Woods throwing chocolates at her TV after Warner broke up with her, right?

But how do we jumpstart the process of becoming Harvard Law’s School class-elected speaker with an invitation to join one of Boston’s most prestigious law firms?

How do we write, record, and release our own impeccably timed bop that is streamed nine million times worldwide in the first 24 hours?

Here are four lessons you can learn from heartbreaks and four actions to help you move forward after a break up—from someone who’s spent some time moving through the process.

1. You Are Your Own Person

Feeling: After an intense break up, it’s easy to lose your sense of self. Relationships often lead to intertwining your personality with another, so it (understandably) feels daunting to piece back your own identity, as a whole, by itself.

Lesson: You are your own person.

Action: When we’re intoxicated by romantic love, we can forget that love comes in all forms, so it’s time to turn up Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me” and reach out to your friends—particularly the friends you’ve known since childhood.

You know, the friends who have seen you (and loved you) through your braces, your awkward prom photos, and your Song Pop obsession.

These people love you unconditionally. You’ll be able to rebuild and remember your identity through nostalgia-fueled conversations, laughing at the memories and dreaming about the future.

2. Love Is a Muscle

Feeling: If you ask me, being vulnerable is as challenging as running over a mile on the treadmill (which is quite the challenge for an anti-runner like me). Saying “I like you” to my straight-girl crush felt like running 10 miles on the treadmill—with a charlie horse.

Each relationship, you peel back a layer and you up the speed on the treadmill. You have to train yourself to be vulnerable and trust again.

Lesson: Love is a muscle.

Action: When in doubt, write it out! The American Psychology Association notes, “Expressive writing or journaling is an intervention that is well-suited to coping with break-up due to its focus on cognitive-processing, simple format, and successful track record.”

If love is a muscle, it only makes sense to keep track of its training like you would a normal work out—and you can do it through journaling.

Process your feelings through free-writing: put pen to paper and just write a stream of consciousness. You can reflect on aspects of the relationship, what it taught you, what you loved about it, what frustrated you about it. You’ll be able to identify how you want to interact in relationships moving forward.

You can also pull a Lara Jean a la To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and write a letter you’ll never send. Post-break ups, it’s totally normal to feel like you didn’t get to say everything you wanted to say.

Angry? Tell ‘em why.

Miss them? Tell ‘em why.

You could even share what your favorite things were about them. Maybe they encouraged you to push yourself at work. Maybe they took you on your first hike which inspired your new love of the outdoors. Noting what you loved about them (and the relationship) can help you feel grateful for how the experience shaped you.

3. You’re Not Alone

Feeling: Heartbreak can lead to feelings of isolation, like no one understands how you feel, or like your friends are tired of hearing about it. Trust me, November 2012 was filled with plenty of lonely nights crying myself to sleep.

Lesson: You’re not alone.

Action: Zooey Deschanel said it best on New Girl, “Don’t tell me music can’t make a difference, because it can!” Listening to music that connects to your emotions can feel so therapeutic, so compile a playlist of break up songs.

Include songs that let you wallow in your sadness (think Michael Buble’s “Kissing a Fool” or S Club 7’s “I Really Miss You”) and songs that empower you to embrace your fierceness (think Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” or Lizzo’s “Good As Hell”) Or, just listen to “thank u, next” on repeat!

4. Self-Love Is Key

Feeling: If your ex has a new partner, you might be comparing yourself to them. If your crush doesn’t reciprocate your feelings, you may feel like there’s something wrong with you.

Lesson: Self-love is key.

Action: All relationships are built off of one important relationship: your relationship with yourself! It sounds cheesy, but use this time of being single to date yourself.

Like Ari says, “I met someone else, we have better discussions...this one’s gon’ last, ‘cause her name is Ari and I’m so good with that.”

Not being in a relationship means you don’t have to compromise your plans or your time, so now is the time to do what you want to do! Have you always wanted to try swing dancing, but your ex had two left feet? Try it. Love trying new foods but your ex only liked Taco Bell? Try it. You’ve been given an opportunity to discover new parts of yourself, so, try it.

Not being in a relationship means you don’t have to compromise your plans or your time.

Ultimately, you won’t be able to magically get over heartbreak, but you can take charge of turning it into a learning experience. If you feel overwhelmed, explore these resources from the CDC.

Most importantly, give yourself love, allow yourself to be patient, learn from the pain, and you’ll turn out amazing, just like Ari said.

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