Haunted by Heartbreak
Dear Susu #2. "How do I break free from lost love?"
In lieu of Studio Visits, we’re doing something a little different: an advice column called Dear Susu, where I answer your questions about writing and life and everything in between. Today’s question is from K., who wonders how to move on after heartbreak.
My past love once told me that he was convinced he would die laughing, and I remember thinking how beautifully that embodied who he is: full of life and relentless joy. It has been four years since we bid farewell to each other at an airport gate after our "grand finale" New Orleans trip. We had grown so used to living our lives apart during years of long distance that seeing him walk to board his flight to New York as I sat in front of my gate to Maine did not seem like an end at the time, but it has become one.
We fell in love toward the end of college and dated in the years that followed. My love for him was beyond words, full of admiration for the person he was and was destined to become. We talked about a future together full of travels and board games and weirdness. But he was set on NYC and I went off to Alaska in my first year out of college to be a reporter. I bounced around from place to place on the fruitless and cliche search to "find myself." I eventually tried NYC with him and felt entirely overwhelmed within the world he had built in my absence. We loved each other, but couldn't make it work and I still can't shake the feeling that the end was all my fault, all driven by a selfish need to explore and see what was out there.
In the past four years I have built my own life and am generally happy, but I still think of him each and every day and worry I'll never find a soul like him. He has moved on, accomplishing all the dreams he planted the seeds of when we were together. But he is living out those dreams with someone else now. I feel so stuck on him, so regretful and so paralyzed by all of this. I can't help but compare every person I date to him. I can't help but wonder if he would be proud of me and the life I've built. And I can't seem to find the me he fell in love with, a version that was so thrilled by the uncertainty and excitement of life rather than overwhelmed by it.
This, perhaps, is what frightens me the most. That I haven't just lost him, but have lost sight of myself in the process, unable to be fully present in my life and relationships and open to the joys that once came so effortlessly. As you wrote, I cannot seem to "build a barricade between [my]self and [my] past" as he has and I'm not sure I want to. How can I hold the past in a way that is not so burdening? How can I hold this person as a part of me without becoming entangled in him? I suppose I'm asking how to break free from a love story or at least rewrite it and leave room for more pages.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. Sending you light and love.
When I was twenty-two years old, I believed with everything in me, beyond any doubt, that the man I’d just fallen in love with was the person I’d be with forever. When I was first diagnosed with leukemia, and over and over again during that first grueling year of treatment, I was certain that if I survived, there was nothing that could break us. We were already going through the hardest, most unimaginable thing. Cut to three-plus years later: me on my kitchen floor in the apartment we had shared but no longer, still wearing my hospital bracelet, lighting up a cigarette.
The grief felt obliterating. I was sure I would never find that kind of love again.