A thank you to the unEXpected

A humorous narrative explaining learning experiences through romantic relationships.

In light of the new year fast approaching reflection hit me like a train. So this is a bit of a different perspective than most might take, but I’m trying to be a voice here, not just an echo.

I realized the other day: I owe my exes more credit than I give them for aiding in creating the person I am today.

Reaching this reflective spot ain’t easy, friends. But it is something I feel proud to acknowledge and I hope it can inspire you to see growth in yourself too.

I’m the type of girl who loves to learn a lesson. I look for the learning and growing opportunity in every situation...sometimes I take it too far. But what’s the point of living without learning, growing, and transforming. To me that would be a life un-lived, a life wasted, a life of doing the same thing over and over expecting a different outcome. Old ways won’t open new doors, people.

Relationships are tough, break ups are tougher, but the real strength and growth comes from the way you pick yourself back up and keep moving forward.

When you feel ready, I challenge you to take a step back and reflect on who you are, where you came from and where you stand today.

How did you get there? What shaped you? What helped you to grow to the beautiful individual you are?

These experiences don’t have to be romantic relationships, but I think some of my most important qualities were built from these friendships.

Whatever which way you play it, these romantic relationships are friendships. At one point they were your best friends, so as much as they hurt you, left you, whatever...you were best friends for a reason. You met for a reason. So no more hate, let’s appreciate.

So here’s my story:

I have had three meaningful romantic relationships in my life.

The Football Player

The first relationship was my high school romance. He was a shy wide-receiver for the school’s football team who needed a fan. Safe to say, I basically asked him out. Dating someone who has dedicated their life to a sport can be a challenge especially when they are shy. Their loyalty and energy flows to and from that sport, not to mention practice keeps them extremely busy. As his girlfriend I assumed the role of his most excited cheerleader (although I never wore the skirt or tossed the pom-poms). I supported his athletic career, attended all his games (home and away) and was always there to celebrate or console. Like I said, sports were his one and only love, so when it came to dates, activities, and daily life he was extremely indifferent. He had a very go-with-the-flow attitude that drove me crazy. Why can’t you just have an opinion about anything!? I realized later that’s just the way he was, he didn’t need much, and was happy either way.

Now, why does he matter. We obviously ended our relationship and friendship as well, but through getting to know him and growing together for two years I learned a lot about myself. Through this I learned to support others in their dreams, motivate them to keep working hard, and console them when life has been tough. I also learned to go-with-the-flow. I use to run around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get a thousand things done and stressing about everything under the sun. These days I still try to get a million things done, but I have a lot more patience to let things unfold as they may and respond appropriately. Lastly, one of the things that frustrated me and now frustrates others...is my indifference. Sometimes habits that are not ideal rub-off on you as well. I think this indifference is a positive now, seeing how flexible he was shows how it is much easier to be happy no matter what. Although the indifference is not typically enjoyed by others when hit with the typical: trying to decide where to go for dinner conversation...

I try, in all friendships and relationships, to look for the silver-lining, lesson to be learned, or even the takeaway. I feel this is a very healthy way to view the dissolution of a partnership whether it’s romantic or not.

The Nature Lover

The second impactful relationship I had was with an energetic and hardworking MacGyver. This kid never stood still. He was always coming up with ideas on how to solve every day problems with a twist. He once made a lemon-picker for his mom to reach the hard-to-reach lemons using a broom, orange juice bottle, and a razor...don’t as me how. Not only did he love to craft, he also basically lived outdoors. They called us adventurers by name and exploring was our game. Kayaking, road trips, rock climbing, pinecone hunting, puddle-smashing...we were rarely indoors.

Though tough at times, this relationship was the most fruitful in my growth. I always enjoyed being outside, but through this partnership my absolute adoration for the world we live in grew exponentially. I found my true nature in nature. This was the first time I felt I was exactly the person I wanted to be from the way I treated others to the way I felt inside. This was probably one of the hardest books to close, but trust me when I say, time heals all wounds.

I continue to road trip, travel, and make time to be outside and I am forever thankful for someone to highlight that love of nature inside of me because I do not know if I would have found that on my own. I think this love of nature also pours out into other areas of my life that I am thankful for. For example, my zen-ness and inspiration to be creative. One of my goals is to get back to this ultimate peace with myself through the zen of nature.

I think it is also helpful to date people who are like-minded. I’ve never been a big “partier” including all that goes along with that, so dating people that felt the same have helped me to stay true to my values.

The All-Business Man

Lastly, my college romance. This relationship kind of fell together. This relationship started as a strong yearlong friendship, which I think is a great way to start any relationship. Yet, I never expected it to go farther than that since our daily lives were not so similar. He is the type of person who lives by the motto: work hard, play harder. Anyone who knows me, even just a little bit, knows this is not my style. Even though he partied hard, he is still the most successful person I know: helping found an organization, being part of a global entrepreneur mentor organization, double-majoring, being business savvy on the side, having his choice at multiple companies upon graduation all the while having a blast during his college career.

With being so successful, I never quite understood why he wanted me to be more than a friend in his life. He had the world at his fingertips and I was the total opposite of what surrounded him.

Later I found out me being different was why he wanted me in his life. This is what I learned from him. All my life I have wanted to fit in. Growing up I was the shy one, the follower, the third friend in the group. I never felt included. When I went to college I finally found my place in the world (but that’s a different story). I was not in his world.

From this I learned I should cherish my differences. I don’t need to stand out, but I also don’t need to fit in.

Being genuinely you will intrigue people.

When we started dating I realized his success came at a price, to me he seemed selfish and self-involved. But what I later learned is that in the pursuit of your dreams you need to be a little selfish. You can’t always live other people’s dreams-which I usually do.

Being focused on your dreams and goals catches admirers. Being a bit selfish is a good thing.

Through ups and downs, he showed me my worth, what I deserve, and how to be successful in my future.

Grieving is never fun, but some people are not meant to stay forever. Sometimes you meet people on your journey that are just meant to push you in the right direction, help you along the way, or teach you something you’ll need to know for the future. If you can reflect on your own experiences with this mindset, I believe you will unlock hidden treasures about yourself.

So to all my exes, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for helping me on my journey to create the person I am proud to be today.