Two months ago, I packed up my life into all the suitcases and storage boxes I could find. My kitchen supplies went in storage. A Reiss cocktail dress I’d bought to wear for my own engagement party at some unforeseen date went to my sister’s. My books are still piles up in my parents’ living room. I left baby photos of Ex-Mr. Jessica, given to me by his grandma back when he referred to me as “the one,” behind in our old bedroom along with my housekey.
Moving out of the apartment I shared with my ex-boyfriend was worse than the breakup. He made the breakup easy on me, in a way, by treating me badly. I felt hurt about being dumped, of course, but mostly I felt angry: I didn’t deserve to be dumped so suddenly, to have another woman waiting in the wings, to basically have been kicked out of my home, and to have my possessions threatened. I still feel blood-pumping anger about all that. Moving out felt so final and being forced to do it against my will totally sucked.
I’ve spent a lot of time on my own these past two months. I’ve done a lot of thinking and hurting and growing. I feel ready — or mostly ready — to leave my parents’ house in Connecticut where I’ve been staying and move back out on my own again. A single woman. A city girl again. Sigh. It turns out moving out on my own again is hard, too.
You know that scene at the end of “An Education” where Carey Mulligan’s character says that she knows she’s young but after what she’s gone through, she feelS so old? I can so relate right now. I’m 27 years old now, which is young by most anyone’s metric, but it doesn’t feel that way. I’ve “moved to the city” two different times before: once was when I was 17 and heading to college at NYU and the second time was a year and a half after graduation, when I was 22, and I moved from my parents’ house to an apartment on the Upper East Side. Both of those times that I moved out on my own, I felt utterly desperate. As a high schooler, I purposefully chose to skip 12th grade and graduate at the end of 11th grade so I could get away from my crazy family. And when I moved back home to the suburbs after college to get a job and save money, I was constantly terrified that I’d be trapped there and never get to work in New York City media. I was bright-eyed and bushytailed, desperate to become the person I wanted to be.
I got to do that, of course. I moved to the Upper East Side, then to Harlem, and then out to New Jersey with my then-boyfriend. I worked as a fact-checker, a blog editor, a writer and a blogger. I dated lots of guys, had lots of sex, and fell in love. Bad stuff happened and good stuff happened. I can honestly say I lived — which, for a young woman living on her own, is as it should be.
When Ex-Mr. Jessica and I fell in love with each other and moved in together, I think I convinced myself that a chapter of my life was closing. I didn’t take moving in with a boyfriend lightly. I’d never done it before and it was a serious step for me. I did it because I honestly believed — and my parents honestly believed — that my ex-boyfriend was “the one.” He had told me as much himself: he said first, and repeatedly, that he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I trusted him completely and I felt like I’d been chosen for something special.
I don’t regret moving in with Ex-Mr. Jessica, or anything about being with him at all, but I do think I believed a fantasy that a chapter had “closed” and another chapter had “opened.” I stopped thinking of myself as just myself and I started thinking of myself as part of us. That’s normal to an extent, of course, when you’re buying groceries for two and picking out IKEA bedsheets that you both will be sleeping under. However, my priorities in life totally shifted. Instead of being 150 percent focused on my career and driving myself crazy with a full-time job and freelance writing, I stopped being such a workaholic and settled into a happy relationship. I calmed down. I felt pleasure more often. I changed for the better in a lot of ways. And with this new mindset, Ex-Mr. Jessica and I started thinking seriously about the next five to 10 years of our lives: where would we move, what would we do for a living, when we would marry, when we’d have kids.
I left those plans behind as surely as I left behind the housekey to our place. In the days and weeks following the breakup, my two closest girlfriends, Christiane and Ashley, encouraged me grab life by the reins and figure out what I wanted to do with this newfound freedom. Go rock climbing? Move to Berlin? I could do anything!
Instead, I spent almost every day for two months in my pajamas in my childhood bedroom, watching Netflix on demand and feeling sad or angry. A few nights I went into New York City for a date or crashed on Amelia’s couch. But I was, and still am to a degree, a headcase. I cancel about 90 percent of the plans I make with gentleman callers or with friends because I freak out about socializing.
Mostly I feel confused. Sometimes I feel angry at Ex-Mr. Jessica, or I miss him terribly, but there’s other moments where I feel excited about work, my friends, my future and I feel bursts of joy. I can feel a whole range of emotions in the span of a single day. It’s terribly, terribly confusing. But I’m trying to let myself feel every emotion I have and listen to what they’re telling me to do or not do, even if they’re telling me, “You’re not ready yet to XYZ.”
Last week I heard about an apartment in New York City with a room for rent: relatively inexpensive, safe neighborhood, near where friends live, and rented by the friend of a friend. So I went and looked at it and the roommate offered it to me this weekend. I hesitated a bit at first, not ready to give an answer because moving into a new place would seriously cut into my beloved lying-in-bed-in-my-pajamas-watching-”Keeping Up With The Kardashians” regimen. But I couldn’t stop thinking about a new bedroom to decorate, new furniture to buy, and all the friends and co-workers I could see in New York City if only I lived there again. I decided I should push this baby bird out of the nest.
So, I’m moving out back on my own again. It will be my bed and my sock drawer alone. The chapter of my life that I thought had closed is now open again. Or maybe there is no “chapter.” Maybe life is the chapter. This time that I move back to New York City, I’m more battle-scared, bruised and world-weary than ever before. I’m not bright-eyed and bushytailed about what fabulous things await me and I don’t really trust men anymore. I don’t expect that I’ll feel wonderful every single day; I’ll probably feel confused, sad and angry often. But that’s OK: I’m older and wiser now. I have life experience under my belt. I know what’s ahead of me — both good and bad — and I’m ready to slowly start to face it. And maybe that’s how it should be.
Image via iStockphoto