I was dumped. It was over a year ago. I’d been in a relationship for a few years and we literally shared one life. We modeled together, doing fun couple shoots for various ads and magazines. We spent every holiday together. We took long trips across country, just the two of us. I was very close with his family and considered them my own. In the moment, we had a very picture perfect life. Or so it seemed. Behind the scenes, I was so excited to be a part of this person’s life that I began to lose touch with who I was. I forgot that there could be a separation between two people and still a happy relationship. His beliefs and opinions had become my own, and I was no longer being authentically me. When he dumped me, I was dumbfounded and caught completely off-guard. Suddenly, the movies, songs, and stories about love lost made sense. I understood the deep pain they could evoke. Close friends watched me lose interest in things I once enjoyed, and I entered a sort of hibernation. It was a huge blow to my ego, pride and confidence. I started to withdraw into myself.
That breakup radically changed my life.
It hurt me more than anything I’d ever felt, but even after losing someone I had dedicated my life to, I reflected on the how I’d become so dependent. After that, I worked on myself. I went to yoga more, rekindled relationships I’d put aside, and explored my lingering pain through art. My father would call from the Midwest every night, just to talk about life and tell me funny stories of his own relationship mishaps. He wanted so badly to cheer me up. In this time, some of the biggest parts of my life were being born. I would have never been able to heal myself if I hadn’t been dumped. I had always loved writing, but all of a sudden I felt inclined to write a lot more. And I had the time. I passed the days I wasn’t shooting or on castings hopping around the city from coffee shop to coffee shop filling up notebooks. I resolved to move from my apartment of four years and eventually found a sublet in Brooklyn. I discussed with myself what went wrong, and more importantly what I was looking for. I looked to specific relationships I saw in my community. One pair was so superficially unlike one another (him dark, rustic and tatted; her blonde, pure and proper) yet had an obvious and genuine connection. They were awesome. I would often ask myself what they had and how they treated one another, so that I could emulate those characteristics and seek them out in others.
In one of my old journals from the time, I described an ideal relationship. ”Sober, happy, healthy…” A dear friend of mine who wasn’t (and rarely is) in a relationship has this nature of being in love with the world. I felt inspired to be like that too. I began to cherish my friends more. I hardly believed then that I’d actually find someone ever again, but I was becoming okay with that. I realized that I had to regain my individuality. That quirky upbeat girl had originally attracted my former lover’s interest. Sure, I always loved my job, but I had lost touch with why I loved it. I had been pouring my energy into it by way of another person, but it was I who made myself a model (and him too, for that matter). I took my yoga practice further (daily complementing a new teacher with an old standby). I dug deep into a bunch of new loves, and deepening friendships. I let myself cry. Conversations with myself and others slowly went from past heartache to future ambitions, new ideas and exciting projects. It was a tough time, but I laid for myself a firm foundation on which to build.
Then one day, while in the supermarket with one of my girlfriends, I ran into a guy I’d known for years but never really had gotten to know personally. We decided to take yoga together the next day, and after that we slowly got to know each other better. He shared some of the same goals and interests that I did—to be healthy and go after what you love. I never would have guessed that this person I thought I already knew would suit me so well. It didn’t have to become a relationship like I had just been in, it could just be a strong connection to another human.
I’ve considered this while teaching yoga lately: your relationship with others begins with yourself. When you start learning about the significance of the yoga practice, it can sound pretty self-absorbed. In the beginning, you obsess over the poses, habits and patterns. Then you move on to how you see and think. I hadn’t seen how reliant I was on my relationship before I was dumped or how much it was costing me, even in the best of times. The more honest the understanding of yourself you have, the easier it is to distinguish your misconceptions from the truth of the people around you. As a teacher, you have to be steady on your feet before you can adjust a student’s pose. As a friend or a lover, you need faith in yourself and recognition of your own shortcomings before you can offer the same to others.
Now when I’m thumbing through magazines in search of my own spread, a reminder of my past opposite another model doesn’t make me sad. I recognize how much of a transformation I’ve undergone. I’m more than strong enough to hold my own and know that whoever I end up with I can remain independent. It’s more important to go after an alignment of attitudes and ambitions than being joined at the hip. I’d rather be strong on my own, allowing the relationship itself to be stronger. It was only once I didn’t need a relationship that I found the sort of relationship with myself that I had always wanted.