You spent far too long consumed by them, caught up in traces of their presence, even amidst their absence. You tried to forget, to conceal your emotional pain, but every forced smile brought them back into your consciousness. And you wondered if you could ever heal the hole they left in your heart, fearing that moving on would forever remain impossible.
But one day, you discovered that your heart no longer ached, that you no longer yearned for them every time you heard their favorite song or remembered the way they’d hold you close. You realized that you’re moving on from them — that you can now relish in the freedom of life without them.
Now you remember the way it rained the day they left you, and you feel nothing but contentment.
You recall the fight that ended it all, the moment when everything you held dear collapsed before your eyes, and you recognize that you always deserved more — more love, more affection, more consideration. You remember the tender times — how they shielded you against the winter wind, how they smiled when you returned home, how they kissed you as if there was no one else in the world — but as you’re moving on, you can reconcile your memories with the fact that you’re better off without them.
You’ll drive by the apartment you both shared, the corner store where they’d stand on the curb and blow tendrils of cigarette smoke into the air, the streetlamp where you shared your first kiss in the dark of night, surrounded by light. You pass the restaurant where you both spent hours talking every Saturday night, the café where you felt so full of hope on your first date. And you feel a pang of sadness, but it dissipates as you realize that you’re no longer driving this route to torture yourself. This time, you simply need to get to the office, to further your career without anyone holding you back.
You know that tonight, you won’t find yourself yearning for anyone else’s affection.
You won’t answer anyone who only texts you after midnight, only hoping for an adrenaline rush, not longing for your heart. And you won’t find yourself tangled up in anyone else’s bed, hoping that lust will turn into love, feeling guilt wash over you as you give yourself away to someone who will never love you back. You won’t walk home barefoot in the early morning light, your lipstick smeared, your mascara smudged, your party dress wrinkled. Instead, you’ll soak in a warm bath, a glass of wine and a book in hand, thinking only of your own happiness.
You still wholeheartedly desire a love that makes you feel carefree and wanted, but you’re willing to wait until you find someone with a pure heart and a giving spirit, someone who will never leave you, someone who will be your last. You know that true love has perfect timing, so you wait patiently for the one, loving yourself along the way. You’ll travel the world, paying no mind to the collection of passport stamps you accumulated with the one who left. You’ll take yourself on lavish dates because you deserve to prioritize yourself. And you attend friends’ weddings, feeling jubilation instead of envy, dancing the night away without any thought of lovers past because you know that love will await you someday.
And then, one day, as you’re leaving the corner store, a stranger smiles warmly at you.
Their eyes are soft and kind, and they ask you if they can help with the brimming bags of food you’re struggling to carry. You chat casually but without reservation, unafraid that others could hurt you. You give no thought to the one who left because you want to know the one who stands beside you, helping you with no obligation. Before they leave, they slip you their number on a worn piece of paper. And as you hold the crumpled paper in your palm, you smile. The promise of new love is before you — but this time, you know that you’re moving on, that you’re ready to begin again.
Previously published on Thought Catalog.