Iwalked into the airport rental garage with a duffel bag and looked around. “You can pick anything,” the attendant said. Anything? Did I want the reliable family sized SUV? A Honda? A black Mustang? I walked a few steps before stopping in front of a white beast — the Dodge Challenger in all white with black rims was resting there, shining after a recent cleaning, in its quiet majesty and power. This one.
I rode it over two hundred miles from New York City to Boston. It roared with power. It easily navigated and smoothly weaved through traffic in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. It kissed the road’s curves in the most sensual way. I streamed Nicki Minaj’s new album and replayed, “Barbie dreams” repeatedly, feeling the classic vibes and alpha female lyrics. The power with this muscle car was addicting.
Upon arrival, I met my best friend over Indian food. Is there anything that naan and curry can’t fix? She sat across from me, a face I loved and knew well from being friends in high school, roommates in college and now best friends in our adulthood. Her boyfriend of two and a half years broke up with her last week. When I heard the news a week ago, I groaned aloud, feeling her pain over the phone as she spoke frantically and desperately about the fight at 4 am.
Sara and Kevin met a few years ago. Ironically matched off Tinder, they fell in love with each others’ sincerity and realness. He coaxed her out of her shell and after introducing each other to families and friends, they moved in together and began to plan the rest of their lives together. When I met him, he seemed dependable, kind hearted and intelligent; he was just the type of guy you would want your best friend to marry. He was a wise old soul, a perfect complement to Sara’s clean heart, big dreams and strong work ethic.
Now, dressed in her blue scrubs from work, with bags under her eyes, a messy bun, she suddenly looked so small and defeated. Kevin confessed that he was no longer in love with her and couldn’t see his future with her anymore. She found text messages spanning over the course of two months between him and his ex-girlfriend, with some cryptically saying, “you should tell her about us Kevin”. If there is anything I could have done to take away her pain, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I knew perfectly where she was: the pain, the heartache, the confusion, the anger, the betrayal, the sadness and the regret combined into a nauseating, seemingly endless mix, called heartache. Like waves, these emotions and memories washed over her, taking her out to sea, while she struggled to come to shore and reason.
That weekend, we packed up her remaining belongings from their shared apartment, searched for new apartments, went to an outdoor concert and walked through Boston, a city she had conquered in the past six years. She held back, stood strong through the entire weekend until she finally broke down over Ethiopian food on Saturday night, unable to stop the flood of tears and heartache. The memories of their shared moments were coming back and the ghost of him was beginning to haunt her. We packed the food to go and sat up all night with a box of Kleenex and wine.
She said, “you would understand” and she was right. I knew exactly where she was and where she would go from here: I repeated over and over again that she’ll get through it. She didn’t need him. She saved herself time. What if he did this years from now, when they were married with kids? This was a good thing, Sara. She nodded in agreement with eyes full of tears and hands full of tissues.
Sara reminded me of me last year. I had immediate flashbacks of breaking down and crying after my fiance and I broke up. Things she said, like, “why didn’t he talk to me about this?” or, “we could have overcame this” echoed my pain and frustration with my ex-fiance. After breaking up, waiting six months and dating for a few months afterwards, I decided to take a break from it all.
One of the reasons I consciously took a break from dating is because I now know how loving someone can completely change my life. I now have the upmost respect for healthy, strong relationships and I strive for those in the future. Prior to my ex-fiance, I had a child like, naive outlook on love. I defined it as romantic dates and dramatic, movie-like, “I love you”s where someone realizes, like an epiphany in math class, that he’s in love, chases after his girl and lives happily ever after. How Bollywood.
In reality, loving someone, completely, with your entire soul, heart and body, is the most courageous, difficult and beautiful things you can do. Sure, my ex-fiance and I had those dramatic, Bollywood-ish moments when I fly into his arms in streets of NYC or NOLA or Philly. But, we also moments when loving each other was difficult and we tried, through tears, lists and arguments, to make it work. I fell in love with him in the most unexpected, un-glamorous times, like when he would snore at night, holding on to me, or when he would check to see if I ate that day, or if I needed help creating a plan for a NGO launching mobile surgery clinics in rural settings after he spent 10 hours in surgery. I watched him sleep, refusing to waste time on rest, counting down the hours before the flights that would separate us for weeks. It was a daily decision to love him, when distance, ideas and fights separated us and tested our patience and commitment. At the end of it, I loved him when I ultimately let him go, knowing that he would find peace and happiness with someone more fit for his expectations. To this day, I still love him.
I learned that love is powerful.
Love can be painful.
Love will change your life.
After him, I learned to be a bit more critical when it came to new relationships, learning to be more guarded and more careful of red flags. Taking a break from dating has allowed me to heal. When I’m ready to love again, when I meet someone who is worth going on the long journey of highs and lows again, I’ll be prepared to go one hundred percent. Again.
In the meantime, there are so many other things I want to accomplish.
There are the goals I want to meet, the career milestones I want to reach, the mountains I want to climb on my own. I backed off from dating early this year, after dabbling with the possibility of committing again. Someone I knew for years and went on several dates with entertained our future together, speaking dreams of marriage and children into the picture. Other dates saw me as a fix to their loneliness, another conquest in a generation of quick dating, mindless swipes and temporary feelings. Taking a break from dating, from finding a distraction, from desperately searching for another person to fill the loneliness, has shown me how much I love myself and value my own company, dreams and values.
It’s not that I don’t love love or that I’m scared of doing this all over again. I just want to do it right, the next time I do it.
I now love being by myself. I love coming home to an empty clean apartment, with the sounds of the wind and distant subway as company. I like cooking for one, with a glass of Merlot and soft melodies as dinner guests. I like standing alone in a crowd, watching the world surge around me in Times Square. I like seeing the toddler on the subway waving at me, grinning with teeth missing, knowing that I’ll have one of those little humans one day. I love the feeling of healing, of the subtle shifting within my soul that signals my growth, when I change for the better.
I love waiting until the time and person is right.
I love knowing that the man I’ll love next was worth the breathers taken from dating to find the healing within myself. The man I marry will be worth the journey to get to him. The man I love forever will be guided by the lessons, heartache and memories that ultimately taught me how to love him in the most kind, patient and selfless way.
Until I find him, I’m going to drive that Dodge Challenger, through traffic and curvy roads to the beats of classic rap, navigating to higher career aspirations and unfulfilled life long dreams.