This fall, my boyfriend of two years ended things by saying, “I’m no longer romantically in love with you.” It was a Wednesday. We were supposed to be on our way to dinner reservations, but instead, I found myself in a fancy outfit that was far too formal for being dumped. I sobbed, and mid-break up I stepped into another room, called my mom and told her she needed to get in the car immediately. By the time he left, I wanted her there to pick up the pieces.
I spent the next few days on my parents’ couch – cuddling my 15-year-old childhood dog – while my mom brought me flowers from the farmers market, homemade margaritas, or anything else she hoped would make me happy – not much of it did. Around day five, the three most important men in my life gave me similar and much needed advice:
“You need to get out and do something for you,” said my father as I cried into the phone.
“You’re giving him too much of yourself right now,” my stepdad warned as I stared listlessly out the living room window.
“I can tell you you’re going to be fine, but you need to believe it for yourself,” texted my brother.
I wanted each of these things to be true, so come Monday morning, I showered, brushed my teeth, and decided it was time to emerge from hibernation. The interactions with the outside world that followed were tear-stained and painful, yet nothing short of magic.
When my co-worker found me crying over the copy machine, she hugged me and said, “I bet my entire salary the person you deserve is out there.” We immediately began to laugh over the fact that as teachers this wasn’t much money to be betting with.
My students offered support in their own unique ways. One tried to set me up with her older brother, another – with typical teenaged brutalness – said, “It’s for the best; your ex was balding anyway,” and a third – wise beyond their years – put their hand on my shoulder and said “Change is the scariest thing there is.”
Outside of work, my favorite local bartenders patted my hand comfortingly and poured me diet colas on the house when I told them I needed to process this heartbreak sober.
My friend, Emma, invited me for dinner and encouraged me to eat by saying, “Your body is going to love you for this.”
When I broke down at a piano lesson because my keyboard was a gift from my ex, my instructor said “scooch over,” sat next to me on the bench, and played one of the most gorgeous pieces I’ve ever heard. When finished, he looked at me and smiled, “I composed that for my first wife. I used to not be able to play it, but now I just feel proud of what I created – you’ll get there too.”
In the beginning, I couldn’t have imagined that to be true. Now, though, I’m pretty sure he’s right.
Emily Kassera is a Chippewa Valley native who teaches eighth-grade English at Altoona Middle School and can be found – upon occasion – directing youth theater, performing at the Heyde Center for the Arts, or cozying up at home with a good craft. Her writing has previously appeared in Hope is the Thing: Wisconsinites on Perseverance in a Pandemic as well as in Barstow and Grand.