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PART 1: I am an entitled bitch.

I am truly happy. The most happy I ever was.
And because I feel like I found happiness, I always try to help the people I love by telling them to follow the path I've walked. Like if there is not any other way to reach it. Like if I have found the universal key. Maybe it’s because I see them struggle, I just want to take their hands and guide them through the same things I have lived through. It comes from a good place, really. But I realize that it also just looks like I am an entitled bitch. 

I lost a friend because of that, a few years back. Someone I loved very much, that I wanted to help because I saw she was doing some actions that were, to my point of view, self-sabotaging. She was getting passed-out drunk and flirting with everyone, every other night- even though she was married. I tried to reason with her, to make her talk about her feelings, to remove her from the guys she was flirting with during parties. But all it did was that she got upset at me for patronizing her. And instead of feeling like I was there for her, she felt judged at every step she was taking. To the point where she just felt better without me around. 

Sometimes in life, you really grasp a lesson only years after the event that brought it. I should have understood that what my friend needed was to be loved unconditionally, regardless of how she was acting and why. I should have understood that trying to help her get out of her mess wasn’t what she needed at the time. After all, I had lived through a very similar experience a few years before.

At that time, I was in a relationship with a guy that was crying every night and that couldn't give me any space. He was obviously depressed, but didn’t want to reach out for help and it was starting to take a toll on me. The last year of our four together was a constant battle of me trying to break up and him threatening me that he would kill himself if ever I left. I still had love for him and I still cared, but he had become so clingy that I couldn’t do anything without him showing up or making me feel bad for leaving him alone. His negativity was dragging me down and I was running out of ways to escape the situation. In retrospect, I think that’s when everything started to go downhill for me. In a last attempt to escape the relationship, I made a mistake that I am not proud to even write about here. That brought out shame, lots of tears and in the end, it didn’t even bring the closure I was hoping for. I stayed with my boyfriend about one more year, fighting every other day and feeling hopeless, trapped. I knew I was just being a coward but I felt incapable of making a move to get out. I was trapped in a mixture of feelings: I still had love for him and didn’t want him to do anything bad because of me, but I also resented him for forcing me to stay when we both were unhappy. Over our last year, I started to numb the pain by going out with colleagues every night. I made new friends that were always drinking and partying and I just tried to make myself as unlovable as possible, so my boyfriend would finally leave me. I wasn’t doing any of that consciously, or to be a bad person- I was just lost and truly unhappy. In the end, the relationship finally stopped but my self sabotaging behavior didn’t. I was so drunk all the time, and so sad, that I kept chasing highs by flirting with several guys at the same time. I was terrified to be alone, searching tirelessly for a replacement that would make me feel whole again. At that time, all I wanted was for my friends to be there for me, without judgment, and to tell me everything was gonna be okay and that they understood where I was coming from. But that is not what I received from them. Like when I was trying to help my married friend, one of my best friends was also trying to help me. I know that now, but at that time, I just felt judged with every conversation we had. I knew my actions were wrong and that I was a mess, but I didn’t need someone else to point it out on top. So, I started to lie to her, too. Lie to hide the person I had become, because I was ashamed that the people I loved would see how awful I was. Of course, lying made it even worse. I ended up losing this friendship (amongst others) because she just felt like I wasn’t respectful enough to be real with her. I was in a loop that I didn’t feel I could get out of. I was lying, cheating, drinking every night, making one poor decision after the other and then feeling miserable about the person I was, after. Losing this friendship should have been a wake up call, but instead it just spiraled me down even more. I felt so alone. Ironically enough, by trying to chase my ex away by being unlovable to him, I became unlovable to everyone else including me. My new friends were also careless, drinking and kissing everyone in parties, and although I felt like deep down that was not what I wanted, I just followed along because they were the only ones not judging me.
And because I hated myself so much that I was just chasing any form of acceptance, from anyone.

One night at a party, I was so passed-out drunk that I apparently kissed a guy in the bathroom of the bar (I cannot remember this, to this day) and then, mind you, left the bar with a different guy (Barney Stinson’s high five #1).  Both of them were coworkers. I guess you see the picture: I was an absolute fucking red flag. The first wake-up call actually happened that very night, and not because of the obvious above. We were walking in the direction of that second guy’s apartment and in a surge of passion, I pushed him against a wall to kiss him. The problem? There was no wall. I was so drunk that my spatial vision was distorted, so the guy just fell to the ground, me falling on top of him. We heard a ‘crack’, and when I moved myself off him, I saw an expression of terror on his face. My nose was bleeding profusely, although I couldn’t feel a single thing. By that point, we were very drunk, so we laughed it out and continued walking to his apartment. We ended up sleeping together, while I was wiping the blood still coming out of my nose (Barney Stinson’s high five #2). In the morning, the pain was so sharp that I was sure my nose was broken. I took my stuff and without saying bye, just grabbed a taxi in the direction of the ER. I sat there for over 22 hours. Hangover and in pain, both from my nose and the realization of what kind of person I had become. I felt alone, my phone battery dead since the morning, and I realized that in the craziness of my life, I didn’t have one moment like that, in years. I was so afraid to feel the pain that was inside me that I just kept filling my days and nights, so that I couldn’t get one minute of silence for any thoughts to come back. After a while, I felt something warm flowing down my face and thought to myself that I would run out of blood if my nose continued to let it out, but when I wiped it, I realized it was tears. For the next few hours, I just sat there crying, without anyone minding because it was obvious that my face was also in pain. But what hurt the most wasn’t my nose. After about 20 hours, I had run out of tears. I was looking to grab a snack from a vending machine, when I passed a desk with free books to read on top. One of them caught my attention: The subtle art of not giving a fuck. You might think by reading this that my actions pointed to me not giving a fuck since years, but the reality was that I gave a fuck about lots of things. I gave so many fucks that I was mostly incapable of making one single decision, by fear of being selfish and of hurting people. Which obviously, I realize now, ends up hurting way more persons. My last hours at the ER were spent with me reading and occasionally stepping up to meet the doctors and do some scans. I finished the whole book in time to get the verdict that my nose was not broken. A mistake I would receive an apology for by mail, weeks later -the intern misread the scan: my nose was in fact broken. I got sent back home (with only ibuprofens) but a bit more hope filling my heart.  

The work spoke to me deeply, way more than I first thought when I saw the title and rolled my eyes at yet another self-help book. It was about chasing the highs to numb the lows and the importance of embracing life’s challenges instead of always trying to feel happy. Ironically, it was saying that you must feel the pain to truly get happy and it couldn’t come at a better time. It made me think for several days, to the point where I realized something had to change. I had a few setbacks here and there, because my friends were still going out every other night and I still wanted to feel like I was part of a group, that I was loved by some people. But every time I drank and came back to my place, alone, I felt depressed, isolated and like in the end, I was unlovable. I realized the more the months passed that my behavior was still self-destructing and that even in a sea of people, I was feeling lonely and heart-broken. I wanted to fix myself, at the source, I just didn’t know where to start. I remembered the book and started to invest more time in all the hobbies I always wanted to have and in planning a long-time dream of mine: traveling the world. And after a while, I couldn’t remember what I was running from in the first place. But then, as if two broken things were not enough, I felt, doing an incredible trick with my skateboard. I broke a hip. What amazing trick? You ask. I felt the second after I put a foot on the deck, gave myself a push and hit a small rock. Impressive, I know. I had my first operation. Had to stop working for a few weeks, learn back how to walk and learn how to cope with the constant physical pain. Not a sharp one. Just the one always there in the background. 

I was on medication for about two months, which means I couldn’t drink at all. Even if I had wanted to, I was mostly confined home because of the rehabilitation process. For that first period, a short 10 min walk with my crutches was resulting in me having to take a nap for 3 hours. The first few weeks, my parents came over to help me with all the chores, leaving me with all the time in the world to do only one thing: think. During the 3 next months, I sobered up and decided to make big changes in my life. I did a massive cleanup of the people around me, reached back out to my old friends, told them everything that I lied about and apologized for my behavior. It was terribly hard to do, but an equally great relief when they welcomed me back in their lives. I became so precious about not relapsing back in my old patterns that I even cut-off my relationship with a long-term best friend that recently got involved with a girl I was not approving of. She had the reputation to do hard drugs and go out every night, and when my friend told me one day that he wanted to “see her world” because she had agreed to meet his kids, even though she didn’t want any, I just lost it. My friend was against drugs before, and I couldn’t see why he would voluntarily choose self-destruction, when he was fine right now. I felt like I had to remove myself from the situation, because I didn’t want him to feel judged but it was going to happen. Once again, I think my judgment came from my own experiences, and the fact that I was seeing in herself the toxic person I was just a few months before. I took no time to even give her a chance. No interest in any discussion, in sharing any of my fears with her. I just put her in the “bad person” box, feeling like she was going to destroy him like I destroyed everyone that approached me when I was unstable. Joke is on me, though, because they are still together and seem to be thriving and helping eachother grow in a positive direction now. After my trip, I ended up apologizing to her. We had a huge unfiltered conversation and I really felt ashamed for not treating her right in the past. She was an amazing person. With a rocky past, sure, but at this point who was I to judge this. I mean, have you fucking read above? This made me think of a quote that says: “Every Saint has a past and every Sinner a future”. People are complex. We all have a past. I was back at work for about two weeks, before Covid hit. Another gift from life, because I don’t think I would have been strong enough to not go back to my old ways just yet. Covid allowed my fast-paced life to become more chill. I focussed on myself, continued planning towards my solo round the world and learned to feel happy alone. And when I was to a point where I truly felt content, life sent another lesson, in the shape of a 6ft tall tattooed man. The good thing about this sequence of events, though, is that at this point my happiness had become my first priority. And although I was still confusing being selfish with just being hard to manipulate, I was slowly learning to love myself without needing external validation. It was a rocky three years of relationship but I ended up choosing myself and my dreams, over and over again. And most of all, I ended up realizing that my happiness wasn’t dependable on being loved by someone else. The contrast of this, versus me finally feeling free and happy, culminated with me breaking-up with him and the realization of my dream: I was now traveling solo, around the world, discovering as much about other cultures as I was about myself. I learned to fully be myself, to love without any judgment. I learned that everyone could teach me something, regardless of their age or background. And most of all, I learned to say goodbye and to see finite experiences as something beautiful. For the first time in my life, I was truly and completely happy.  

When I came back from my 6 months abroad, I felt like a new person. In fact, I felt so peaceful that I didn’t want to allow any other person that could fuck with this peace in. I removed all my dating apps and decided at that point that if I was meant to find someone that would positively enhance my life, it would be organically. I wouldn’t chase after it, I would just live my life to the fullest for me. After all, I had shown myself that I was able to provide everything that I required to be happy. I was all good with just flirting and fucking with people while I was travelling, though. From my few experiences during the round the world, I was actually excited about it. It was safer for me, because it was finite. I was coming back to my life, my peace -every time. But because of that expiration date, it was also intense and passionate. Something I still wanted to get. The best of both worlds.

And that, everyone, brings me to the story of Jesse. ***insert cougar emoji***

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