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Breakdown of a Breakup

The awkward silence that is currently sitting in the space between our souls is suffocating me. I jam my hands, like clockwork, underneath my thighs, forcing my back to press firmly into the wall of my 23’ Airstream. Outside it is snowing, and the aluminum panel transfers the exterior chill through the cotton of my well-worn long-sleeve pajama shirt. He is cross-legged in his black skinny jeans, surrounded by pillows, eyes darting from my face to his knees. All I can smell is clean laundry from the sheets of the bed that we just spent far too long making.

We’ve never been here before (and we’ll never be here again). Because this–this is the break up talk.

He fumbles over words that string together into a rather rhetorical statement, “I should probably leave, shouldn’t I?”

And I–I feverishly pet Nugget while answering, “I mean, I think that’s the best option.”

Because we are done. And it is okay.

Prior to this present moment, in the few days leading up to this awkward silence, I had felt myself acquiring a heaviness. I had acknowledged my gut that instinctively whispered concerns to my conscience. That my affection was creating caution. That my words and deeds were being misconstrued as wearisome.

Fact. When a man tells you that your interest makes him nervous, it is not a reflection on you. Let me say that again. It is not a reflection on you. It is his story, what he wants to tell himself about your attention. And, more than likely, that story is clouded with family drama and parental expectations and (my personal favorite) a handful of exes who did not yet have the maturity to navigate their own lives, let alone the lives of romantic counterparts, resulting in heartbreaks of epic proportions.

Fact number two. We all have baggage.

He needed me to slow down. I needed him to speed up. And we were both right, but not right for each other.

Those few days leading up to that awkward silence were a foreshadowing to the current conversation. Uncharacteristic to our two months of semi-constant contact, we hadn’t seen each other for the previous three days. On this fourth day, he was off from work and we’d spent a couple hours snowboarding, unexpectedly keeping a healthy distance from each other on every chairlift. Our usual easiness hid behind the façade of forced small talk conversations: Weather. Work. Whatnot.

So when he opened the door to my Airstream and kindly assisted in the remainder of my chores before even so much as grabbing my face to tell me he’d missed me–smashing his glasses into my cheeks while tasting the Chapstick I’d just smeared onto to my lips–I wasted no time in asking him to describe his new (and clearly premeditated) modus operandi.

Sidebar. My nickname might as well be The Shitty Conversation Starter.

But, again, we showed up (as also witnessed here). Because that is what you do when you care about someone, no matter how shallow or deep, even in the midst of severing something that seemingly checked all the right boxes.

He still wanted a part of his life separate from me. And I–the girl who wears her heart so passionately on her sleeve, the one who dreams of exploring every last corner of this earth with a plus one by her side–could simply not settle.

I still wanted our lives to be completely intertwined with one another. And he–the guy who guards his heart with caution, the one who dreams of building up his business empire before buying into romance–could simply not settle.

And here’s the point. I am allowed to want more. I am allowed to deserve more. It doesn’t make me needy by any negative connotations of the term, and it doesn’t make him bad because he does not have the desire to deliver. It makes me worthy of that want because I did the work to know exactly what I need, and it makes him honest to have the awareness to understand that he is not in a place to be able to provide it.

So I don’t want two hours of my boyfriend’s day off when he’s been busting ass through a 50-hour work week. I want his entire weekend. I want him to spend the morning with me sliding on snow before sliding into my bed to nap away the afternoon. I want to go grocery shopping. And cook dinner. And have our favorite shows. I want him, even if he’s tired, to whisk away with me for a random weekend to some small town in Colorado to ignore any semblance of our routines and responsibilities. I want to get too drunk on a Wednesday and fall sleep with my head on his lap in the backseat of an Uber, followed by a Thursday morning where every one of my limbs is pretzeled into every inch of his being. I want kisses that last too long in public and ass-grabbing that some might deem inappropriate and hand-holding on the center console of my car (no matter how long the drive).

I’m not racing towards marriage or child-rearing. I’ve actually become quite detached from both of these terms. I do not believe in self-imposed time schedules, and I most certainly do not believe in tradition that is devoid of depth. I do not need a ring. I do not need procreation. I alone am whole. And in my wholeness, I know the very thing that strikes a spark within my soul. I need a man who looks me in the eye, and without so much as a blink will ride and die with me. He will not stutter. There will be no flinch. He will show up with the same passion. He will be interested in the same work. He will choose the shitty conversations over and over and over again because we’d be fools to ever think about extinguishing the fire we’ve created within us.

You can laugh that my asks are far too grandiose (some have). You can tell me I’m too much (some do).

But I will never be too much for the right person.

So I pay homage to camo pants for his awareness to realize that he is not, in fact, that one, and I applaud him for his confidence to articulate such definitive words. For we need the relationships that teach us what we don’t want so we know exactly what it is that we do. We must demand that every relationship expose us to our stories, the lies that we tell ourselves to protect our egos and our hearts, so that we can be a better version of ourselves on the inside and the other side.

 My story: everybody leaves.

I could add this breakup to a long list of evidence that would support such a statement, but it deserves something so much better than that list. I deserve a life devoid of such a false declaration. Together, he and I reasoned that our chemistry was not superior to our present life statuses and our future life visions. I didn’t want to put pressure on him to act outside of his authentic self to appease my needs, and he didn’t want to put us in a compromising position that could potentially hurt my more-vulnerable self down the road.

We made an adult choice. That didn’t feel great. Especially as we sat through that absolutely awful awkward silence. But we made it.

And so many of us–we bow out here. At this moment. When we know the potential outcome. We sit too long inside of easy. We are willing to sacrifice years of our lives because we do not believe in our own strength to overcome a day, a week, a month of discomfort.

Because yes, breaking up simultaneously means starting over. It means opening ourselves up to the extra energy that is required to friend someone else (and keep friending them). It means exposing ourselves to new people who may not be accepting of our stories. It means trying more people on to see how well they fit. It means potentially having to break up and start over again and then again and then again.

But hear me: breaking up means starting over. It means that you learned something more about yourself in the process of doing life next to someone else. It means you are better. For yourself. For the next partner. It means you practiced your vulnerability on a person who had the choice to either accept or reject those soft spaces inside you, and no matter the outcome, you are now more confident because of that openness. It means having the opportunity to find the one who will scream of your greatness again and then again and then again.

Looks like we’ll be going back to the regularly scheduled singles program, ladies and gentlemen. Let’s just hope I remember how to Bumble.

Stephanie is a road warrior, adventure seeker, and brand builder. She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and after spending nearly a decade between the PNW and the east coast, she’s proud to once again be calling Colorado home. Well, home for now. Stephanie recently bought an Airstream with the intention of living a more minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle. After logging over 20k miles in her car last year, chasing rock faces in the summer and powder days in the winter, she realized that life could be a hell of a lot simpler if she could carry her house with her on these adventures. In 2017, she started her own marketing agency, Sleigh Creative, to take control of her freedom. As a freelance creative director and brand strategist, she spends a lot of days playing and even more nights working. In all things, be it work or play, she seeks to inspire people to the life of never settling. You can follow along with her journey on Instagram, @by.stephanieleigh, and through her self-titled personal blog.

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