I was in a relationship for 7 years and it abruptly came to an end about 6 months ago.
This isn’t something I talk about on here, nor is it how you would expect me to start a blog post that’s supposed to be about Cinque Terre, I’m sure. It makes me uncomfortable to publicly discuss the details of such heartache, which is why I’ve never actually named it for what it is on the blog. I’ve been able to wrap it up nicely and simply hint at it by naming it “a difficult time” or “a season of grief.” Up until now. To tell the story that I want to tell, you have to know more. So here it is.
For starters, the details of how and why the relationship ended won’t make this narrative any more valuable, so it's better that they be left out. What’s important here is that you understand the weight of what it’s like to spend 7 years of your life with someone. How well you get to know them. How your lives become woven together like a detailed tapestry. How doing life together becomes as natural as breathing.
You have your usuals. Usual dinners at Calypso or Chipotle. Usual holiday traditions you share with each others families. Usual “Love you babygirl” texts before bed.
You have your things. The thing where you always kiss at red lights. Or the thing where you play with that unusually flat thumbnail when you hold his hand. And that thing where you smirk at each other when that song comes on because of an inside joke that only the two of you know about.
So naturally, it’s those usuals- those “things" you miss when it’s over. And from time to time, it’s easy to neglect any logic and still wish (even for just a brief moment) that you were curled up in bed, assuming your usual position of the little spoon, to watch the latest episode of Scandal with a pint of Ben + Jerry’s half-baked like you did every week. Because those tend to be the sweet memories that haunt you when it’s over.
Again, you’re probably wondering why on earth I’m recounting details of a lost relationship when this post title references Cinque Terre. I honestly don’t know why my brain correlated the two either. But what I do know is that when I stood with my toes in the water alone for a moment in Monterosso, one of Cinque Terre’s quaint towns, I remembered something else that happened in our relationship. I’m not sure why it didn’t come to me until this particular moment. Maybe the trauma of how everything ended made a lot of details fuzzy. Or perhaps it was my memory being intentionally selective. Or maybe the sun and all the color around me was so bright that it literally illuminated any remaining darkness within where it could have been hiding. Whatever you want to attribute the reasoning to, it came to me.
I remember it was a Saturday back home in Nashville, and the weather was perfect. Blue skies. Temperatures in 70s. Sunshine and fluffy white clouds. I woke up feeling energized and wanting to seize the day. To do something adventurous. Anything really: hike, walk, go to the park. I just wanted to feel alive.
But I remember so clearly lying in my room, cuddled together and watching another TV show. And the only word I know to describe the complex feeling that started to bubble up inside of me was trapped. I felt trapped and I started to panic.
Now obviously, I don’t mean that I was literally trapped. I wasn’t kidnapped or forced there against my will. I was absolutely choosing it. And it’s important to note that regardless why this particular relationship came to an end, while I was in it I was really happy. I was very much in love. At the time, it wasn’t the kind of thing where everyone told me I was an idiot for being with him, or where I obviously knew I was settling but couldn’t make myself leave. It was a good, real thing that I very much believed in, fought hard for and was committed to no matter what.
But even still, I remember so clearly this feeling- this fear that started to overcome me. I wondered if I would ever try living in Europe like I always said I wanted to. If I would travel to the countless places that I wanted to see. If my life would be the series of big, beautiful adventures like I wanted it to be. I felt so anxious and far away from it all as I laid in bed- my anxious heart going crazy inside my still body.
What I don’t remember is how I managed to suppress the panic that I began to feel that day. I don’t know how the memory buried itself deep inside of me for several months before things ended and even longer after we had split. I'm assuming I shrugged it off, telling myself I was being dramatic and convinced myself I was living a plenty full life. But what I do know is that what I felt in Cinque Terre is exactly what I was desperately longing for that day as I laid in bed.
Cinque Terre made me feel completely alive. The energy in the streets was buzzing with excitement. Everything from the buildings to the people were bright and full of life. Everything around me was fascinating and delicious and full of wonder. It was uncharted territory and “pinch me- I must be dreaming”. It was right where I knew I was supposed to be.
Please know that this isn’t a soliloquy about how happy I am to finally be free from such a terrible relationship. Because that’s not how it ended. Like I said- I was very happy. And regardless of it's disappointing ending or continual aftermath, my intention here isn’t to trash talk it. Because as much pain as it brought me, it also brought me a lot of valuable lessons that I’ll carry with me. And sure, sometimes I still believe things could have been different or struggle with how everything ended or wonder why I am where I am now. But my hope in sharing this story is simply to reiterate that while we don’t always get to chose what happens to us, we do get to choose how we respond. And so I’m going to keep leaning into these dreams that are on my heart and stuff my life full of all the wonder that God intended for it to have. I'm going to choose to remember that God's plans are always better than the ones I have in mind. And I'm going to choose to be the fullest version of myself possible- not holding anything back.
I hope that wherever you are in life, you’ll choose the same. I hope that if you feel that tug, or hear those voices that you don’t shut them out. Because you weren't meant to run and hide from who you really are and what’s deep in your heart. You were meant to embrace it and chase after it unapologetically.
As cheesy as it may sound, that day in Cinque Terre reminded me that life can be as bright and radiant and beautiful and colorful as everything that I saw around me. That the road ahead can be exciting even when it's unknown if we do more of the things that we were designed to do.
To put the cherry on top of the day, two backpackers sat next to me on the train as I was leaving Monterosso and headed towards Levanto. They stared at the map in their hands for a few minutes before one of them looked up at me. “We have no idea where we are right now” he laughed. “But who knew getting lost could be this damn beautiful?"
I’m learning that God will often use our disappointments to give us something that’s better than our dreams. Sometimes he takes away our happiness so he can give us exuberant joy that radiates from the inside out. And when we get so stuck on something that's good, we shortchange both God and ourselves from letting him do the absolute best in our lives.
My life looks so different right now than I ever thought it would, but God hasn’t stopped showing up. He hasn’t stopped blessing me. And I know that there’s only more where this came from.
Adventure is out there. But you won’t find it curled up in the arms of what’s comfortable. You have to get out of bed. You have to get lost in those uncharted places, and sometimes they're really scary. You might even have to lose something you think is incredibly good. But take heart and know that what you'll find is greater than anything you could have ever dreamed up on your own. Because God created you for an extraordinary life. And He doesn’t want to give you even the tiniest sliver less than that.