Self and the City is a column intended to increase visibility and dialogue surrounding mental health, relationships, harmful stereotypes, and the necessity for self-care and vulnerability. Self and the City will be headlined by Jessa Chargois on a bi-weekly basis. Submissions and guest columnists are welcomed to send work to firstname.lastname@example.org
I believe that sometimes, change is not always felt drastically. Sometimes, a shift eases into your life, slowly guiding you towards an inevitable outcome. Sometimes, despite how hard you try to make something work, the truth lies deep in your heart. Sometimes, change will demand doors to be closed, despite how deeply you want them to stay open. Sometimes, the hardest change is what we all deserve.
Within the last month, I have unpacked my boxed treasures into a cozy nest east of the BQE. I have laughed at the top of my lungs over home cooked meals with my sweet roommates, walked side by side with my loving puppy exploring the neighborly streets of our new zip code, and sang at the top of my lungs dancing across my rooftop, familiar faces illuminated by the glow of the best skyline in the world. As the walls of our apartment soak in precious memories and offer us an optimistic warmth, a noticeable shift in my confidence and self-assurance has resurfaced, reminding me of the woman I wish to be.
I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but I’m afraid the magical ever-present energy of New York City has become a cornerstone of my identity. Which leads me to wonder, did those who fell in love with me while I called elsewhere home, truly know who I am? Do they understand all the facets of what makes me tick? Will they see the same person when I nest within the flickering lights of distant city apartments, the soft glow seeping into my new bedroom, bathing me in an indescribable energy foreign to anywhere else? And if this is true, is this even a problem? What if this version of me is closer to who I want to be versus the aimless and directionless version of myself I drifted into almost exactly one year ago from today? What if someone fell in love with someone I no longer want to be? What if I can’t offer them that version of myself, because she no longer exists?
I have been haunted by these questions, unanswered, echoing throughout my restless mind. Some say I think too hard, but I think those who say that are just intimidated by how well I know myself (don’t ever let someone tell you your emotions are invalid, or that your process is incorrect). So, while it may be easier to ignore a problem and allow it to continue on without being addressed, I have learned from the past; problems unaddressed will inevitably become larger, more ugly, and cruel obstacles that will demand attention despite convenience. In a past life, I would have believed a sub-par love is better than no love. I would have preferred to find comfort in a partner rather than grow out of the discomfort of sleeping alone. Previously, I would have fought to find a way to integrate the affection offered to me into the life we both thought we would share; a love that was born between a woman who I can no longer be and a man who believed in her ability to achieve greater things. Little did we know that once she achieved those aspirations, our relationship would suffer. Little did we know that once she moved back into a city that defined her, their connection shared would become harder to define. Little did we know that once the glaring disconnection was discussed, they would choose to walk away from one another, knowing that what they built was and would forever be special.
Little did I know that the romance born out of darkness, a “quarantine love” if you will, would only survive the quarantine. Little did I know that he would remind me of what she, I, deserve. Little did I know he would always hold a spot in her heart, for loving me enough to let me go.
Change is far from painless. Endings are even harder. Yet, endings bring about beginnings, beginnings that offer their own lessons, opportunities for growth, and chances to fall deeper in love with the truest version of yourself. For years, I have denied myself the chance to chase what I have always known to be true. For years, I have silenced my gut, the little voice in my head that said what I want from my life, who I want to stand by my side, and where I want to find comfort. For far too long, I have tried to be someone I am not; a composed and poised young woman. Truthfully, I am a tornado of chaos, emotions, unfiltered and unapologetic passion, with a side of loud laughter. I yearn for a connection that sees me, a partner that can take one look into my eyes and know what I need. I aspire to immerse myself in a creative craft that allows me to express the indescribable feelings this city inspires, similar to the affection I feel towards this column. I make mistakes. I laugh a little too loud at times; a cackle into the night. I cry a little too hard at movies. I drink a little too much caffeine and red wine. I allow my puppy a little too many treats, get a little too competitive in board games, and get a little too excitable about new opportunities. I sing a little too loud for my tone-deaf pitch, I fake it a little too much before I make it, and I am a bit too ambitious for my own good. In the past, I’ve apologized for my excess. I’ve dampened the version of who I really am for others. If this relationship, my “quarantine love,” and the inevitable, sad, and necessary ending to our romance, has taught me anything, it would be to embrace myself because others can and will love you for all of your quirks.
So, to my “quarantine love,” my “beach boy,” here is your piece. As we said our romantic goodbyes, you whispered with a laugh “You’ll write about me, won’t you?” Turns out, you really did know me, didn’t you? You did love me for me, and I did love you for you. It just turns out our shared affection wasn’t the best part of our connection. The confidence we embodied one another with will stay with me for the rest of my life. You taught me to fight for what I know. Our end wasn’t drastic, it was a shift that eased into our lives, slowly guiding us towards the inevitable outcome. Despite how hard we tried to make it work, we both knew the lessons we had to impart on one another had been taught. The hardest change is what we both deserved, and despite the closed door, I will always remember you as the man who wouldn’t hesitate to stand with me for hours, combing the beaches of the Atlantic for a hint of smooth green sea glass, just to make me smile in the summer sun. I recognize the deep sadness I feel, yet I also recognize the joy I will feel when we can once again hug, reflect, and watch as one another achieves what we each deserve. The door on our romance closed, but I look forward to the day I can watch you walk through the door of a dog park to sit next to me, laughing as my Cowboy, a puppy you helped raise, jumps into your arms once again. I look forward to watching you achieve greatness in a city that we now share, a city that defines me, and reminds us both of what we deserve.
Thank you, for it all.