At 24.41666 years old, I have found myself in my most stable relationship - the kind that feels like home. But to get to this stage in my life, I dida hell a lot of growing from when I entered my first relationship at 16. Those years included various first dates, awkward moments, young love and heartbreak - and I’ve collected quite the arsenal of content to consume to get me through the breakups.
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2016: Relationship #1, duration 4 years, breakup cause: irreconcilable differences
Shameless the TV Show: Words cannot explain how much comfort Shameless bought in those early days of the breakup. The chaotic energy and functional dysfunctionality of the Gallagers and their schemes and misadventures provided much needed laughs and tears. Emmy Rossum, who plays Fiona Gallagher; the oldest sister and caretaker of her other siblings, is a standout star throughout, from the highs, growths and developments, to the crushing trials and tribulations. Not really a spoiler alert (coz surely it’s past the pop culture limitation period), but I cried when she left the series.
Ordering iced tea at cozy coffee shops: I am ashamed to say that my highschool boyfriend was my e v e r y t h i n g. So, I was understandably, c r u s h e d when it ended. My solution to overcoming this feeling I was so quick to believe would never end? Finding purpose. What did I like doing? Writing. What was I going to do? Write a novel. Did I? No but I loved going to Gloria Jeans everyday and ordering an iced tea (lychee and lemon or peach) and writing whatever I could until I had to pee. Good times.
Clubbing for FOMO: Did I ever really like clubbing? Like really? Perhaps it is my COVID-coloured glasses but it just seems like… unhygienic? And like I really don’t enjoybeing groped? 19 year old me was very determined to go clubbing every week AND enjoy it. Worst, vivid clubbing memory? Making out with a guy head to toe in Adidas who wrapped that one Eminem song. Yeah, you know the one.
2017: “Relationship” #1.5, 3 months, breakup cause: blatant assholery
Rupi Kaur Poetry: One of my favorite things about Milk and Honey is the juxtaposition of Kaur’s fierceness with her highly emotive prose and articulation of love, loss and healing. She was undeniably one of the biggest influences in the rise of Instapoetry, which has arguably made poetry so much more accessible universally. I think no matter at what stage you are in love or loss, Kaur’s poetry and prose, often short but sweet, can provide comfort.
Before I fall by Lauren Oliver: It is a rare occasion to read a book that changes the entire trajectory of your existence, down to your DNA. The first time I experienced this phenomenon was when I was 14 and read my mum’s copy of Bryce Courtenay’s April Fools Day because I wanted to read the biggest book I could find. If it weren’t for this book, I wouldn’t have discovered my love of writing. For me, Before I Fall filled me with confidence and comfort in where I was and who I was going to be. It became (and largely still is) a security blanket, that I would read or watch when I needed to remember that things are going to be okay. It is never too late to change or be kind. I love it so much I shamelessly got a replica of the dress made.
Connecting with new friends via Instagram: How did I meet my best friend of five years? I sent her a message on Instagram saying ‘We are meant to be best friends.’ Simple but effective. I connected with another girl from my high school homeroom I’d never spoken to before through our shared love of posting books on Instagram. It might feel daunting to reach out to an internet stranger, but if you know you’ll connect with them, why not give it a try?
2017: “Situationship” # 3, 6 months, breakup cause: emotional exhaustion
Lorde’s Melodrama: Before there was Olivia Rodrigo, there was Lorde. And boy did she remind us how pain and heartbreak can translate into artistic beauty. The sharpness of Green Light cuts differently when you realise that the ballard is about giving yourself permission to move on from an old flame. Perfect Places epitomises the fear that the self-assured identity you derived from your first ever relationship may never return while the sombering Liability reminds us - that in the end, you’ve always got yourself.
Travelling solo: Sometimes, when I get an idea in my head, nothing will stop me achieving it. The same could be said about my determination to go solo travelling and volunteering in Vietnam. Having never travelled solo (and barely overseas), the independence was liberating. I learned the value of my own freedom and company (and used to cry in joy walking to my volunteer placement, daily), the need to master selfies and self-timers, and that despite my experiences in my small town, that people could actually like and be interested in me, for me. Vietnam is so rich in unique culture and history (and delicious food - including egg coffee!), I will never not recommend it as a holiday destination (especially for female-identifying solo travellers.)
Image of me 'living my best life' at a rooftop pool in Vietnam (image taken courtesy of my sister's tripod, thanks Bria)
A positive attitude: My friends at the time will vidily recall that I was determined to have the “best week ever” every week from the breakup to my overseas trip three months away. I certainly made some good memories, from going to a 90’s theme at a church, meeting my friend’s uncle in St Andrews or taking her dogs for a trim, and going to the Christmas lights with my mum after being disinvited to a party (ex’s friends: 1 me: 0), I made a lot of good memories out of random, ‘say yes’ experiences. I also went on a lot of solo beach walks and these were very good for my soul.
Image of the landscape of a solo beach walk I did at Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula
2019: Relationship #2, 1.5 years, breakup cause: traumatising, horrifying overseas trip
Discovering podcasts: Yes, I was late to the podcast party. But once I discovered them, I was obsessed. I binged every episode of Shameless in about two months.
Crying during savasana in group yoga classes: This relationship may have been over in my subconscious long before I was willing to admit it. Consequently, I spent about two months each Monday at yoga convulsively and silently crying during a five minute savasana and completely composing myself before the lights were turned on again. #healthycopingmechanisms
Binge Watching shows selected at random - Roswell New Mexico, Season 1 of Discovery of Witches, Euphoria: For the six months following the conclusion of this relationship, I was a medical insomniac. In these unwanted hours of awakeness I found comfort in going on a streaming website and committing to a show with absolutely no context. I would basically press my face to my laptop and immerse myself in whatever world I’d chosen.
90 Day Fiance: Before the 90 Days: I am only a fan of the niche spin-off show from the 90 Day Fiance franchise Before the 90 Days. Like seriously, don’t bother with any other spin-off, I am not listening. Perhaps it was because I had just left a long distance relationship after a six week long overseas trip but Before the 90 Days was both ridiculously relatable and obtusely obscene. From clear catfishes to genuine love stories, it is certainly not meaningful television but it sure is entertaining.
2019: Club Crush #1, 1 first date, breakup cause: first date
Insta Poetry: Since reading my first Rupi Kaur book, my favourite genre of insta poetry has expanded to the likes of Courtney Peppernell and the Pillow Thoughts collection, and the likes of Michael Faudet and Lang Leav. They are married and live in New Zealand together and write beautiful poetry in a very romantic, writer's beach hut (I made up the beach hut, but please let me live this beautiful fantasy). Faudet often writes more erotic poetry whereas Lang explores the depths of love and loss.
Did my coping mechanisms get better as I went through more heartbreak, awkward hookups and teary breakups? Maybe. But am I glad I had each of these experiences so I could become who I am today? Absolutely.