When I think about where I was in my life last spring, I cringe. Sometimes I still wake up in the morning angry and hurt about it. Sometimes I could be going about my day, and something will remind me of those awful comments leading up to bitter events, and no matter who I was with, I would shake my fist and say, “It’s like that one time I got into a fight with—” or “Remember what he said to me? I still can’t believe it,” and I’d get that gentle “Megan, I know” from whichever poor soul happened to be in my vicinity.
Then I’d sigh that deep sigh and say, Sorry, you’re right, but the next thing I knew, months had passed, and I was still shaking my fist at the thought of it.
Looking back, it is hard to believe a year has passed, that I have spent over 360 days living with those memories, thinking about them more often than I’d like to admit. Last spring, I truly lost so many things, so many people, all at once, all within weeks, and back then, when I wasn’t crying first thing in the morning (to get it over with), I was laughing, thinking, Man, this is gonna be so funny someday.
It’s got to be.
Around this time last year, I found myself in a bar out of state sitting on a high stool opposite some coworkers when I knew for sure I was going to quit my day job. I had been sitting on the idea for many weeks, but up until that moment, I wasn’t completely certain. I had been going through so much in my life at that time, including all these different problems with all kinds of relationships in my life, and I was settling on the idea of giving up, hiding away, taking a break. Plus, I didn’t want anything to get in the way of my magazine job anymore, and wanted nothing more than to just focus on that each day and not a million other things, too.
While I fantasized about how exactly I was going to quit, one of the men I was with, a guy who could read me better than most people who have known me my whole life, turned to me and said, “You want cranberry with a splash of Malibu or the other way around?” and winked, I thought I couldn’t do it, couldn’t quit this job and leave this one good, smiling person behind. But then I remembered how much I dreaded waking up each morning, how angry I was becoming about everything, and knew I couldn’t put on a face much longer.
Besides, I had already said goodbye to so many people I cared about over the past year, so what’s one more?
I think what I was most worried about—besides losing money, of course—was becoming a quitter. My whole life I had never given up on anything; when times were tough, I powered through, or put myself through the shredder. I came out in pieces I had to put back together. But that job, and other circumstances beyond my control, had made me so defeated, so exhausted; I just wanted to stop. So I wrote up my resignation letter and slid it across the table where my boss sat. What bothered me most was how surprised he was.
One afternoon shortly afterward, my self-esteem was at such a low point that I was literally sitting on my boyfriend’s living room floor, sobbing into my hands. My eyes were puffy and red, and my hair, wet with tears, started to curl.
“I don’t want to quit,” I kept saying as he smoothed my hair. “That isn’t me. I’m not a quitter.”
“Well, you are now,” he said, with a small laugh in his voice.
Something about the way he said that, with that grin of his, made me stop crying. It was like something clicked inside me. I was always afraid of people calling me a quitter, but was it such a bad thing after all? Wasn’t it smarter to get out before you got hurt, or to know your limits before you crash and burn? After he said that, I looked at him through blurry eyes, and then erupted into laughter. Because he was right: technically, I was a quitter now, and thank god I was done.
After quitting my job, maybe it was a good idea for me to finally quit my idealistic expectations of friendship, too.
While I myself had turned into a quitter, a piece of me was still surprised when other people in my life turned into quitters, too. Some people just up and left, or didn’t return my texts anymore. People started leaving their jobs too, or moved states away, quitting one thing and moving on to the next. I stared vacantly at my phone screen with the Facebook app open—the place where I discovered so many people were leaving.
But then one day I found myself in the passenger seat of my friend’s car—someone I considered a true friend at the time, one of the few people I could comfortably be myself around, someone I felt so lucky to have in my life. He considered me at times when nobody else did, and put on Coldplay songs when I was around because he knew I loved them. So you can imagine how I felt when he, too, decided to quit on our friendship, when he told me it might be easier for him if we weren’t friends at all.
It’s true that many different things and people can break your heart; it doesn’t have to be a significant other. A lot of things broke my heart last year, but hearing those words had to be among the worst. It seemed like nothing was working for me, like everything was coming to a bitter end, like all spring, I was forced to say goodbye to many people I cared about, many people I was going to miss, and now him, too. I looked down at the sad, melting cup of ice cream he had bought me, and for a brief moment thought that maybe he was right. After quitting my job, maybe it was a good idea for me to finally quit my idealistic expectations of friendship, too.
When June ended and summer crept near, I was sure the worst was over. I had gotten used to having no alarm wake me in the morning; I got up when the sun did, slowly rolled out of bed, had breakfast in my PJs in my backyard with my dog. Then I’d sit at my iMac with a hot cup of tea and transform into the Chief Editor that I was all along, thinking fondly of my little army of writers who were, most likely, churning away content just like me.
There was no more bus, no more men bothering me, reaching for me, on the sidewalk; no more strangers telling me Hey baby, you should smile more. There was no more tiptoeing around the office, no more arguments I would lose only because of rank and not reason, no more saying Good morning when all I wanted to say was Leave me alone.
But there was also no more buying coffee for the security guard, whose warm smile and kindness alone made me do it again and again; no more grabbing lunch with my friend, who always made me feel like he was so happy to have my attention for those 30 minutes. There was no more accidentally bumping into old friends, old bosses—no more hiding out in other people’s offices.
Soon, no one asked me, How was your weekend? or Did you get the magazine published? anymore; The few people who saw me every day already knew, and the people who didn’t, never asked. So sometimes I would dream about the few good, tiny moments I had while I was there: like how, before a big conference, I helped him greet everyone at the door and direct them upstairs, and he said, We make a great team; and how, when you came to visit after all that time, I showed you the paintings in all the rooms and we looked up at them in comfortable silence, like we were just happy to be standing next to each other again.
Then, months later, when I was feeling lonelier than I felt in a very long time, my old coworker reached out to me and invited me to have lunch and catch up. My eyes lit up when I saw the words on the screen, and I started thinking about everything I wanted to tell her. And when I said, Of course! What would you like? and she said, Well I know how much you love breakfast food, so let’s do that, I was so happy, I started to cry.
After sitting on these memories for over a year, I think the true reason for not writing about it all sooner was because I wasn’t sure what the point would be, or how I could bring it to a close. Even now, I’m still not sure. Who wants to listen to some girl ramble on about the shortcomings of her life without it coming full circle in some way, without it being tied neatly at the end with a bow?
But it took me a while to accept the fact that most of the time, there isn’t closure; sometimes you need more time than months and years to “come full circle,” and sometimes, life’s more like a bumpy road that goes nowhere. And that’s okay. The only thing I can do now is be honest with the people I care about, and with myself, and if that means quitting and giving up on the things that are tearing me down, or telling people I’ll miss you even if I only get silence back, then fine. If I learned anything at all over the years, it’s that being honest with people—both the people you care about and even strangers like some of you readers—will not only inspire honesty back, but get you closer to the things and the people that matter the most, even if you don’t realize it at the time, even when it seems like nothing’s going right.
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Megan Portorreal is a professional writer, editor, and creative in the New York City area. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, writing about her life, and playing video games.