I woke up two hours before my alarm. It happens sometimes, usually when I’ve had too much caffeine the day before, and my body can’t fully relax. Lately though, I’ve been waking up earlier due to a sinking feeling in my chest. An emotional anchor, a grieving.
I put the feelings to one side and began my morning routine of social media hopping. Logging on to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – in that order – to catch up on the world’s events while I’ve been asleep. I only ever spend the briefest amount of time on Facebook where possible, as it has become overrun by memes and clickbait videos I’m not interested in. But that morning, I came across a video that compelled me to stay.
In it, Tracee Ellis Ross stands on stage, in a glorious oversized suit, with only one earring on (as to not mess with the mic but not to lose the look) and says:
I did what enlightened ladies do and I got out my journal. I’m sitting there free writing, maybe conversing with my inner child, and I write down: MY LIFE IS MINE. My life is mine.
Those words stopped me in my tracks and honestly brought so many tears to my eyes. Seems so obvious, but obviously it wasn’t. Because I have NOT been living my life as if it was my own. I mean to a certain extent, yes, but on a deep level, no.
So, if my life is actually mine… then I have to really live it for myself. I have to put myself first and not be looking for permission to do so.
But, when I put myself first, what comes back at me from well-meaning
people—most men, social media, random ladies at the gym, Mike Pence, whoever—they tell me in all sorts of ways that I am being selfish, pushy, aggressive, controlling, relentless, stubborn, a slut, a nag… oh, and my favorite, a ball breaker. Because god forbid a few balls get broken along the way.
I can’t tell you how empowering it was to hear this particular speech. To watch Tracee confidently proclaim that she took life by the horns, that is has meaning because she has accomplished so much, and that doesn’t make her any less of a woman just because she hasn’t been ‘chosen’ or has kids.
You see, I also haven’t been living my life for me. Not to its full extent, anyway. And I realised this when I ended my two-and-a-half-year relationship earlier this month.
Well, it didn’t happen straight away; breaking up isn’t as clean as they make it seem in films. It’s not just one sit-down conversation, then each of you move your separate ways. It may be that way for some, but this situation certainly wasn’t. There were multiple conversations, contemplations, promises to do better, good times, bad times, laughter, tears…
Until there just… wasn’t.
There came a time, a final time, when I realised that this wouldn’t do anymore. That we were both growing in different directions, and at different speeds. And it’s sad, realising that the person you love isn’t on your wavelength anymore. And when everything was finally put to bed, it did feel like I was throwing a large part of my life away. In the days following the split, I would wake up crying, spend nights wide awake with the though of “have I done the right thing?”, wondering if I’ll ever find someone who will love me that much again.
That’s why Tracee’s words, her whole speech, resonated with me so much. Because I know that I’m only 24, and Tracee has lived half a life more than me, and I’ve still got many chances at doing the love and marriage and kids thing. But I felt a wave of relief that my choices have been validated. That I don’t need to stay in a relationship just for the sake of it. That I can step back and think about me, and my career, and my dreams.
No one is saying that you can’t do that with a partner – many have and continue in doing so. But I shouldn’t feel obligated to stay somewhere with someone and have to compromise all that I am. Because, quite frankly, I’m still not where I want to be. Geographically, psychologically, or emotionally. And I won’t be ready to compromise until I check a few boxes first.
MY LIFE IS MINE. • “I’m sitting there free writing… and I write down: My life is mine. Those words stopped me in my tracks and honestly brought so many tears to my eyes. Seems so obvious, but obviously it wasn’t. Because I have NOT been living my life as if it was my own. I mean to a certain extent, yes, but on a deep level, no. So, if my life is actually mine…then I have to really live it for myself. I have to put myself first and not be looking for permission to do so.” • This section of a speech by Tracee Ellis Ross reduced me to tears, at quarter to eight this morning. Because I too haven’t been living my life as if it was my own. From choosing what degree I take, to jobs I’ve applied for, to where I’ve lived, to listening to people I shouldn’t be listening to. And it got to me. A couple of weeks ago, my relationship of two and half years ended. And it was tough, and painful, and messy, and heartbreaking. And while I still grieve for it, I know it was necessary. It was what I needed to do to live my life for me. I just didn’t know it quite yet until Tracee’s words sunk in. Breakups are terrible, no matter what end of it you sit on. However, there will be other people to fall in love with. Other people to factor in, fully commit and devote my life to. But right now is not that time. Right now, I need to live my life for me. Because my life is mine.
I do not regret a single moment of our relationship, and I still care and have a great fondness for my ex. It’s just that sometimes things have an expiry date, and unfortunately, this was ours.
In the lead up to the break up, I couldn’t help but notice that lots of people around me also facing turmoil. That just like the festive season of 2016, when everybody and their aunt seemed to be getting engaged, a year later, people seemed to be re-evaluating their relationships.
Now, I’m not saying that I ended things because I saw so many relationships around me break down. But the blog posts and articles and speeches and Insta stories of those that I admire, talking about their relationships and their heartbreak, did give me the strength to be brave. To really evaluate what I wanted out of my life, and my relationships, and move forward towards a better me.
To end on some more Tracee Ellis Ross wisdom:
The Brave Me reminds me that I am complete just as me. Not in relation to anyone or anything else, just wholly, fully me.
The Brave You gives you the courage to hold your own agency, your own choice, your own desire, your own longings, your own fear, your own grief, your own future. She’s just one aspect of your soul that helps you become your fully embodied and completely integrated real, true self. She’s in you right now, in your journal, in the back of your mind, in your Netflix queue, waiting for your invitation.
So let her out, let her have her glory. This beautiful, powerful part of you is just waiting for your invitation.
As the saying on my necklace – the ones I was wearing in that Insta post – goes; “fate loves the fearless.” And I am choosing to be fearless.
Here are some links to stuff that has helped me through this time:
Bianca Bass’ Heartbreak and Life’s Invitation to Grow.
Amelia Perrin’s When It Doesn’t Go to Plan.