First, you notice a problem with your vision. In my case, it was the blackboard at school. I returned from summer vacation one year and couldn't read anything on the chalkboard unless I was sitting in the front row. It had never been an issue before, but yet, I wasn't quite sure what the problem was now. I knew what blurry looked like because I had looked through my parents' glasses before. I always imagined that people just woke up one day and everything suddenly looked blurry and it would be perfectly clear to them that they needed glasses. But that's not at all how it happened to me. I went a full year whispering to my classmates to ask what was on the board, getting things wrong because I didn't copy them down right, and not understanding why I couldn't read the board when my classmates could. It was close to the end of the year when a teacher caught the problem and told me that I needed glasses.
What surprised me the most when I learned that I needed glasses was that everything else looked the same to me - I could still see people and trees and cars and buildings perfectly clearly. The world looked nothing like what I thought "blurry" would look like. It couldn't read the blackboard, but everything else was fine.
At least, I thought it was fine.
That first moment that I put my glasses on, I could not believe how bright the world was. Everything around me was suddenly so colorful and sharp and detailed. I could see all the leaves on the trees, and all the petals on the flowers, and individual blades of grass on the lawn. I could make out people's faces from a distance. I just could not believe how bright and colorful the world was, and how much I had been missing all that time.
But I didn't realize that anything was wrong before. I didn't know that I could see all the leaves on the trees and all the stars in the sky. I only noticed that one problem - that I couldn't read the blackboard. For everything else, I had no way to know what I was missing until that moment that I put on my glasses.
That's what happened on this day three years ago, April, 15, 2014. My breakup anniversary. It was a similar kind of illumination. Like the blackboard, I was aware of a few specific problems with our relationship, but it wasn't until we actually broke up that I realized just how different, how much better everything felt without him. The same way I never knew what I was missing when I needed glasses, I never realized just how much I was being held back from being who I truly wanted to be, until the moment that we actually broke up.
Here's one example: One conflict we had was that I did not want kids and he did. (I talked to him about this issue early on in our relationship, but he refused to discuss it with me). I always said that I would never, EVER have children if I did not personally want them just so that I could stay with him. I always said that. But on some subconscious level, I didn't fully believe it. Somewhere deep down, I was actually really scared that I was going to end up having children when I didn't want them. I felt like I had a limited amount of time to do all the things I actually wanted to do, that ending up married with kids was this inevitable path I was stuck on. I kept saying no to that out loud, but on a subconscious level, I didn't fully believe the no. I was in a relationship with someone who wanted something major that I didn't, and I couldn't reconcile that. I used to worry a lot that I was gonna get on a path that was the opposite of where I wanted to be.
But it wasn't until we broke up that I realized just how deeply that fear was affecting me. After we broke up, I felt this strange sense of relief. That fear that I might end up having children I didn't want someday was lifted, and I felt so free. I finally felt secure that I could make that choice, and I didn't realize how much I was missing that security until we broke up.
I got that security in a lot of ways. One of the reasons we were incompatible is that I know exactly what I want and I'm sure of things, and he wanted to be more open to whatever might happen. As soon as we broke up, I actually felt a much stronger sense of security about a lot of things. Not having kids was the main thing. Another thing was that I never want to move far away from home. Again, I wanted to be sure of this before, but being with him was holding me back and making me feel like I had to be open to other possibilities someday, and as soon as we broke up, it was completely under my control again. Even smaller things, like knowing that I never want to go camping - I mean, there's no real reason I have to decide something like that right now, but it's under my control to decide it now. I have the power to say that I never want to do something again in my whole life and actually follow through with it if I want to.
And I know I was held back a lot by college, but he made it worse. He made that being-held-back process go on longer. When I decided to write the validation book just four months after the breakup (which is right after), the idea hit me, and I just sat there thinking, why on earth didn't I think of this before? It was just so blatantly obvious to me that this was what I should doing, I didn't know why it had taken me so long to think of it. And I really believe it's because I was being held back, I believe that as much I talked about stuff on my blog and Facebook, I really was being held back from being my real self the whole time I was in the relationship. And it didn't hit me until we had broken up.
It's been three years, and I still can't get over just how bright and colorful everything is around me.
It was never really about reading the blackboard.