Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Different Happy Ending

One of my favorite movies is 500 Days of Summer, which is about a young man (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who falls in love with the wrong woman (played by Zooey Deschanel). After she breaks up with him, he is heartbroken and goes into a downward spiral, staying in bed all day, eating junk food, walking around outside in his bathrobe, and quitting his job. But in my favorite scene in the movie, he finally gets out of bed and starts taking steps to make his life better. He pursues his dream of becoming an architect by doing research on architecture, sketching buildings, and going on job interviews. Here is the scene below:

Another scene I really like is from the movie Legally Blonde, where Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) is also in love with the wrong person. When she finally realizes that nothing she does will ever be enough to win his love, she sets out to prove that he's wrong about her. She dedicates herself to her studies as a Harvard law student and ends up excelling in her classes. Here is the scene below:

What I like about both movies is that the "happy ending" for both protagonists is not really about finding true love (although they do both meet new people). It's about their work and their passion for it. Their work gives them a new purpose; it gives them something to focus on other than their heartbreak. They find meaning in their lives by dedicating themselves to their work, and they end up redefining themselves as a result.

After what happened with the Model, I spent a lot of time in bed, listening to angry breakup songs from the 90s (You rock, Fiona Apple. You too, Alanis Morissette.) I ate too much junk food and gained weight.

I thought about dating again, but the idea of poring over profiles of guys who stole pictures from fitness models (thank you, Reverse Image Search), lied about their age, or posed with pictures of dead animals they hunted just made me want to climb back into bed, turn on the angry breakup songs, and reach for the ice cream again.

I thought about the happiest moment in my life. It wasn't when I was in the Model's arms. It wasn't when I stood in front of my students in the classroom. It was the time I read a short story I wrote to a bar full of strangers at an open mic night in Tennessee three years ago, and my story made them laugh. Other writers at the open mic came up to me afterwards and complimented me on my writing. I was so scared to read my work in front of other people, but their positive reactions to my writing made me happy.

For the last two years, I've been working on two books, including a memoir, Obsessions of a Workaholic. It's basically a book-length version of this blog. I went through old blog posts and realized that I could turn them into a linear narrative by rewriting them and fleshing them out. I also realized that the posts I wrote about online dating could be turned into a separate memoir about dating.

I wrote in my office at the school where I teach, between classes and appointments with students. I wrote in the coffee shops on campus. I wrote at my desk in my apartment. I filled up several notebooks with my writing, and then I typed out the first draft of Obsessions of a Workaholic into my computer. When I printed it out, it ended up being about 193 single-spaced pages (more than 156,000 words). So obviously, I have a lot of editing to do.

I'm going to spend the summer revising my draft. Then, I'll learn how to write query letters and do research on literary agents. If I can't get an agent, I'll pitch my book to indie publishers who don't require agents. If that doesn't work, I'll self-publish it. I really believe in this book, and I want to put it out there, especially after years of letting my writing pile up in notebooks. (There are literally stacks of notebooks all over my apartment.) I've also written a draft of my online dating memoir, so once I finish the first book, I'll get back to revising the second one.

Despite all the other crap in my life (and in the world in general), writing is the one thing that always makes me feel happy when I do it. I might never become anyone's girlfriend or wife, and even if I do, it won't happen with him. But I think I could make my dream of becoming a published author come true. And that is my own happy ending.

What about you? What does your happy ending look like?

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Relapse, Or, Why I Stopped Blogging

My dogs died. My father had a stroke. And the Model came back.

Last summer, my parents' dogs were put to sleep. I loved those dogs very much. They were old and had several health problems, and my mother constantly complained about caring for them. I flew to my parents' house to say goodbye to the dogs, and I think about them and miss them every day.

Last fall, my father had a stroke. I was unable to fly out to the state where my parents live because of my teaching responsibilities, but my sibling went there. My mother sat by my father's hospital bed and criticized him, blaming him for what happened to him, and then she complained to me on the phone about how he did not want to talk to her.

I have always been angry at my father for not protecting me or my sibling from my mother. He always refuses to admit when he's wrong. He has berated me in front of my classmates and friends. But when I found out he was in the hospital, I was scared.  He is better now, but he is still under a doctor's supervision.

Last spring, I decided to try online dating again. After what happened with the Model, I withdrew into my work. But I finally decided that I was ready to try again, and I signed up for Bumble.

That's how I came across the Model's profile. At first, I thought it might be a fake picture because he told me that many people had stolen his pictures before. Also, I thought he was still living out West, and his profile stated that he was in College Town (Bumble indicates how many miles away each person is from you). But I was curious, so I swiped right.  To my shock, he had already swiped right on my profile because when you and the other person both swipe right, you "match" on the app.

I sent out a brief and cautious message on Bumble, asking if it was really him. He didn't answer, so I figured it really was a fake profile.

But a few days later, I came across another Bumble profile with different pictures of him. I swiped right again, only to find that he had already swiped right on my profile. I sent another brief message, and still no response.

About a month later, he texted me, saying that he wanted to see me. He did not apologize for what he did or explain what happened. I could have blocked him. I could have told him that I'd been hurting for almost a year because of what he did. But I didn't. I went to see him instead.

This is the part where you are probably reacting like this:


And I didn't just see him that night. That summer, any time he wanted to see me, I was there.

I asked him about his girlfriend. "We're not dating anymore," he said, but he didn't look me in the eye when he said it. "She's like my best friend now, but I might support her financially because she doesn't make a lot of money." I thought, I don't make a lot of money either, but my solution to that was to get a second job, not to get some guy to pay my bills and buy me things. There's a word for women like her.

He also mentioned that he had hooked up with other women out West. I wondered if she knew.

A few days after the last time I saw him, I texted him. No answer. I figured out that I could see his profile by simply logging out of Instagram, so I did. That same day that he ignored my message, he posted a video of himself "proposing" to the woman he claimed wasn't his girlfriend. The proposal was fake; it was just part of a comedy sketch. But the way she looked at him was real. So was the way he told her he loved her.

I looked at her profile too. There were no recent pictures of him in more than a year, but there were pictures of not one but eight vacations she'd taken in a year, most likely on his dime, even though at least three of those trips were "girls' trips" with her friends, not him.

I stopped texting him after that, and I didn't hear from him again for months. When his self-published book came out, I texted him and told him that I liked it. We spent the next three months texting each other regularly.

He had moved back to a small town in the Midwest and was focusing on his lucrative Instagram page and writing. But he always had an excuse for why he couldn't come to see me, even though College Town was not far from where he lived. On the other hand, he made several trips to the city where she lived, which was much farther away.

That was what made me finally snap out of it. I realized that he was literally passing me by to go see her. Even if they had been broken up when he and I reconnected the previous summer, they were now back together. I thought, I can't do this anymore.

And so I pulled away from him again, this time for good. I did not try to text him again, and I haven't heard from him in weeks.

That's why I stopped blogging. I couldn't reveal what happened because I felt deeply ashamed for running back to him. And after what happened to my father and the dogs, it was like my whole world was crashing down around me, and I didn't have the energy to write funny blog posts anymore.

Reconnecting with him last summer was a mistake. But it was a mistake that I needed to make. After he broke my heart two years ago, I kept blaming myself for what happened. I was still under the illusion that if I had just done something differently, he would have chosen me instead of her. But after everything that's happened, I know that I was wrong. The fact that he continues to choose her over me makes me realize that what I wanted with him was never going to happen.

I was addicted to him. Being with him was like being on a drug. It felt exciting and intoxicating. But it was never fully satisfying. I was always left wanting more. And I finally realized that for the sake of my own sanity, I had to stop chasing after this guy who had hurt me again and again.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't have feelings for him anymore. But I keep telling myself, I can't do this anymore, and it makes me feel better.