This past week marked the one year anniversary of my first ever break up; I don’t know the exact date, but I can recall it was right after Joan Rivers died because I was a bit more emotional than usual. It’s also important to note that it’s now been a year since I last had “sex”, which is in quotations because I’m one of those awful people who doesn’t consider oral to be sex (so ignorant, I know). It’s even more important to note that I’ve already written an article about my breakup, so if you want to hear the more gory details about my self-loathing click here. This article is about how I feel now, how I’ve changed, and what I’ve learned about myself since then.

When I broke up with my ex, I felt incredibly guilty and ashamed of myself. I felt like I had toyed with his emotions, took his affection without reciprocating a single bit of it, and just told myself I was an incredibly awful person. The feelings that stemmed from that breakup bled into every other romantic endeavor I embarked on, and I continuously found myself in the same situations. I began hooking up with a boy and when he asked if I wanted something more, I told him no, only to continue hooking up with him despite it being quite obvious it was hurting him. When I went on a few dates with a boy I didn’t really connect with I ended up just ignoring him completely instead of telling him how I truly felt. I spoke with guys on Grindr and never followed through, went on dates with guys who I never contacted again, and pretty much became the ultimate fuckboi. Every time I went out with a new guy, or found myself talking to someone, I couldn’t help but think of my ex in the back of my head. I constantly asked myself whether or not breaking up with him was a bad decision, and I routinely stalked him on social media to see what he was up to and stay connected, and I began to wonder if my feelings of guilt were responsible for how I was treating other people.

I messaged my ex back in December, and to my surprise, he responded. The conversation was incredibly brief, about two or three texts, and it was strangely formal, but I thought it was nice that he at least got back to me. Reaching out to him made me realize just how over things truly were, and it forced me to accept that I had hurt him more than I wanted to believe. I had broken up with him out of the blue without trying to fix any issues, and didn’t give him honest answers as to why I wanted to breakup. And then I went ahead and wrote an article about our breakup so I pretty much did the most selfish things a person could probably do.

When I told my friend Grace that I had messaged him she couldn’t believe I had done so. I was surprised to see her so upset with my decision; I believed I had good intentions for reaching out to him, I wanted to check in with him and let him know that despite how we ended that I truly cared for him and that I still thought about him often. She told me that I hadn’t actually reached out to him for those reasons; I reached out to him because I wanted his forgiveness, and while forgiveness is a good thing, I failed to think about how reaching out would affect him. I was expecting him to give me forgiveness when I hadn’t ever truly apologized, and what I discovered then and there was the true reason for why we broke up- I have Generation Y, Lena Dunham manifest destiny type issues I need to deal with.

I’ve learned a lot about myself since the break up. I’ve learned that I have a tendency to withdraw and cut myself off from other people. I’ve learned that I understand empathy on an intellectual level, but that I struggle with producing any in a physical sense. I’ve learned that I am horrifically obsessed with my future and my pursuit of whatever warped American Dream I’ve invented for myself, and I’ve learned that all of that stuff combined makes it difficult to be there for someone in a romantic sense. Throw in my low sex drive and aversion to romance and you can get a clear picture as to why I think I’m better single.

Anyone who says they don’t keep tabs on their ex, for at least the year following their breakup, is a fucking liar. I still occasionally look at my ex’s social media accounts to see what he’s up to and how he’s changed. It’s impossible for me not to! He was my first boyfriend and the first (hopefully not last) person to ever say they loved me. But with each and every stalking, I learn that I know a little bit less about him. I don’t know what classes he’s taking or who he’s still friends with, I don’t know what he’s struggling with on a personal level, and that’s weird. It’s weird knowing someone so well and then not knowing anything at all; it’s weird having someone be so vital to you one day, and then them being gone the next as if it was all some strange dream. Part of me wonders if I should just unfriend him since it appears like we’ll never speak again, the other part of me wants to hold onto his profile so I can feel like what we had actually existed at one point.

It’s been at least six months since I last went on a date. I haven’t entertained any romantic conversations, or led anyone on (to the best of my knowledge), and I feel good about that. I’m glad that I had the relationship I had, but I’m also happy to have learned that I don’t need someone in love with me to be able to like myself. I don’t know when I’ll date again; I’m not against romance, but I’m not looking for it in any way shape or form. And sure, sometimes I feel lonely, but I know the kind of loneliness I occasionally experience is something I’d still have even with a partner. Right now I’m focused on my mental health and questions I have about my sexual orientation; I’m not worried about whether or not people think it’s weird I haven’t had sex in a year, or if they think I’m lying when I say I’m not interested in anyone at the moment. I’m not worried about how my ex is living his life or if he’s found someone who is way better for him than I ever was. Sometimes when bad things like breakups happen, we ask ourselves if we did the right thing or panic about having wasted our time. We ask ourselves, “What was the point of it all?” and I like to think the point is that you learned something about yourself. Often times people think something only mattered if it produced tangible effects, but when it comes to self-growth there’s no such thing as wasted time.