I know, I know. You should never make a decision based on a boy. But in my defense, I did it to put some much needed distance between us. My ex and I were high school sweethearts, the power couple of the track team, and as far as we both knew, on the path towards graduating from the same elite private college and building a future together. And then I broke up with him — over and over and over again. We were hot and cold, on and off for months, and I still can’t offer a reason behind my admittedly emotionally abusive choice to continuously threaten to leave him and saying that we’d be better off apart, when I knew I didn’t mean it.
Honestly, I was in a bad place. When I realized I should stop, you know, breaking up with him, it was too late. He was done with me, and I was devastated. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if that had been the end of it, if we’d really just let go of one another, but it’s a useless thing to think about because it definitely was not the end of what would grow into the most emotionally draining and destructive back and forth.
He stayed behind at the state school, and I left for a liberal arts college. We severed contact for maybe a month before caving and talking to one another. He would FaceTime me in the middle of the day, and we’d end up talking and laughing all day, then he’d ignore me for weeks. I’d wake up to drunk voicemails from him and question if we should just get back together after all. We’d both hook up with other people yet end up calling each other the next night and we’d even talk about it, in detail. He even kept of a photo of us from prom hanging over his bed, and I never knew how to feel about knowing he was bringing new girls back there and sleeping with them, right under our photo. We always steered away from the topic of getting back together until one night I called him and asked if he knew what he wanted because I couldn’t keep waiting around in this weird limbo state. His hesitation was my answer and I hung up the phone, more confused and stuck on him than ever.
That’s when I made the decision to study abroad. At this point, I’d been putting off my dream of studying abroad in Europe for two years because I hadn’t wanted to leave him behind. I was terrified of losing him until I realized I’d lost him a long time ago. I left that next semester and I sampled cities like I was ordering half-apps at Applebees on a Friday night. It was incredible to travel all over Europe and be constantly trying new things. It allowed me to forget about the past and experience the present for all its beautiful, European glory.
But I have to admit: it was weird at first, being away. I’d spent so much of my energy and time focused on trying to understand and justify a toxic relationship that I really had lost touch with how good life could be. In Europe, I had no time to think about him because I was too busy surrounding myself with new experiences and new cities and new people.
I did the whole Eat Pray Love thing: treating myself to unbelievable portions of delicious pasta, downing glasses of wine with new friends, and taking the time to just let it all go. I tried schnitzel in Berlin, and got high in Amsterdam. I rode a gondola in Venice with a sorority sister who’s become my best friend, and I went cliff diving in Santorini. I even went all the way to Iceland one weekend and spent an entire day swimming in a volcanic spring. It was incredible.
Traveling to find yourself is easily one of the cheesiest cliches out there, but there really is something indescribable about experiencing firsthand just how freaking big the world is. I still found my thoughts wandering back to him and wondering what he was up to, if he was happy, and there were a lot of nights I felt like screaming because there still hadn’t been a day I didn’t think of him. Living in Europe for a semester wasn’t a miraculous fix to helping me move on from my ex, but it reminded me of how much I’ve still got left to do and see (and eat, and Instagram). And sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.
So yes, I studied abroad to get away from my ex, and it was absolutely fucking worth it..