I woke up in a cheerful mood that summer morning. I took a cold shower, ate breakfast, picked up my Chinese textbooks, and headed to class.
As part of our Mandarin program, we are required to attend activities aiming at deepening our understanding of Chinese culture. That Wednesday, students from different classes gathered outside to learn about Chinese shadow puppetry.
Five minutes into the show, I laid eyes on one of the most beautiful girls I have ever seen.
After what felt like an eternal ten-minute locked in a mental battle, pondering whether I should address her, I finally mustered the courage and introduced myself.
My bravery was met with a terse “Hi, bye.” Embarrassed, I left as fast as a horse, so no one notices.
Several days later, by pure serendipity, we got reconnected through a mutual classmate. Since then, we became inseparable. After a long year of friendship and courting, we were dating.
Although neither of us spoke Mandarin fluently, we managed to understand each other and maintained a loving relationship.
We were so in love that we even contemplated getting married because we couldn’t imagine our lives without each other. However, within three and half years of romance, we were no longer a couple. She had broken up with me.
What went wrong? We seemed perfect for each other. Normally, that would just be just a breakup among countless others.
But, in my case, it was different. My ex left me when I was enduring a myriad of other rejections and family-related hurdles.
I had no mental strength to cope with yet another rejection.
These hardships threw me into a severe depression. With my pain growing every day and my zest for life fading, I got to a point where I wanted to end it all.
When we reach the abyss, we have two options. We can stay there, indulging in self-pity and wait till we die; or we can give ourselves a second chance.
I chose the latter. I decided I would face those adversities and get myself out of the rut.
Five years of introspection and learning led me to four key realizations that this split was unavoidable.
Whether I was in denial or completely irrational, I always believed the relationship was infallible.
I can see clearly now that this separation was a blessing in disguise and perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I dubbed it a million-dollar breakup because it allowed me to grow in ways I could never have imagined.
In this article, I am sharing my story and the lessons I learned, hoping to empower you to go and grow through your own challenges, whatever they may be.
That million-dollar breakup liberated me from my egotistical tendencies.
Everything was always about me. I ditched any aspiration my ex had if I didn’t like it. Instead of supporting her, as any normal partner should do, I dismissed her.
I was hurting her and was too self-absorbed to see it. In fact, I would never admit this to myself, much less write about it.
Many times, we are so blinded by our need to prove our self-worth that we undermine our abilities to be satisfied with anything, no matter how much attention we get.
My relentless need to feed my ego made me lose all sense of rationality. Like a junkie, I thrived on my obsessive, baseless thoughts, words, and actions, hurting my ex in the process.
My validation-seeking attitudes were slowly driving her away until she couldn’t take it anymore.
Today, I understand that no relationship can flourish with a self-centered partner with an excessive desire to always be right.
Partners with healthy egos know sometimes giving up on being right is the only way to prevent pointless arguments and hard feelings in order to enjoy each other’s company.
To tame your ego, develop the habit of giving, expecting nothing in return. This is the most effective means of establishing meaningful connections with others.
That million-dollar breakup made it clear to me that it’s healthy to spend time alone sometimes.
Can you relate? Many people go to great lengths to avoid being alone. I don’t know if I suffered from autophobia, but I would experience acute anxiety when my ex-girlfriend wasn’t around.
When she left, reality hit me hard. My only source of safety was cut off. Suddenly, I was on my own.
Her absence compelled me to appreciate solitary times and their value to emotional health, character building, and self-esteem.
It can be challenging at first, but with time and effort, that’s a habit anyone can improve.
When you are comfortable spending time by yourself, you realize, as I did, that there is no such thing as “another half.”
True love happens when every partner embraces and cherishes each other’s individuality. Thus, they can cherish and care for each other without being needy.
Had I espoused that idea then, I wouldn’t have considered suicide when my ex took off. Today, I will still be in pain if my girlfriend leaves, but I have developed the emotional maturity that can help me sustain rejections unshaken.
Through that million-dollar breakup, I learned how to appreciate life and its magic.
We can dream—or regret—all we want, but the present moment is all we have. Therefore, rather than wasting precious time agonizing over our blunders or obsessing over the desired future, we must cherish the little things of everyday life.
This may sound cliché, but this simple truth seems to elude many of us most of the time.
Today, whenever I find myself engulfed in a guilt trip over my actions or my partner’s, I ask myself: Is this really important?
This question is ideal to help refocus our attention on what matters most in life.
That was a million-dollar breakup because it taught me the value of forgiveness.
Feeling hurt and rejected, I found myself swallowed up by self-pity and ceaseless, self-deprecating thoughts.
My bitterness not only made me miserable but also caused me to lose my natural ability to forge any enriching connection with others.
If I was to grow from my despair, I needed to recondition my mind. I needed to learn to let go of my resentment and thoughts of revenge.
Doing away with the heaviness of self-guilt has given me a kind of inner peace that I never experienced before. I wholeheartedly wish everyone could enjoy the transformative power of forgiveness.
Whenever you find yourself consumed by hostility and self-critical thoughts about past mistakes, I recommend you internalize the following quote by Epictetus:
To accuse oneself shows that one’s education has begun. To accuse neither oneself nor others shows that one’s education is complete.
Self-improvement is a never-ending process. I still struggle today, but I am in a much better position than I was before my breakup.
I am fortunate to have started a relationship that’s been blooming for two years now. I cherish, support, and love my girlfriend. And more importantly, I know when to focus on myself and when to let her be.
I strive every day to ensure that intolerance, insecurities, and disrespect won’t be the reason I’m ever going to compose an article about a breakup again.