A little more than 10 years ago I made a decision that would unexpectedly set the universe’s plans in motion for me.
If you asked me then, the decision held little importance in the scheme of what I expected from my life. I was a junior in college and needed money, therefore a job.
I answered an ad in Towson University’s student paper for a server. It was nothing great — two shifts a week to start at a local (and popular) crab restaurant.
At the job I met T. He was the owner’s nephew and was working at the restaurant, too. I fell in love with him.
The awful, first love kind of way where you never think you will ever in a million years feel the way you feel about the man you are with.
Only, our relationship wasn’t a good one. T was an alcoholic, 10 years my senior, who despised life. While his self-loathing and misery didn’t rub off on me, it was entirely taken out on me. Our relationship was one of cyclical emotional abuse. It was pints of I-love-you’s with double shots of I-hate-you’s and lots and lots (and lots) of tears. And crazy wicked emotional hangovers.
“Have some dignity,” friends would say. “What about your self-respect? How can you let yourself be treated like this? Do you really hate yourself that much to stay with a guy who is so awful to you.”
My favorite, and the most eye-opening was “You’re pathetic.” But it was the truth, I was pathetic.
There were a myriad of reasons I hung on to him for dear life, but none of them good enough to explain away the pain I let him cause me. I fed off of his kind moments. The ones where our little world seemed perfect. He was my cigarette — no matter how awful I knew he was for me, I couldn’t let him go.
I was with him when I went to Europe the first time. I planned a five-week trip immediately after I graduated college.
“What am I supposed to do?” he asked when I informed him I was going backpacking for a bit.
The question alone shot a pain through my chest. You wait five weeks for me and support me.
The entire time I was there, thoughts of him cheating on me consumed my mind, dulling every moment of beauty. I told everyone I cut my trip a week short because I had enough. Although, everyone knew it was really because I was petrified we wouldn’t stay together because of this trip.
As I flew out of Brussels a week early, tears rolling down my cheeks, I vowed I would do this the right way — filled with confidence and a smile from ear-to-ear. Someday.
After three years of having my heart torn out of my chest more times than I can count, I realized I did not want to live the rest of my life like that. Before I met T I had goals for myself, dreams I wanted to achieve. But, being in his world meant I shrugged off mine.
So, I decided to go after what would fulfill my professional life instead of my personal — becoming a publicist in Las Vegas.
“That place will eat you alive,” T spat at me the last night I ever saw him. “You won’t last.”
Oh yeah? I challenged in my head.
Four months later, I had a job in PR in Sin City.
After a four-year stint in Las Vegas that afforded me experiences I could have only imagined, I decided I had gotten everything out of my time there. I wanted to try something else.
I’m happy to report Las Vegas most definitely did not eat me alive.
It was January 2009 when I moved to Atlanta for a more business-oriented PR job. It wasn’t a fit for me, but I never said a word. I had thought Atlanta would be a more solid place to grow and I hated to admit it wasn’t.
It was September 2009 when I embarked on my “30th Birthday World Tour,” which really only took me to Croatia. The trip had a profound effect on me. It awakened something in me I hadn’t felt in … ever.
When my parents met me at Dulles during my layover back to Atlanta, I informed them my life was going to change. I confessed to them my unhappiness and disappointment I felt towards my job. I announced my refusal to simply sit idly by and watch myself go through motions in life. I had control and I wanted something more.
They pledged their support.
I wanted to make another decision, this time knowingly, that would change my life.
I booked a flight. I gave notice. I moved out of Atlanta into my parent’s house in Maryland.
Here I am.
The night before I embark on this adventure.
I know every single decision you make impacts your fate, and I sure as hell don’t credit T for everything that has brought me to this point. But I am well aware if it weren’t for him, there is a good chance I might not have ended up right here. In this moment. Yellow lab at my feet … tucked into bed … laptop balancing on my legs … backpack at the door … leaving tomorrow night for a seven month (maybe more) journey through Europe and into my soul.
One little decision catapulted my life all of those years ago. There were plenty of times I cursed T for his existence in my life. However, at the end of the day, those years of pain were well worth the beauty and amazing and wonder my life has held every day since then and the awe and excitement facing me tonight.
I am fulfilling the promise I made to myself eight years ago.
So, thanks T. You may have been the worst thing to ever happen to me, but you were also the best.