2022: The Year I Found Freedom — and Myself

I started the year with very different expectations and different sets of circumstances. I didn’t think 2022 would take me in the direction that it did, but looking back on it now, boy, was I glad that it did.

2022 was the year I experienced not one, but two major heartbreaks. The first was at the beginning of the year, and if I’m being honest, I knew it was coming — but it didn’t make it hurt any less. The worst part of it all was not losing the person I was in a relationship with, but the fact that I was now having to navigate life and this city completely on my own. I met this person in my first semester of grad school, only two months after moving into the area. I became enmeshed in his circles and networks in the three years we were together, and while I thought that I had forged those friendships on my own accord, it turns out that they were never really mine.

It hurt for a while. But I also felt liberated. When the tears finally dried, I saw that there was an essence of me that did not leave when the relationship ended, and I saw this time as an opportunity to strengthen all that was there. I asked myself, “Who am I really? And who are the people who saw me as the real me — and not just as so-and-so’s girlfriend?”

And so, like the typical girl-going-through-a-breakup trope, I went on a bit of a quest to find myself. I poured myself into work. I trusted my family and closest friends at their word when they offered support and leaned on them heavily, hosting them every time they offered to come to me (I truly do not know where I would be now without them). I went on many meals and drank more alcohol this year than any other year. I read BrenĂ© Brown. I went on many bike rides. I ate lots of carbs, made several playlists, and let myself go. I gradually got comfortable spending time alone, and after a while, found myself enjoying my own company. And then I decided to commit to something fully just to prove to myself that I can do it, and then I did it. It was then that I finally felt like myself again — and that’s when I decided to give dating a try.

I got on a couple of dating apps, went on a few dates, and eventually had a summer romance with the first person I matched with on the very first dating app that I tried. I didn’t want to admit it to myself at the time, but I put entirely way too much pressure on this relationship to work, probably because I didn’t fully process how much I was actually mourning the comfort of stability and having your “person” that came with a long-term relationship. I was eager to be back in one, eager to just settle down and get married already, and I wanted this to be my end-all-be-all. And I thought I did everything right. But looking back, I was far too caught up in the idea of this person, of us, that I ignored how I felt while I was with this person — which was mostly anxiety — and other things that point to incompatibility. He broke things off, and while it was amicable, again, it didn’t make it hurt any less. (Not to mention the hurt on my pride from being broken up with… ouch.)

But this time around, I was already cultivating a life with purpose and intention. I had decided from the first go-around that I was going to prioritize myself above all. I was pouring too much of myself into another person and the relationship, and that was why I felt that I had lost myself when it ended. And I never want to feel this way again. So I armored myself with the protection of self-assurance that I was going to be okay no matter what life throws at me, because I had already spent time rebuilding myself and my life. And in a way, I guess a silver lining to going through this a second time is that I already had my “breakup toolkit” at the ready.

Once again, this loss gave space for even more life. I had many opportunities to travel in the latter half of the year, both for work and for pleasure. I visited my brother in LA and spent some much-needed, much-healing quality time with him. I traveled to Indonesia to visit the rest of my family, with a nice solo-trip layover in Istanbul. I went to Aspen for professional development, where I learned so much and made the most incredible, lifelong friends who are all in the same career field as me. I also traveled to Malaysia for work — an enriching experience that strengthened my conviction that I am on the right career path, and that maybe, just maybe, I might be good at my job, after all.

In the fall/winter, I celebrated many dear friends’ birthdays as well as my own. This year’s birthday was a really special one because it was the first birthday I celebrated in DC as myself, with friends who have always been there for me all along; who see, love, and accept me as I am (and as I do them).

If 2022 has taught me anything, it’s a reminder of the first law of thermodynamics: energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. All that energy that I thought was “lost” was never really lost; it manifested into greater, better things. And more than anything, the space that was left behind provided me with the freedom to be myself fully.

I am always and forever a work in progress, but where I am now, I think I am finally starting to feel content with myself, flaws and all. In the past, I thought I needed to be perfect in order to be worthy of love and all other good things in life. But what two heartbreaks taught me this year is that I was — and I am — worthy all along. And I emerge victorious on the other side not because of all that I have overcome, but because of all that I am.

2023, I embrace you with wide eyes and open arms. The rest is still unwritten…

This entry was posted in: Musings