“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt, maybe
I like to think that I’m the master of my own fate.
It’s just easier to get through life that way. If I can make myself believe that I have the power to decide what happens to me, then I always feel at least a semblance of control even when I’m in over my head. When something goes wrong, I don’t think, “Woe is me.” Instead I think, “Well, I must’ve gotten myself into this. That means I must be able to find a way to get myself out of it, too.”
Maybe it’s true. Or maybe it’s merely a coping mechanism that serves to downplay the fact that I’m but a tiny boat adrift in the vast, indifferent sea of the cosmos. It doesn’t matter. I still like to think that I’m the master of my own fate.
And that’s why I don’t blame you for breaking my heart, Caleb. Or at least not directly.
No, I blame myself for letting you.
It’s not fair to blame you for being the antagonist in a story that I wrote. Who am I to hate you for your actions in Chapter 12 when I could’ve ended the book on page one?
I used to wonder what you were out to gain by wasting so much of my time. But now I wonder why I was willing to lose so much by spending all that time on you.
Maybe I was so stubborn and prideful that I refused to admit to myself that I was making a bad choice. Maybe I was so hopelessly in love that I couldn’t accept it wasn’t going to work out. Maybe my self-esteem was at such a low point that I needed your validation to think that I was worthy of walking the earth.
Maybe I was so fond of thinking myself the master of my own fate, that I refused to believe that I couldn’t change what was happening. It’s a double-edged sword, isn’t it?
In the months after I finally gave up on you- months and months after you’d already given up on me- not a day went by that I didn’t ask myself what I could’ve done differently.
It was a question sometimes asked through sobs, sometimes screamed into a pillow, sometimes whispered wistfully into the clouds overhead, sometimes blurted out unthinkingly into the bottom of a shot glass- asked a thousand different times and a hundred different ways, but always the same question:
What could I have done differently?
I was certain that I made a mistake somewhere along the line, and that mistake was what had ruined everything.
If I’d done something differently, you wouldn’t have ignored me for days on end.
If I’d done something differently, you wouldn’t have refused to call me your girlfriend.
If I’d done something differently, you wouldn’t have hidden my existence from everyone else in your life.
If I’d done something differently, you wouldn’t have started sleeping with someone else.
If I’d done something differently, you wouldn’t have broken my heart so badly.
If I’d done something differently, you wouldn’t have destroyed my spirit, crushed my dreams, and ruined my life.
I asked myself the same question so often that it came as a complete surprise on the day when I finally realized the answer.
What could I have done differently? Nothing.
But from another perspective? Everything.
I used to look back at our relationship and see a long list of offenses you committed. But perhaps what I ought to be seeing is a long list of missed opportunities to extract myself from the situation.
Every time you ignored a text, a phone call, or an email was a time when I could’ve decided to stop trying to contact you.
Every time that you blew off plans with me was a time that I could’ve decided not to ask you to reschedule.
Every time that you insisted we were not “dating” was a time I could’ve decided to stop going on dates with you.
Every time you kissed me and then immediately apologized for sending a mixed message was a time I could’ve decided not to kiss you back.
Every time you lied to me was a time when I could’ve decided to stop believing you.
And that time when I found out there was another girl in the picture? That should’ve been the time when I chose to walk away and never look back.
You hurt me, so badly that until recently it was the worst thing to ever happen to me.
But I let you hurt me. That was my choice.
I’ve spent a long time thinking I was angry at you for the way you treated me. And the whole time, it turns out that I’ve been angry at myself for allowing you to treat me that way.
Being as I’m eight-hundred words and an Eleanor Roosevelt quote into telling you that I don’t blame you and I’m not angry at you, I suppose you’re expecting me to close this letter by telling you that I forgive you for everything.
I’m sorry to disappoint, but it’s going to end with me saying that I forgive myself.
I don’t know if that really constitutes a cathartic ending to this saga, but I’d link to think that it does. I don’t know if making a public declaration of forgiveness is necessarily the best method, but I’d like to think that it is.
I don’t know if I’m really the master of my own fate, but I like to think that I am.