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Today is the first of two anniversaries, and the one I thought would be the hardest.

As I’m typing this, I don’t feel what I thought I would be feeling. I expected anger, rage, grief, apathy… But I don’t feel any of these things. I guess it is because I feel like this isn’t an anniversary of what was lost, but what I gained.

1. I gained my voice.

Last year I was soft, I was kind and generous to everyone regardless of whether they deserved it or not. I was obsessed with doing the right thing and protecting everyone else to my own detriment. I was sought after as a listener and a fixer, I was always told how nice I was to everyone. This experience taught me that very few people look out for your own best interests. Some people take advantage, and some people use the best things about you to hurt you. Now that I know this, I am a hard person. I am bitter, and I am a bit resentful. I see right through bullshit and sometimes I hate it but it is something I needed to learn. I know when people are lying to me and I don’t make excuses for anyone. I don’t save, I don’t fix, I don’t rescue. I take care of myself and if no one else has the common sense to protect themselves, then that isn’t my problem. Basically, I’m a bit relentless.

2. I figured out that nothing is forever.

I didn’t really value some things in my life that I had before this happened. It’s funny how sometimes I would define myself in terms of who I knew and how I was arranged in the social fabric of our world. I learned the hard way that when everything falls apart, there is very little that will be left standing of actual worth. When everything else went, I had my own accomplishments (such as my education and my job) and my family. Those two things are what I took for granted before, and after they were the only two things left. That was a wake up call to rearrange my priorities. Formerly, I had put all the time and effort into people that deserted me, and hardly nothing into the things that supported me when I was on my own. Now I set aside time to devote to my family and other things I need to do to be successful.

3. I found out how miserable I was.

I never smiled, I never laughed, I was stressed all the time and panic attacks were commonplace. I was so stressed my health suffered and my doctors had to run tests to see the extent of the damage I’d done to myself. I hated my life. I hated my “friends” that bailed, I hated my job, I hated Luis, and I hated myself. I really just hated everything. But guess whose fault that was? Yup, mine. So I got mad and I changed it. Now, if something makes me unhappy, I get rid of it immediately. If something stresses me out, I don’t do it. If people are difficult and cause me issues, they get thrown out. This goes back to gaining my voice. I got tired of being treated like crap by the people I let into my life. I don’t have the time or the patience anymore for bullshit and I refuse to live a miserable life. What I did was decried as absolutely Spartan. And it was, but I don’t regret it for a second.

Now, my smiles are easy and genuine, and I smile all the time. I laugh, and I mean really laugh. Fake laughter is just sad, so I vow never to do it again. I feel great. I haven’t had hardly any health issues in the last few months (minus my run-ins with dodgy movie theater and Chinese food). My favorite word has become “no” and I use it all the time in situations that make me uncomfortable. And my answers actually mean something now.

4. I realized that I can’t count on anyone else.

I always thought that life was to be approached with a partner and conquered as a team. I figured out that I was definitely wrong about that. This realization made me even more cynical and bitter, but on the other hand it ignited my ambition. If I can’t count on anyone else, I need to do pretty phenomenal all on my own. This realization led me to quit several of my jobs and get the job I have now. I love my job now. It’s fast paced, it requires a lot of compassion, it is challenging, and I’m treated like a queen. No lie, I am absolutely spoiled by my bosses and my managers. And I’m nowhere near done climbing. I want to make a career in this field so I’m testing for my CPO as soon as I legally can so I have certs I can display on my wall. I want to give myself the best chance at an awesome career that I really love, because no one else is going to be there to support me.

That really is the biggest area that has seen improvement. I refuse to wait around for some prince to carry me off into a castle. It doesn’t happen, it isn’t going to happen, and I don’t want it to happen. I’ve made something all on my own. I make my own money, I support myself, and I take care of myself. I don’t want anything to take away from me and from my accomplishments.

5. I do what I want.

It’s really as simple as that. I’m responsible to myself most of all and I found out that I like pushing myself beyond what I ever thought possible. I never used to take risks, but now I do all the time. I travelled to far away places. I put out blind applications. I took crazy financial risks. I went to conferences with people I barely knew. I took chances on new people, new hobbies, new experiences. And I have not been disappointed once. Every choice I’ve made for myself I’ve weighed very carefully and committed to and I haven’t been screwed over. I spend my time how I want to. I buy what I want to. I cook what I want to. I wear what I want to. This is huge because I used to always let other people have their way. Now when I do, it is a conscious choice that I make for myself and I don’t do it all the time.

So this year might have been a lot of things. And for sure it was the hardest year of my life. But it was the best one because it taught me what I really needed to know and it has moved me forward. Do I miss Luis? Of course, and I know I’ll always love him. But I can’t be with someone who doesn’t value me as much as I now value myself. And I’m optimistic about the future. Would I love a relationship? Of course, but only if it were the right one. I’m something special, in a lot of different ways so I need someone pretty amazing to put up with this. We’ll find each other or be brought (back) together one day, but until then I’m going to live my life not planning on having a partner.

Happy anniversary to me! A full year single, coming from the girl who couldn’t make it three months without having a steady boyfriend.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a day planned with my family and I have an Ancient Egyptian funerary chest to recreate. Maybe I’ll make myself something pretty today too.