The worst breakup was the one that didn’t happen

It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was having a Bumble BFF date with three girls at a wine bar in East Village (if you don’t know what Bumble BFF is, get with the times). One of the girls posed a question to the group: “What was the worst breakup you ever had?”

We went around the group, and everyone had their horror stories. Then, my turn came, and I said awkwardly, that the worst breakups I’d had were probably worse for the other person, because I was a terrible breaker upper and broke up with people by text most of the time. We then started talking about ‘ghosting’, a form of bad dating etiquette that has so commonly been picked up by members of our generation. We talked about all the disappointments that were accompanied by ghosting, and how we were also guilty of it ourselves on occasion, and suddenly, I was reminded of a painful memory.

I had glossed over the “worst breakup I’d ever had”, because at the time, I truthfully couldn’t think of any times I’d had a terrible break up. Then, while we were talking about ghosting, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

The worst breakup I’d ever had wasn’t really a breakup, because it never happened.

Two years ago, when I was in my last year of university and holding on the vestiges of my innocence, I was ambivalently dating on Tinder. Due to a few horror stories, I hadn’t really met anyone in awhile, but out of the blue, I noticed someone that I thought might be worthwhile– let’s call him S. He had model worthy good looks, with one noticeable caveat being that he was two years younger than me. Nevertheless, good looks trumped potential lack of maturity, so I swiped right, and we matched.

Our conversation at first was idle chatter about what we were doing, before we exchanged numbers. S shortly texted me asking if I was free to talk on the phone that night. I replied saying that I was free, but I’d prefer to text. S managed to persuade me to chat over the phone though, and I anticipated his phone call that night with trepidation. That night when he called me though, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of our conversation, and his eloquence and charm.

We ended the phone call after an hour and a half, and he texted me straight after saying, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” We continued to text every day and talk on the phone intermittently for a couple of weeks. I began to like him more and more as we got to know each other better.

After a couple of weeks of texting every day, and weekly phone calls though, I began to think that he only wanted to be virtual friends. Just as I was thinking this though, he asked me if I wanted to meet up in the near future. In my mind, I was saying a resounding yes.

We met up for the first time the following week, and when we met, I liked him even more. Things went well, and we continued going on weekly dates, and talking every day. We always did a lot of walking on the dates, and it felt kind of like that overly talky movie franchise, ‘Before Sunrise’. Around this time, I was still planning to move to Japan after graduating, and every time we went out, S continuously asked me if I was still planning to move. My answer at this time was usually something like, it depends on the circumstances at the time. My real answer was, I’d stay if I was in a significant relationship, but I didn’t want to seem needy or overly interested.

Things went on like that for about a month, dating at a steady pace of about once a week. After the fourth date, I went overseas for a month, and we continued chatting every day while I was away. Despite only having been on four dates so far, I felt like I knew him so well, and I really missed him while I was away. During this time, I also casually asked him if he’d met anyone else from Tinder while I’d been away, and he replied that he’d deleted because he didn’t have enough time to date, and he’d met me. I came back to Sydney a month later, and we met again a couple of days after I got back.

I was glad to see him, but I noticed there was a palpable distance between us that I couldn’t cross. We were discussing plans for the coming weekend, and after first asking me if I was free to come to an event, S then said he thought he’d double booked, and that he’d confirm with me later. I got the feeling then, that there would be an end to all the dates and phone calls, and that it would be soon. He kissed me goodbye that night without lingering, and I felt pitfalls in my stomach all the way home.

He texted me later that night, saying to message him when I got home, and we exchanged cute texts like we usually did, but I couldn’t shake the sinking feeling that it was over. The next day, he texted me saying not to try and take off work on the weekend, because he’d double booked. I texted something back, saying that I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see him. Never before had I come so close to admitting how I felt about him. In response, he sent a “me too”, with a couple of crying face emojis. As expected, our communication dropped off for two days, which previously had never happened before.

I didn’t want to text him first, but after a couple of days, I was dying to hear from him. This resulted in me messaging him on Facebook messenger one night, the lowest ranking in the pillar of communication. I asked him pathetically how his week had been, when really I meant, ‘why haven’t you contacted me for the past couple of days?’ S replied, rattling off all the things that were keeping him busy, and it just seemed like he was making excuses. I obviously knew what he was trying to say to me, but I kept digging for some concrete answer. I replied that my week had been strange, because I hadn’t heard from him, and he gave a non-committal answer saying, “I haven’t really been speaking to anyone”, before again stating all the things that were keeping him so busy.

He then abruptly ended the conversation and said goodnight. It was clear that he was blowing me off. What was unexpected though, was that I actually felt really bad. For the next couple of days, I was kind of heartbroken.

The most painful thing about it to me, was that he hadn’t even deemed me worthy of a breakup text. From other breakups, I’d gotten a clear sense of closure, but I’d never gotten it in this situation, which only made the sting worse.

On “finding your passion”

The expression ‘finding your passion’ is quickly becoming a cliche for Gen Y.  We’re told this so much on the Internet on sites like TED, Mark Manson, Thought Catalog and Elite Daily, as well as as on various other sites and blogs, not to mention in real life. You wonder at how these lucky people found their passions, and why you’ve been so unlucky to be one of the ones that doesn’t have a passion. Well, you’re not the only one.

When I was younger, I struggled a lot because I felt like everyone knew what they wanted to do in life, and I didn’t. I felt like I was on a platform, waiting for a train, while all my friends had boarded theirs and were heading to their destination. I didn’t know when my train was coming. I didn’t even know where I was going, or where I wanted to go, for that matter.

But the real issue was not that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but that I didn’t have the courage to pursue it. Ever since I was able to read, I always, always knew that I just wanted to write books. I loved the act of imagining, creating worlds that were just your own. To do anything artistic though, whether it be music, art, writing, poetry, acting, requires great courage. Not only to put yourself out there, and risk ridicule and the fear of being told you’re not good enough, but also courage to overcome the fear of failure.

I didn’t have that kind of courage, not then, anyway. And so I went in and out of different vocations, thinking this or that might suit me. I tried my hand at several different things; so unrelated you wonder at how I made the vast jump from one to another so quickly: nursing, childcare, tourism. Needless to say, none were the right fit for me.

I wasn’t the only one either. My friends, who had boarded their trains already, were now back at the same station they started from. No one really knew what they wanted to do. I watched my friends go through the same things I did, studying different things, graduating only to work in completely unrelated jobs, going back to study in an entirely different field. And what was it all for? In the name of “finding our passion”? No previous generation has been as lost, as directionless as Gen Y. It’s been said that our generation will change careers up to 6 times (but this number might be ever higher now).

In the back of my mind, I always thought how good life would be if I could just make money from writing novels. No matter what path I went down, that little thought in the back of my mind was always there. But you could just write. Wouldn’t that be perfect? Voices of disapproval were all around though. When I was in kindergarten, I told my grandfather I wanted to be a writer. My grandfather disagreed, he said I would be a doctor. He didn’t hesitate to tell anyone and everyone that fact (the shame of your grandchildren not fulfilling the desires you project onto them). I remembered a conversation shortly after finishing high school, when I mentioned to my brother that I just wanted to write novels for a living, and his response was that writing was not a stable career.

He was not incorrect. I mentioned my brother’s comment at the first writing class I took, taught by Australian author James Roy. James stated that the average Australian author made about “$6000 per year”, and commended me for having the courage to pursue my dreams. But his former statement was an extremely sobering moment. The room, full of professionals, was silent as we thought over our life choices, the unfortunate reality of having a life passion that doesn’t pay well (if anything, at all).

I knew more than anything though, that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate life in a job I hated, and so I decided that I would do whatever it took to make my dream a reality. Life was intolerable doing things I hated, disliked even. Those years where I drifted in and out of studying different things were probably some of the worst of my life. I spent them in a haze, lost and directionless, dreaming, doubting, worrying, wondering. Life improved infinitely when I made a conscious decision to begin slowly and steadily working towards my goals. Not being able to do what you like and want out of courage or fear is an oppressive, disheartening way to live, and it’s one of my deepest regrets that I didn’t begin living my life the way I wanted much earlier. I know now that one of the best, most satisfying things in life is to be able to make money doing the things you love most, and it’s this that I’m working towards, despite being a long, torturous road, undoubtedly filled with many rejection slips.

But for those who haven’t yet found their passions; keep trying. You find out what you like by a system of trial and error. By trying things you don’t like, you realise more about what you’re really capable of, and what you want in life.

And that’s not to say that everyone can, or should find their passions. Not everyone has a career that works out to be a perfect fit for them. Some people find it bearable to work in jobs they dislike, in exchange for the 6 figure lifestyle, and the luxuries that 100 hour work weeks can buy them. There are good and bad parts of every job, and whatever you choose has to be something in which the bad parts are bearable for you.