January 27, 2019

LIEBERMAN | Get Dumped: Become a Better Person

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The Cornell academic calendar, with its first day of classes (and therefore, my first scheduled column) desperately far from the start of the New Year, tested my ability to write about New Year’s resolutions. I’m doing it anyway because I love fresh starts. In 2018, I resolved to Not Get Broken Up With, Not Even Once. I got dumped, on January 21st, by a boy who taught me how to roll cigarettes that I, less officially, have resolved to never smoke. So, the gig was up, and the resolution was broken, but I was surprisingly okay with it. My life was not irreconcilably shattered, neither by the failed resolution nor the failed (very short) relationship.

The “No Breakups” resolution was born out of what exactly would be expected: lots of breakups. Most of them were silly, lots of them were unnecessary and I cried over every one of them. A disclaimer: Maybe I define breakups in a much broader way than most people, and this might lead to the assumption that I’ve dated a lot more people than reality would prove.

Dating is non-negotiably difficult, maybe especially at our age, maybe especially in this time, maybe especially at this place. I have been wanting to write about relationships for a long time, but it feels exceedingly vulnerable, much more so than speaking about politics or sex. This might be a Gen Z thing. I see people posting on their “finstas,” surrounded by hundreds of followers, speaking much more candidly about hookups or Trump than about colossal heartbreak. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing; in fact, I’m kind of proud of the shifting definition of “controversial.”

However, throughout my personal college experience, I was overwhelmed by heartbreak. Grief and loss of every sort stormed into my life in 2015, and they haven’t left yet. These aren’t exactly mainstream college woes. I don’t chat about death or getting dumped over the heavy marble tables at Temple of Zeus, even if these have been, in some ways, defining experiences of my college career. It’s easier to talk about Hideaway, or homework, or happy stories. So, I spent a lot of time keeping my heartbreaks a secret. Every time I was going through a breakup, only my closest circle of friends would know about it.

My parents didn’t know. My co-workers didn’t know. Usually, the internet didn’t know either. I ski-poled my way through what felt like a lifetime’s worth of rejection, both academic and romantic. It was uphill both ways. But, in a way, it feels like I emerged on the other side as a fuller, better person, and I’m ready to keep going. Not because rejections, or heartbreak, or loss is over with. I haven’t reached the “drama quota” because it doesn’t exist. In my first column of this academic year, I wrote about how bad things are always going to happen. Now, in the first column of this calendar year, I still know this to be true, maybe now more than ever. In a way, being heartbroken made me into a better person.

When I broke that New Year’s resolution, almost exactly a year ago, I lost my sense of fear moving forward. I lost my sense that a breakup is a failure. I lost my sense that heartbreak could ever be avoided. Every year, shifting relationship statuses, and rejection, and sad stories are par for the course. And every year, I am one year more experienced in handling them. I am one year stronger and one year wiser. I have loved more, I have been broken up with more and I have become a lot better at both of those things. Breakups aren’t something to avoid at all cost; they don’t have to carry resentment or bleed into the next year. Heartbreaks are always just that: heartbreaking, but viewing them as a springboard into the next stage of your life is certainly easier than viewing them as a spiraling pit to fall into.

It’s funny, since I stopped fearing breakups so much, I actually haven’t gotten broken up with. This might just be a silly coincidence, but I think it has more to do with confidence and courage. Since the broken New Year’s resolution, I have “broken up” with a few people and things in my life that weren’t good for me anymore. In the past, I was too afraid of change to let anything go, but now I’m not. Now I know the survivability of breakups, even if I know the sadness of loss. I believe in being friends with my exes, and I also believe in never talking to some of them again, ever (seriously, ever). I can’t promise that my inexplicable bravery, my willingness to get hurt again or my ambivalence toward breakups will change anyone’s life, but it certainly changed mine.

This year, I made many new resolutions, but one of them is to just keep going. I am going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, welcoming rejection even when it makes me cry, and being proud of myself for all that I’ve been through — all that I’ve emerged from as hopeful as before, even when I’ve been hurt.

Sarah Lieberman is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Blueberries for Sal runs every other Tuesday this semester. She can be reached at slieberman@cornellsun.com.