How to make things okay again


Alex Hanks

Illustration by Alex Hanks

Nich Garza, Staff Writer

Man, you really screwed up this time. You said some shitty things, she called you on it and you said some more shitty things. Now she’s gone and you’re alone again. It happens to the best of us, but even the best men are pretty horrible sometimes. This isn’t about women. It’s about us. Learning how to live after making things so wrong, they could never be okay again.

She left some earrings at your apartment the last time she was there. She never asked for them back, so you kept them in hopes that it might offer her a way back into your life someday. A month from now, she’ll text you something like, “Hey, do you still have my earrings?” to which you’ll reply, “yes, would you like to meet up so I can give them back?” The two of you will drive to a coffee shop to return the lost jewelry and catch up. You’ll both tell yourself not to have any expectations, that the other person has moved on, that you’re just here to chat with an old friend. But you wouldn’t have come if you didn’t still miss her. She wouldn’t have come if she didn’t still miss you.

But that isn’t real. Whether or not the two of you meet again is up to fate, but right now, you know the last thing she wants to see is your face. The last thing she wants to hear is your voice. The last thing she wants to feel is your body in bed next to hers. So stop hoping for things to get better. Hope is the enemy. Hope leads to disappointment. Give up hope. You’re all alone now, with no one to rely on but yourself. Fortunately, when you’re all alone, you can do whatever you want with your life.

So you decide to get your life together. You start going to the gym again, start eating actual meals again. You see your friends, and they tell you she’s a bitch and you can do better. But she’s not a bitch, and you don’t think a better person has ever walked the surface of this planet. You get back into your art, start going outside more, and soon enough, you start to feel okay again. Sometimes you see or hear or taste something that reminds you of her. Something she said once that stuck with you, some quirk of behavior she didn’t like, but you thought was beautiful. And for a second, you’ll remember exactly what it felt like. The long, pointless conversations, the comfortable, silent car rides, the immaculate mess of a person you thought you could love. Maybe you still could. But that’s hope. And hope only hurts. So you keep moving forward. You post more on social media; make sure she sees that you’re fine. No, you’re not fine. You’re better than fine. You’re thriving, entering a new chapter of your life and she has to sit alone and watch you be okay while she’s still recovering from what could’ve been.

Then you see her on Tinder. You only downloaded it to fill the void while you learned how to be alone again. But now she’s on it too, and you can’t stop wondering if she’s doing the same thing or if she really is okay now. Suddenly all that work you did is pointless. You start to unravel; every step you thought you were taking forward only tightened her grip on you. All those posts you made about how happy and detached you are were just a front for her. You wanted her to feel bad. You wanted her to miss you. You hoped and prayed to God that she’d see how well you were doing and come back on her own, even if you couldn’t admit it to yourself. But you hoped, and now it hurts all over again and you’ve only managed to push her further away. Into the arms of someone who could treat her better than you could ever hope to. Into a period of self-reflection and growth culminating in the realization that she never needed some jerk like you around. Before you know it, she’s alright again.

A few months have passed now. You don’t really think of her anymore, and when you do, your memories are tinged with nostalgia, not pain. You still miss her, but only in the way you miss every other part of your life that already came and went. You miss her like you miss chasing ice cream trucks as a kid. Like you miss that junior high teacher who made you feel like you could do anything. Like you miss that building in your hometown that got torn down to make room for more parking lots. She was just something that happened to you; you were something that happened to her. You wonder how she’s doing now. If she’s okay like you are, or still holding onto the past. You realize she’s probably fine, and you’re the one that needs to move the hell on already.

Then you meet Her. She’s funny, or sweet, or mean or insane. But she’s not like anyone you’ve ever met before, and you like that. Maybe she calls you on the nonsense you spew and humbles you. Maybe she likes hearing your obsessive ramblings and makes you feel like a king. But she’s not like any other girl you’ve been with, and you start to remember what falling in love feels like again. You start hoping again. You hope you can be with her, that she doesn’t let you down, that you’ve grown enough that you won’t let her down. But you’ll still get hurt eventually. Pain goes hand-in-hand with hope, and as that hope grows, you grow. You start to feel okay again-for real this time. Because as much as it hurts to give yourself to this person, to let yourself be seen, to nurture something you truly care about—it’s the only thing that makes life worth living.

No man is an island. Try as you might to build yourself up as a flawless castle with no need for outside help, there will always be someone new waiting to tear down your walls and rip you apart at your core. Another human seemingly crafted by angels to be the perfect match for you. To them, you’ll seem like a gift from God himself. The secret to feeling okay again is that you never feel okay again. As long as you’re alive, you’ll be alone, and as long as you’re alone, you’ll keep opening your heart up to pain and sorrow. But you get used to it. You stop trying to build walls, and you just build. You stop trying to move “forward,” away from your past relationships, your past mistakes and you just start moving. Living hurts. Loving hurts. Being loved might be the worst one of all. But walls and progress and achievements are all temporary. If you don’t have hope, and if you don’t have love, you don’t really have anything at all.