“It’s all a learning experience.”
I used to hate that saying.
Growing up, my father said it a lot. I always cringed inside, since it was almost always used when you envisioned an outcome and it didn’t go the way you planned. I would tell him my “problem” or thing that went wrong and his response never differed: “It’s all a learning experience.” After cringing, I would tell myself he didn’t know what he was talking about.
But boy, was he right. And boy, did I find out that it goes beyond mixing your red and white laundry together, or the repercussions of pulling your sister’s hair.
Breakups suck. We go through what, one, five, a dozen before we find the right person? I don’t know the answer, as I’m still waiting for my number … waiting for Ms. Right to come along, [someone who would also think it’s fun to go out in the middle of a downpour and slow dance, just for the heck of it. I haven’t found that yet.] But as my dad said: “It’s all a learning experience.”
Recently I went through another breakup. Only this one was different: this time I was completely blindsided. We had just spent a beautiful time together in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, we were planning future trips together, we were doing a lot of activities together – we were great together (so I thought). [We hadn’t slow danced in the rain yet, but I thought it was possible]. Inside I told myself, “This is it.” I thought, this is “The One.” So did everyone else around us. They all said how well we fit together, how good we were together.
Then one afternoon, a phone call came. “I’m not emotionally attached to you anymore,” she said. Ouch. I felt like Scooby Doo, confused by the thing I’d just heard. How can you spend so much effort and time with someone, show so much affection, and then tell them you’re no longer attached? What did I do or say that was wrong? What happened?
I never got an answer. I never was told why, or what made her feel that way. But you know what? “It’s all a learning experience.”
Fast forward to three weeks later. It’s Thursday night and a buddy invites me to go out and have a few drinks. Sure, why not? It could be fun. We order and have a seat at the bar. Of course he tells me he wants to talk to women. I cringe. I feel my body and mind start to resist this “going out thing,” and thoughts like “I’m not ready yet,” creep in. I feel uncomfortable all of a sudden.
Then this woman comes over. She’s attractive and has a great smile. She starts talking to me, smiling the whole time. In that moment I interrupt her mid-sentence and say the first words that come to mind: “Your smile is contagious.”
It was. And it wasn’t a pick-up line. It was totally authentic; in the moment, it was the first thing that popped in my brain. I felt myself smiling, her smile making me smile. I felt warmth in my body, the feeling of connection.
We talked for hours that night. She was my type: traveled a lot, held a Master’s in Mathematics at the age of 23, could speak multiple languages, shared the same outlook on life, and was very attractive. Nothing happened; no phone numbers were exchanged, and there was no knocking of boots (we got separated, as it was her friend’s birthday and she was taking care of everyone in the party). But there was a lesson learned: “It’s all a learning experience.”
As I drove home, I thought about her and the great conversation we’d had. I was still smiling because of the connection, the conversations, and that gorgeous smile (I like a woman who smile. Can you tell?). That’s when it hit me.
I had an epiphany: I’m a 28-year-old male who can find someone who is the right fit for me. I control my possible outcomes with women. I’m in control of my relational destiny.
Duh… Why has it taken me this long to figure this out? Why is it that every time I break up with someone, I feel I’m in the wrong or that it was my fault? Why do I need an analytical answer to, “Why?” Then it hit me again: I am no longer the vehicle of my relational destiny – I’m the driver. I can be the person I want to be, find the person I want to be with, and recreate and better my next relationship. Why? Cause it’s all a learning experience. I’m learning.
I have the power. I’m the driver. Even though breakups suck, I can pick myself up again not with the powerless mindset of, “What happened?” but the empowered mindset of ”What am I going to make happen?”
I’m ready to drive to that next experience. I’m ready to take what I’ve learned and create my destiny. It could be anything. I could find anything.
Who knows? I might even find that person who wants to go slow dance in the rain.