The joys of a heartbreak

Valentina Gomes dos Santos guides us through the positivity of having your heart broken

I am hopeless romantic. I genuinely have no shame on putting this out there from the start, because even though I like to portrait myself as a tough and rational woman, just by browsing through my Spotify playlists you will be 100% sure I am not.

Throughout my 20 years of existence I have had countless heartbreaks, and this is because I tend to like a lot of people a lot. Most of these came from unrequited love, either completely platonic just like when I was 11 years old and my celebrity crush started dating some hot Australian model, or, the ones that hurt the most, when I liked someone – waaaaay – more than they liked me back. Expecting too much, creating scenarios and awaiting for reciprocity have been part of my life ever since I can remember. I even like to believe I am a PhD on having my heart broken. And although going through a heartbreak is obviously not the optimal situation, it is nothing to pity either.

I remember when I had my first real heartbreak: I was 11 and the guy I liked in school started dating one of my closest friends. I was so out of my mind to the point I hacked her email account and sent out an email pretending to be her to all our friends – including myself – saying bad things individually to each one of them. For some reason I thought this would make him breakup with her and come straight to my arms. But after having my parents almost facing legal prosecution, I realised that hacking someone’s email was definitely not the best way to deal with the fact the tall and skinny 11 year-old I was into didn’t like me back. About 2 years after that, another heartbreak came into place. Same story, other people, no email accounts hacked this time, but I checked into the hospital emergency room instead. Nothing serious, just a little extra dose of drama added to the fact that I wasn’t being liked back. Which was enough to make me miss two days of school and leave everyone thinking my heart was lit-er-al-ly broken this time.

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After all these disastrous events, I decided it would be best if I just pretended I didn’t feel anything. If I don’t like anyone, then no one can break my heart, right? No, sweetie, very wrong. Many times I fooled myself into believing I would be better off if I didn’t feel, if I didn’t get attached, if I was only a carcase. But the emptier I forced myself to be, and the more ruthless I wanted to appear to others, the more I suffered from it. I realised that when I got into a relationship knowing that my boyfriend at the time would leave to the other side of the world in a couple of months. I can’t count how many people told me that by doing that I was signing a heartbreak contract, which in fact I did, but none of these people told me how happy I could be in some weeks just by allowing myself to feel what I wanted to feel.

As I grew up, my maturity and emotional stability – although arguably – also developed to some extent. Growing up didn’t mean having less heartbreaks, but beginning to deal with them in a much more restrained and less dramatic way, while also allowing myself to feel. When I was just  11 years old, I thought I would solve everything by acting irrational. My 15 year-old self, on the other hand, tirelessly pretended there was nothing to be solved at all. But as I became older I realised that if I was going to have my heart broken at least 20 times a year, I should as well get something positive out of it. I decided to embrace whatever was entailed in loving, opening myself and sorrowing. I let myself cry what there was to cry; I became a master on choosing the right Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavour for each break-up; gathered the greatest selection of the saddest rom-coms on Earth (including 500 days of Summer, of course); as well as the best heartbreak albums, to which I know all the lyrics back to back. I allowed myself to feel and be human.

The beauty of a heartbreak lays on the fact that if you are going through it, is because you are able to feel. And feelings should never be a matter of pity or self-consciousness. We are used to being told that feeling too much is a sign of weakness, but I have never witnessed anything stronger than cutting yourself open and letting others inside. Some may say that you should take care of your emotions, but how can you do that if you do not allow them to flourish in the first place? In every heartbreak I experienced I learned something: I learned how to be alone, how to tolerate – and when it is acceptable to not tolerate, how to heal, and how to love myself. This is no Ariana Grande’s “Thank u, next”, basically because I have a better music taste than that, but most importantly, because the only person I am grateful for is myself, for being able, and not even a tiny bit ashamed, of loving.

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