This weekend, I learned a few unexpected and completely mortifying life lessons. It all stemmed from the fact that I decided to drown my unwanted emotions in tequila. I know that drinking to cope with emotion is unhealthy, but I also know we all make mistakes. Well, unfortunately for me, the mistakes I made this weekend will probably haunt me for a while. Not just because of the humiliation that I feel, but also because of the disappointing things I learned about myself.
Overall, I’ve always thought of myself as being pretty well-rounded. Since I was about five years old, I can remember being told that I’m an old soul, that I’m incredibly mature and that I have a bright future ahead of me. I moved out of my dad’s house when I was 18, and then moved across the country when I was 20. I make good grades, I have an internship that I love and I’m surrounded by an amazing group of family and friends who support me.
I’ve never been hesitant to follow my dreams, and success has always seemed attainable to me. However, my biggest struggle that has plagued me since I turned 16 is my ability to maintain any sort of intimate relationship. I had always thought it was just because I’d been dealt a really shitty hand and that my taste in men was awful. After this weekend, I have come to the disappointing conclusion that a lot of the problem actually lies within myself.
In high school, almost all of my friends experienced some sort of “puppy love-esque” relationship. I was surrounded by romance and cuteness, listening to stories of first kisses and first times. I watched adorable “promposals” and saw countless candid photos of teens in love on my Instagram. At the time, I wasn’t really envious. I actually thought they were all idiots. Maybe my parents’ dysfunctional marriage made me bitter, or maybe I was repressing my jealousy at the lack of affection in my life. Regardless of why, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much.
In the back of my mind, I knew these dramatic and naïve relationships wouldn’t last long after graduation. Then, right before the start of my senior year, I experienced my first real, intimate relationship. It was not cute, it was not romantic, and it was nothing like my friends’. It was damaging, abusive and emotionally traumatic. It was my first and only real encounter with any sort of romantic or sexual feeling. And, after it abruptly ended, it was the only thing I knew.
The two years that followed this relationship were a complete and utter mess. With this newfound heartbreak and my parents’ ongoing divorce, I felt completely out of control. I turned to partying and casual sex, thinking it would make me look less pathetic or weak. If anything, it did the exact opposite. Every relationship that followed was a rollercoaster, going from being extremely great to utterly sorrowful and back around again. I don’t even think I liked the guys that I was spending my time with, but I needed to feel some sort of validation from them.
Even after starting college, the relationships were all distorted and tumultuous. Eventually, being sad felt more comfortable than being happy. In my head, each guy was the same, and I knew that soon enough I would be screwed over and left to feel unworthy. I was dealing with conflicting emotions of frustration, shame and embarrassment. I couldn’t believe that I had let these guys affect me in such a negative way, even to the extent of doubting my own self-worth. Then I got my acceptance letter to UCSB, and I knew I would get a clean slate.
It’s been about nine months since I transferred here. I love it even more than I ever thought I would. However, I naively and blindly assumed that moving far away from the people in my past would mean that the baggage I carry would stay behind as well. A few weeks ago, I met a guy that was unbelievably sweet and goofy. Not really the type of person you’d expect to meet at a frat party. At first, I thought he was totally safe and not someone I would really be that interested in. Then, after getting to know him better, the unsettling realization that I might actually like him set in.
Treat every new person in your life with a clean slate, regardless of who hurt you in the past, try not to let your reaction be an overreaction and stay the hell away from Jose Cuervo.
Long story short, I panicked. I was already so on edge about my own feelings that I sabotaged the entire thing over a minuscule action. I got drunk, made a complete ass of myself, and the only person I can blame is me. I was completely disrespectful and crazy to someone who had given me no reason to act in such a way. Someone who had been nothing but sweet to me. Someone whose company I was really beginning to enjoy.
So here I am again, feeling sorry for myself. Only this time, it’s way worse. Because this time, I have to face the fact that I screwed myself. I screwed myself out of something that had potential to actually be good. I screwed myself out of making a real connection with someone. I screwed myself before even giving him the chance to screw up. If anything good is going to come out of this humiliation and regret, then I guess it’s the fact that I’ll never turn to alcohol for advice.
I’ll never project old relationships onto new ones. I’ll never blame someone for my unhappiness before look at my own actions. And I’ll never again let insecurities from my past drive the decisions that I make in the present. Learning things the hard way is … well … hard. There’s nothing fun about it. But, if this is what I needed in order to grow up, accept responsibility and move forward, then so be it.
However, if you don’t want to end up like me, listening to Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man” on repeat and feeling like a total idiot, then take my advice. Treat every new person in your life with a clean slate, regardless of who hurt you in the past, try not to let your reaction be an overreaction and stay the hell away from Jose Cuervo.
Allie Lebos your rough past won’t keep you from a bright future.