In the Spring of 2014, I fell for her.
She was a foreign exchange student at my school, Santa Barbara City College. She was brilliant, confident, mysterious, and drop dead gorgeous. Tall, blonde, in fantastic shape, and with these piercing, bright blue eyes. I think the best part were wide pupils, deep pupils – they had the power to make a guy feel like he was the only thing that mattered on the planet. It was intoxicating.
She also happened to be from Denmark, and her time in the US was limited. Very limited. Regardless, we began dating.
After dating for a few months, we fell madly in love. The entire time it was happening, we both knew it was a huge mistake – she was leaving soon, we’d be split up, and a long distance relationship was absolutely not an option. Copenhagen, her hometown, is a world away from Santa Barbara.
In the time before she left, we grew closer than I imagined possible, and closer than I intended. On the day we were sitting in the LAX airport together, 20 minutes before her flight, holding each other’s hands and trying to block the pain of separation out of our minds, I told her I loved her for the first time – I couldn’t let her board the plane without her knowing. I loved her too much to keep that truth inside my heart – even if we couldn’t be together, I wouldn’t let her go without telling her exactly how I felt.
She said the same. It was the first time we’d told each other, and at that point, we were pretty much totally screwed. This all happened about 20 minutes before she was to board her flight.
Separating from each other became a whole lot harder.
She flew home. We kept talking, FaceTiming each other every day. It got more and more difficult as the days passed. The entire time, a question asked to me months prior kept bouncing around inside of my head:
“If a doctor told you you’d be dead in 90 seconds, what would you immediately wish you had done?”
I knew exactly what the answer to that question was. If I were to die, I’d have wished I could hold her in my arms, kiss her, and tell her I loved her one last time (in addition to telling the same to my family and friends, of course).
I looked in my savings account, and I had a little over $2k saved. I asked her what she thought about the idea of me flying out to spend some time with her. With her eyes wide, she said, “You should totally do it. You can live with my family and I for a month, and go on vacation with us. We’ll take care of you and everything.”
I called my boss, quit my job, and was on a flight to Copenhagen a week and a half later.
I arrived June 29th, 2013, and stayed until July 31st. I grew close to her wonderful family and friends. We explored Copenhagen and the Spanish Island of Mallorca together. Our love deepened more than I thought possible in such a short span of time. On my deathbed, when I’m visualizing my life’s highlight reel, July of 2014 was easily stand out as one of the best months of my life.
It came to an abrupt end when I had to fly back to California at the end of July.
We agreed to break up. Remember the distance between Copenhagen and Santa Barbara?
The heartbreak was worse than I could possibly imagine, and the feelings of frustration and inadequacy were even worse.
I was powerless to be with someone I loved. No matter how badly I wanted our sweet relationship to survive, it couldn’t, and it wouldn’t. If we were to see each other again, it wouldn’t be for a long, long time. I simply couldn’t afford it. It severely painful for both of us – her heart was broken, and mine was, too. Knowing her heart was broken because we simply couldn’t afford to be with each other made mine break even harder. Hearing her describe her difficult healing process cut me deeply… “If only I could hold her in my arms,” I thought.
I felt powerless and totally inadequate. I had a total lack of control over the situation, and a complete inability to be with the person I loved. Having accepted the situation, she slowly move on with her life, as any person should do, and eventually began speaking with other boys.
I tried not to watch, but I witnessed snippets of the process from afar. A picture here or there. A snapchat. The experience sparked an inferno within me. and I silently grew furiously and indescribably angry…
Angry at no one other than myself.
The anger still exists within me. Anger is a powerful emotion that can be used for enormous productivity and motivation. I took it out in the gym, initially… my workouts after our breakup were among the angriest and most aggressive in my life. Although it helped me blow off steam, it wasn’t enough.
I needed a plan of action. I never wanted to be in a similar situation ever again. I have a tendency to fall for foreign girls, so I needed to make some serious moves.
I knew I needed to begin making money, and I knew I needed to take my passion for photography to the next level in order to be able to do it. I enrolled in Brooks Institute a few months later, one of the best photography schools in the world (and thus began my journey with professional photography to a far higher level). The rest is history.
The experience crystallized a goal, and a non-negotiable standard by which I hold myself to.
Until I can afford to be anywhere in the world at nearly any given moment, I refuse to fall in love again (not an easy task).
This is both a necessary and realistic standard.
I will not subject my heart, nor another girl’s heart, to another breakup of cataclysmic proportions.
So, how do I reach that standard?
By developing a valuable skill-set, attaining a well-paying job, and earning flexibility over one’s own hours and location. Each are necessary components in order to achieve this goal.
So, this is exactly what I’m striving towards. I’m far closer than I imagined I’d be by 21 years old, and I gotta tell you… it feels really, really good. The process has required sacrifice and discipline. The heartbreak was excruciatingly painful, but immensely valuable. I’m grateful for the powerful personal development it catalyzed.
Love is a powerful emotion. Anger? Just as powerful.
Here’s to heartbreak, pain, and the growth that arises as a result of both. What blessings they can be.