A few weeks ago, I was walking through Portland, headphones in. “Bright” by Echosmith came on.

Ugh.

A stinging reminder of a recent breakup, I impulsively ducked my head down to change it. (Why hadn’t I just removed it from this playlist already, for godssake.)

But I stopped myself.

Forcing myself to sit with the discomfort of last season’s love, it played on. It wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. I felt less foolish than I had. Then, just as the song hits the chorus, a thought –

It was never him. It was always me.

That shine, that lightness I felt was mine the whole time. Huh.

The audacity – the obviousness – of it reverberated through me until I shook with laughter. What a funny thing to finally be able to see. Of course it was me.

Even though I learned a lot and enjoyed some measure of happiness as a result of that relationship, the fact was that I would’ve been that happy with or without him. Because that’s who I am when I’m left to my own devices.

But what is an ending if it doesn’t cast shards of glass everywhere, the possibility reflected in glitter and chaos?

Now it’s July, and I’m back to my usual self. Well, somewhat.

I’ve returned to my usual rituals. Food, movement, and the passionate pursuit of whatever I decide is next.

Last week, I took my daughter out for nails and croissants in Portland.

Yesterday, it was all about yoga and the best salad of my life in Los Angeles.

Today, I took myself out for coffee and bread dripping with figs and goat cheese and honey in Santa Monica.

In October, I’ll be savoring every inch of my life in Paris.

The reality is that I’m not quite who I was before. In many ways, I’ve never felt so true.

“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll

I’ve reconnected with dear friends. (I even have one who’s also post-breakup to sing angsty music with.) I’ve made so many new ones. (The ones I couldn’t seem to bring myself to try and meet before.) I’ve finally bought the plane ticket to the place I’ve always wanted to. (The money was never really the problem.)

Things have settled into a new sort of rhythm. I’m beginning to see exactly how open world, my heart, can be.

And I’m not afraid.

The more I look this life in the face, the more I feel in integrity with myself. It’s fascinating, because even as I write this next chapter, I feel the pressure to conform as those who don’t (and perhaps can’t) understand try to fit me nicely into their too-small boxes or write me off entirely. And that’s fine.

Over and over again, I’m finding that regardless of anyone’s approval, I’m okay. Anymore, I’m becoming used to standing out, and I’m coming to accept that it’s just the way things are. Whether or not I try to hide, I manage to be this outlier because I can’t accept being out of alignment with my values for long. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because frankly, I’m not interested in living a life devoid of passion, of being just a touch too careful, of tearing myself up into tiny bits of paper to make myself fit comfortably in the hands of someone else. I cannot handle the idea of eventually become unrecognizable, a mere husk of what I have worked so hard to become. And because I have expanded into my own space, which requires so much space and so very much effort, I am terrifying to the average, entitled man.

I’m intimidating – don’t I want to be more likable?

I’m ambitious – don’t I want things to be easy?

I’m opinionated – don’t I want to be palatable?

The answer is, I’m finding, is becoming much more than the reactionary No caused by a falling out. It’s transforming into an outcry, a stance, something pulsing through me in a way I’m only beginning to understand. I realize now how disinterested I am in being a Nice Girl.

Until I figure it out, I’m going to keep making my own damn dreams come true.