I had been with my boyfriend for 8 months. It was a whirlwind of love-crossing borders. I spent the year studying in Germany, and within a month of being there, I found myself very much in love with a German boy.
Imagine the sweetest love story, straight out of a fairy-tale. That is what we had. He was the kind of man that packed me a lunch in a heart-shaped container before secretly slipping it in my bag. Charming, incredibly thoughtful, great hair, beyond smart – need I say more?
Then my year abroad was over.
I was leaving for a month-long trek across Spain, after which I would go directly home.
We never truly talked about how our relationship would end. We were young and carelessly decided that it will end when I leave – a “predetermined expiration date” sort of way. We said goodbye at the airport but never “broke up.”
I guess a part of me still felt obligated to that relationship. I was still technically the “girlfriend” of a German boy. This sense of obligation carried with me as I was embarking on the journey of leaving the past behind and emerging as a “found” soul.
500 miles is a lot of time for a person to do some thinking.
I decided that this pilgrimage will be dedicated to “leaving what doesn’t serve me behind and embracing the new and unknown.” It was a spiritual journey of self-discovery for me. I was becoming a new person, yet a part of me was still the “girlfriend” of a German boy. I couldn’t let that go. I was ready to move on from the relationship but needed a formal breakup to give me a little boost.
But lucky for me, I had already invited him to come trekking with me for a week and he had agreed. I was 2 weeks into my trek at this point, practically a new soul. Or so I thought.
Then my German boyfriend shows up in a small town in Spain to meet me. It was like fairy dust in a rainstorm. We had a strong connection, but I was different. I had moved on. I wanted him to move on. So every day we argued.
I wanted a breakup.
He didn’t see it necessary.
I wanted a close to the chapter.
He wanted it to naturally dwindle.
I needed clarity.
He was okay with ambiguity.
After much convincing, we decided to break up.
“So how do I do this? Do we need to write a contract and sign it?” He is a scientist – a logical mind with scattered emotional thoughts, trying to find order.
“No, we just break up and it’s over. No contracts.”
So the German boy pulled me into a field of flowers outside of a village. We were both crying. Holding hands. Looking into each other’s eyes.
“Thank you for helping me become who I am,” he said.
“I guess this is it. Thank you for a beautiful storm,” I told him.
“Close your eyes and count to 10. When you open them I will be gone.”
I closed my eyes and sobbed to 10. When I opened them, my German boy was gone. He was no longer “my” German boy.
There I was, left in a field of flowers, looking at the back of a German boy walking further and further away from me.
And I felt so free.
I felt like a changed person in that instant. My heart was broken but my spirit finally tasted the sweetness of being reborn. He was the last link I needed to let go on my path of self-discovery. I needed to be completely alone to find myself.
I stood there, allowing my energy to play with sadness and dance with freedom. The two are but the same. Perhaps this was the biggest lesson I needed to learn.
I stood there, allowing my energy to play with the sadness and dance with freedom. The two are but the same. Perhaps this was the biggest lesson I needed to learn.
Sometimes you need to let go of something beautiful to keep moving forward. A break up with the past gives way for the light of the future. It wasn’t the German boy I needed to break up with; it was me who I needed to break up with. Breaking up with my lingering desires of what can no longer be. Leaving behind a perfect circle that didn’t need a future to make it whole. I learned to let go and find beauty in sadness.
As I was walking to the next village where I will lay my head, I passed by two pilgrims looking at a box on the ground. “Hannah? Jannah? Maybe someone left it for her.”
My ears perked up and I walked over to take a look. There, on the ground in the middle of a trail, was a box that had my name on it. The German boy left me a box of snacks for my trek. He even drew a smiley face on it.
My teary eyes turned into a smile, as I munched away at a chocolate bar, knowing that the sweetness came from a new-found balance in my life.
Breaking up was the best decision we made. It was then that I learned to let go of expectations and appreciate him for who he was. Breaking up with him made us come closer. Breaking up with myself made me learn the beauty of letting go.
Perhaps we all need to take a serious look at our relationships with ourselves. Determine the things that are no longer serving us and let them go. Breakups don’t need to be the end to something that has gone sour. A breakup can happen to something perfect and whole. Those are the ones that teach us the circle of life.
Circle of life
Jannah Bowen: Spain, 2018
About the Author
Born into a multinational family, Jannah grew up between two opposite lands – United States and Taiwan. Adventurous and wild blood flows through every vain in her body. From trekking 500 miles across Spain, to backpacking Southeast Asia, Jannah sees traveling as a way to challenge her mind and become a citizen of the world.