Just before Christmas 2012, I packed my things up early, booked a plane ticket to Italy, and left my California rental behind—even though I had already paid for two more weeks there.
Why? Because the weeks prior to that had been a whirlwind of anxiety and discomfort, of my hot-headed roommate/landlord telling me that if I wanted to use the space heater he provided, I’d have to pay extra. Of him blaming me for his high electric bill, even though he left lights and electronics on and blaring in every room of the house. Of him telling me that I was such an old maid, being unmarried at 28.
Being in the house with him was an exercise in patience.
And, honestly, I was afraid of him. Of his hot temper and his rude straightforwardness. Of his unkindness. Of his bluster.
And so, two weeks earlier than I’d planned, I left. Even though it cost me big. Even though it was a hassle.
Doing that—leaving despite the inconvenience and the loss of money—was a special kind of triumph. Certainly, the kind that made me feel stressed about money. But also the kind that reminded me that my mental well-being, my self-image, and my joy were absolutely and uncompromisingly worth it. Worth the hassle; worth the financial loss.
And the truth is that a year and a half later, I don’t really remember the financial loss. (I can’t even tell you how much it was.) I don’t remember the hassle. What I remember is the relief of leaving. The joy of stepping off the plane in Italy and having a quiet apartment full of homemade olive oil and local wine all to myself. The triumph of standing up for myself, of taking care of myself even when it wasn’t convenient.
So, this is the lesson, I suppose. That the things that stick with us are the soul-level things, not the money or the trouble. The things that stick with us are our choices, the things that show us who we are and how close we are to who we want to be. At least that’s what sticks with me.
The troubles, they fade. The hassles all but disappear.
But that feeling, the feeling of choosing to love myself no matter what, that’s still here. And still growing stronger as I layer choice upon choice, choosing to take care of myself even when it’s complicated, even when it’s hard.
When my therapist told me I needed to love myself all those years ago, I had no idea what she meant.
Now, I think I’m starting to.