I got my heart broken last week. Badly. Worse than it’s ever been broken in my admittedly short life. I’m not even really sure how I’m writing this, because I’ve spent the week in a fog of tears and panic and anguish and shock. I’ve barely been functional, I’ve barely been coherent. The morning after the break up, when I woke up and remembered what had happened the night before, I cried so hard I think I pulled a muscle in my chest.
I’ve survived the first few days. I’m still breathing, even though sometimes I feel like I’m gasping for air. I’ve left the house, and held conversations, and gotten a bit of work done, even though it takes an enormous amount of energy to force myself to do all those things. I’ve laughed, really laughed, at jokes, and I’ve smiled genuine smiles. The smiles don’t last long, but they do appear on my face, even though it’s puffy from tears and dull from sleeplessness.
Yesterday afternoon I sat on the subway, an upbeat song playing on a loop through my headphones. As I tried to hold back my tears, I looked around the compartment. I looked at the thirty-something black man opposite me, and the Hispanic couple down sitting a few seats along from him. I looked at the brunette in her twenties to my right, and the married couple with a baby girl in a stroller, to my left. And it suddenly occurred to me that almost every person in that compartment had probably, at some point in his or her life, felt exactly what I was feeling. At some point, each and every one of them had felt the simultaneous swelling and shriveling, and the deep, uncontrollable ache that floods into the chest and clouds the mind. Perhaps they had inflicted that heartbreak on other people, too. They had all loved, they had all lost, they had all been through what I’m going through. And then I realized that almost every person in the world had probably felt it, too, and if they hadn’t felt it yet, they almost certainly would in the course of their lives.
Heartbreak is universal. War, poverty and hunger touch altogether too many of us, but they don’t touch us all. Heartbreak – loss, anguish, longing, rejection – touches us all at one point or another. That tiny little girl in the stroller, so innocent and unharmed now, will feel it one day too. Heartbreak, like death and taxes, is inevitable. We all feel love and we all feel loss. It’s what makes us human.
Heartbreak is universal, because love is universal. I, like almost every other member of the human race, have loved. I, like almost every other person who has or will walk this earth, have had my heart broken. It’s this realization that makes me feel alive, even when it feels like I’m dying inside. It makes me feel connected, even when the loneliness and pain threaten to overwhelm me. It makes me feel human.
I’ve always been a believer in the silver lining. And luckily, this week of dark clouds had brought with it quite a few silver linings. I discovered that my father is a hopeless romantic who believes in fighting, hard, for the people who are important to you. I was reminded that my friends are spectacular, generous, wise people who care deeply about me. I confirmed what I’ve always suspected, which is that the beauty industry has indeed been lying to us all this time about “waterproof” mascara. And I served as a living, barely-breathing reminder that even the most outspoken feminists are deeply capable of loving men, stereotypes be damned.
So go out and love, whoever it is that you love. Go out and get your heart broken. And let the pain, even when it feels like too much to bear, remind you of the importance of empathy. Because no matter our differences, we have this thing – this one achingly important thing – in common. We all get our hearts broken. We are all human. We are all connected.