The first CDs I ever owned were Hilary Duff’s Metamorphosis and Ashlee Simpson’s Autobiography. Come Clean is my #1 karaoke choice to this day. While listening to these tracks makes me cringe (much like early 2000s fashion), they are also a great source of comfort. The mix of innocence, self-determination, and belief in new beginnings is a perfect adjunct to childhood nostalgia. These themes still show in modern equivalents like Carly Rae Jepsen’s albums. In her song Boy Problems, she sings “I think I broke up with my boyfriend today and I don’t really care,” and I’m like … gurl. Same.

Okay fine I broke up with him yesterday, not today, but my point still stands. I feel great resonance with that song as I literally had to journal about this on-again-off-again relationship because no one cared about it anymore. Not that I am using this space as that journal, but I do have some final thoughts. (FINE. I am journaling here. notsorryaboutit).

My life seems to be divided into four year academic segments and although I like to think of myself as a strong, independent woman, these segments are bookended by various relationships. Middle school was Tommy, high school was a whole mess, college was Eric, and post-grad has been Alex. Maybe I am more of a serial monogamist than I want to admit. My college relationship had ended when I realized I was not attracted to the man I was asking to move to a new state. Brazen with the insecurity of a young woman who is conditioned to think her value is proportional to her physical appearance, I marched into my new school environment determined to make people love me. I succeeded in falling in love with someone else’s boyfriend. Chaos ensued.

Needless to say, that crashed and burned and I determinedly spent the next year and half on a self-centered quest for self-improvement. I cut my hair, vastly improved my makeup skills, excelled in school, and worked on a million projects. I engaged in all this confident I was doing this for myself. But in honestly looking back, I was really hoping to become so amazing that he’d have to take me back. Isn’t the best revenge living well? Aren’t all Miss Independents just waiting for Prince Charming to return?

In my case, he did, we had fun, and we rediscovered why we broke up in the first place.  I felt so trapped. In the words of true teen angst, was I never going to be free of this relationship? It was a third go around and I still loved him. But I loved me too. Who orchestrated this crazy mess!?! (Yes, aside from me.)

“If you’re gonna go then go”
She said to me on the phone
“So tired of hearin’ all your boy problems
If you’re gonna stay then stay
He’s not gonna change anyway
So tired of hearin’ all your boy problems”

Breaking up with Alex was unsurprisingly similar to the ending of the Eric era. I was sad for a hot second, but the feeling of knowing it was so right was comforting. Soon followed the immense joy. I am free. I am free because I said so. My life is no longer defined by my relationship to a man. It can be defined by my decisions (and the trappings of sexism, racism, governmental policies, and all that other nonsense). So yeah maybe I need to listen to a lot of Hilary Duff and watch teenage strong female leads in Daria and Veronica Mars post-breakup, but those blonds and brunettes are reminding me of the women I aspired to be when I was 15 years old. Daring, witty, sardonic, nonconforming and also prone to mistakes, complex, and human. Sure they all had some men in their lives, but their seasons and albums were not defined by these romantic relationships. They all had their names in the title. ‘Cause seriously, being defined by your relationship to a man is like sOoOo yesterday.

Happy New Year.