"I’d had no time to stop and identify the blue-grey feeling which had pooled in my feet and my fingertips and the bottom of my stomach"Esmé Kenney

Looking out from the bridge near Queens’ College one evening in April, at the herds of people sat out on the riverbank in front of the Mill pub, I realised that I was heartbroken. I had not noticed before, since I had been moving so quickly through life that I’d had no time to stop and identify the blue-grey feeling which had pooled in my feet and my fingertips and the bottom of my stomach. But when I stood still for a moment and caught up with myself, it was obvious.

“Heartbreak is one of the true universals. It takes many forms, but it is something shared by all of us”

I had been seeing a guy at the end of Lent term. On and off. He was charming and thoughtful, with a straight nose and bright brown eyes which would crinkle up at either side when he smiled. Despite only signing up for a casual arrangement, I found myself overwhelmed by quite how well we got on. I soaked him up like a sponge, absorbing the sparkly exciting parts and the dusty secret parts all at once. I wished I could remain indifferent, be cool and collected and just not care that much, but before long I seemed to have carved out a place for him in my life. Unfortunately, this was a place he wasn’t ready to fill. He had drawn out a different future, one with bright lights and late nights and other girls, one that did not end with just the two of us, loving each other, coming back to each other over and over again. We were on the same page about so many things, but not the one thing that mattered – us – and so, with a long text at 10pm on a Tuesday, as these things so frequently seem to end, he called it off.

This heartbreak, while minor, since we were never together enough for being apart to be something entirely opposite, made living painful. All the tiny things I would not normally think twice about, like buying milk or pumping up the tyres of my bike, hurt a little, knowing that he was doing these things too, but that we were doing them separately. I hated that he had his breakfast cereal in a kitchen I had never been in, and walked to Sainsburys along a route I had not walked. I hated that he spent the day talking to other people, people that were not me, about things that I did not know about, and would not be a part of. Most of all, I hated seeing photos of him on social media, rowing or drinking at the pub or seeing friends at home in London, knowing that I would not get to hear these stories straight from his mouth. I am seeing and liking this photo in the same way that all of his other Instagram followers are, I would think. And yet he has been in my room, not their room. He has kissed me, not them. He has told me things that other people do not know, and yet here I am, the same as everyone else, double-tapping a single square of his life to remind him that I still exist.

“It lives within us, and it shapes who we are”

Heartbreak is one of the true universals. It takes many forms, but it is something shared by all of us. Professional athletes. Journalists. Lawyers. Whichever path we take in life, wherever we go, the one thing that we all do is choose to love other people. Hence, the one thing we all experience is heartbreak, since there is no way of knowing if we will be loved in return. Heartbreak is a feeling, of course, that lasts for days, weeks, months, or even years, but heartbreak also changes us. It lives within us, and it shapes who we are.

In the time since April, I have learnt that heartbreak is an opportunity to put ourselves back together in better ways, ways that make us hardier and more resistant to the strain of life. Heartbreak necessitates transformation, and when breakups are as minor and as constant as they have become in this world of swiping and ghosting, we are forced to change a little all the time. This is exhausting, I admit. It is not a large and serendipitous cycle of endings and beginnings, of devastation and rejuvenation. Instead, it is building a wall by taking one brick off and putting another brick back on. I get up in the morning, on my own, and I rebuild. I wash my face, on my own, and I rebuild. I have three Weetabix and a banana for breakfast and I brush my teeth and I fill my day with work and essay writing and hurrying about, on my own, and I rebuild.


Mountain View

Not Bi Enough?

But with every heartbreak we share with one another, the shame becomes a little less and we become a little more. Vincent Van Gogh once wrote ‘there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people’, which, I think, sums it up well. Love is a creative force. Love that does not succeed is the kind that stretches us most. It makes us bigger and better and stronger. It challenges us. Heartbreak is sad, this will always be true, but the important thing is to remember that greater loves lie ahead of us, and that we are closer to them, more ready for them, because our hearts have been broken before.