I am not a surfer, but as a writer, I have an undying love for analogies, and one of my friends recently introduced me to an analogy that I feel perfectly encapsulates the experience of going through a heartbreak—something that I am currently going through at 26 years old. For context, my recent breakup was a relationship that was 9 years long, with someone who I’ve known for about half my life. There was no vitriol or bad blood between us. In fact, we had a very steady, healthy relationship. For me, its end was a literal night-and-day surprise—but that’s a blog post for another time. Some day, when it hurts less, I know we will be friends again. Anyway, onto the analogy…
First, it helps to understand what a "breaking wave" is: for lay-people—like myself—it's what we normally think of when someone says "wave," even though “wave” is a general term to describe all types of water currents. A “breaking wave” is that beautiful, crescent-shaped tunnel of water that people surf, which is created by an accelerating undercurrent meeting an obstruction, sending the current upwards, and causing the wave to “break” the surface and crest in that iconic fashion. Typically, advanced surfers can recognize several different types of "breaks" just by looking at them, whether they were caused by a reef, the shoreline, or otherwise.
My friend told me that every surfer has experienced falling off their board while riding a break and getting caught in it. Supposedly, the first time it happens, it's a harrowing experience—you're freaking out trying to surface while being tossed around by the current. Eventually, the break passes, you're able to rise above the waterline, and you can take a breath.
But often, another break is right behind you, which crashes over your head, dragging you under once again, restarting the whole horrific experience.
He says going through heartbreak is a lot like getting stuck in a cycle of breaks. Sometimes you'll have a moment to breathe, and you feel like everything will be okay, then the next wave crests over your head and you feel like you're drowning all over again. Rinse, wash, repeat.
But the thing is, eventually—as long as you keep swimming—the waves will wash you ashore. But you have to keep swimming, and never give up. I’m currently (hah—”currently”) doing my best not drown in my own sorrow and misery. I’m burying myself in the love of my friends and family. I’m trying to do the things that I know I used to enjoy. Most importantly, I’m trying. And I’m trying harder than I’ve ever tried to do anything in my life, before.
I don’t exactly know what I’m doing, and I don’t know if there’s a “right” way to do it, but I know there are a bunch of wrong ways to do it; I’m trying my best to wade away from those. I don’t know if what makes me feel good today will still make me feel good tomorrow, but that’s a problem for tomorrow-Alex.
Today-Alex just has to get there.
So for now, I’m channeling my inner-Dory, and I’m going to just keep swimming.