You know how I started my blogging career? By writing about my heartbreaks. This was during the Geocities days where you had to manually write each page’s HTML through Notepad.
You know what would’ve happened had I been lucky with the girls? I wouldn’t have had any reason to share my collection of cringe-rants. And I’ll tell you, my posts were so emo they could’ve fronted for My Chemical Romance.
Do I regret baring my unfiltered thoughts for my high-school friends to make fun of? Perhaps. Could I have used some romance tips from a wiser person? Most definitely.
So let us embark then, on the love advice I’d have given my younger self, had I had a time machine or something.
But first, where am I now?
I’ve never really believed in soulmates, but if they exist, then Len is probably mine.
We’d first met around 2010, I forget the exact year, where we shared a few years together. Then we go our separate ways for another few years, before reuniting in 2016. We’ve been together ever since.
Growing together wasn’t easy, but neither is anything else worth having, and so we now find ourselves with almost a decade’s experience of living together, and I’d like to think that current me is a much more improved version of myself. Because I refuse to believe otherwise.
But I digress. Let’s get on with the list then, shall we?
1. You have to work on yourself first
It’s no secret that I’ve dabbled in pick-up artistry before. My logic was that if I wasn’t getting the girls’ attention, then there must be some secret tactic I’m missing out on.
Seriously. I thought the world was a kung-fu flick, and all I was missing was the ancient manual of the dragon fist. In these movies, all the hero needed was to read a book and they’d be endowed with the holy grail of knowledge—all without needing to train.
If I could go back in time, I’d slap twenty-year-old me upside the head, and I wouldn’t even tell him who I am. Let him think I’m a stranger. Because he’s not going to fight back. Trust me. I know.
Besides that, he wouldn’t even have anything going on for him. No ambition, a dead-end job, a junkie lifestyle, a smoking habit… the list goes on.
And yet there I was, dreaming of success with the women, yet not even making the slightest attempt at leaving loserdom and trying for being at least average.
That’s where I’d start. I’d tell myself to have something to offer before I ask so much of the world.
2. You don’t have to react
Back then, I was so insecure that you could probably guess my password. And you know what comes with that territory? Thinking every comment from my partner was an attack.
It took a while, but I’d finally learn that arguments often aren’t worth the time. Unless it affects our future, there’s no real reason to win or be right.
Who cares if I don’t share her belief in fengshui masters? And why should I feel slighted when she laughs at my driving skills? Oh, but how the younger me could’ve benefitted from a bit of chill.
I was insufferable, to say the least. Every little quip would be met by retaliation. Mention a flaw and I’d launch an assault of my own, something along the lines of: “Well, what about your bloody bad habit?”
I think this stemmed back to the fact that I had nothing going on for myself, so it was easy to take everything so personally. Because when your self-worth is as fragile as a damp cracker, you’re bound to defend it to the death.
But do you know what I’ve gained from being the one with the last word? Nothing. Except maybe a relationship that was worse off than before the argument.
I wish younger me knew that. And so, if I had a time machine, I’d help my old self realise that winning arguments is that last thing I should ever care about in a relationship.
3. You have to be a good roommate
Because when you live together for a while, whatever you can do to be a good roommate is the same as being a good partner.
That means washing the dishes once you’re done. Picking up the chores your partner doesn’t do. Respecting their space. Not leaving your clothes on the floor. Basically don’t be the slob you were when you were single.
You know how writers don’t realise all the other things they have to do—like, gasp, marketing—once they embark on their path to authorhood? Yeah living together is the same.
Tell that to younger me though, because when I’d left the country to stay with a girl I’d met a month prior, I never did any chores. Probably touched a mop once the entire half-year I was there.
I know, I know. I can feel your gasps all the way from here. Please remove your hand from your mouth now. I mean, this post is about learning, right?
So yeah. If I had a time machine, I’d tell my younger self that sweeping and mopping the floor should be done at least weekly. Not bi-annually. And for heaven’s sake, at least wipe down the fan every once in a while.
Relationships used to be just another extra in my life. Or at least that’s how I looked at it. Every time a tiny obstacle popped up, breaking up was the first thing that came to mind.
Oh, you want me to change? How about I leave and save myself all the trouble?
Oh, you want to encourage me to strive for a better future, eh? Well, a real partner would accept me for me!
Selfish. That’s what I was. And it showed. I went into every relationship wondering what was in it for me. I never once chose to be in a relationship simply to offer my best—and that’s because I had nothing to offer.
Now I know that we should strive to give our best, no matter what our partner does. Do I want to be in the relationship? Then commit. If I’m not willing to do that, then I probably am in the wrong relationship.
Give me that time machine, and I’ll tell my younger self to stop thinking about myself for a moment. And how I can do that is by first cultivating something I value in myself. Anything. Seriously. Even the slightest ambition would’ve been a win for lazy ol’ me.
5. You’re going to do stupid things, and that’s fine because you’re going to be a writer, and who knows? One day you might end up—okay I really shouldn’t ramble on in the subheadings
So I’ve told you about me going to live in Singapore with a girl I barely knew, right? Did you know I fell and broke my hand there? And that since we were in the middle of an argument, I had to go to the hospital on my own? At midnight?
Fun story, isn’t it? Didn’t feel so at the time. But hey, ever since I started selling words for a living, I couldn’t get enough of bad experiences. Not that I actively seek them out, mind you, but I get to enjoy the silver lining that I’ll always have a story to tell.
There was also the girlfriend who’d always hung out with her ex the whole time we were together. They’d travel together, and I’d even come home to see them hanging out together. It was one of the weirdest relationships I’d ever had. I stayed for two years.
But hey, ask me about that relationship and I can give you tales that would put Danielle Steel to shame.
Oh, and yeah, the time machine thing. I guess I’ll tell myself to relax, because everything’s going to work out in the end.
Admission fee: Pain
We like to think of pain as something to be avoided. I remember being so fearful of having my heart broken again that I never opened it throughout most of my dating life.
But it’s through the pain where we learn not to take our loved ones for granted, where we start to see the pointlessness of arguments, where we realise that we can indeed survive through things we thought we couldn’t.
So I guess that’s what I’m going to end this piece on: the fact that we either win, or we learn. And when we look at things that way, I guess going through heartbreak after heartbreak ain’t so bad after all.
Time machine or not, I’d advise you to join the newsletter. Not only will you get exclusive content that you won’t find elsewhere on the blog, you’ll also get a guide on how to grow your blog. Do it. Click the button.