An Open Letter to My Ex

Ever since I first began my series of open letters, I knew this day would come. I knew, one day, I would sit down to write this letter.

The last letter. The most difficult letter I’ve probably ever written. And that includes the three or four Dear John letters I’ve written in an attempt to be brave enough to leave you behind for good.

I don’t have to make this public. I don’t have to publish this letter on my blog. I don’t have to give you an additional half an hour of my time. You’ve taken enough of it already. But I’m going to do it anyway. Because your memory is like a ghost. And it’s time I laid you to rest.

You’re going to read this one day. I think that’s why I feel the need to publish it. Because, one day, you’re going to come home. And when you do, someone is going to tell you about this letter. And how the world read it before you ever had the chance. And you’ll read it.

And then I won’t be able to take it back.

Writing this letter forces me to reflect on a time in my life when I was nothing short of the word “broken”. I was fifteen years old. I was vulnerable. I was weak. I was spoiled and bratty and took everything for granted.

But I was very much in love.

And then, you stole something from me.

You stole my childhood. And not the beginning. Not the parts that no one ever really remembers. No. You stole the end of it.

The fall football games. Prom. First dates and first kisses. Summer flings. The false impression that life was without danger or worry. The opportunity to just be a kid, instead of a walking hybrid of part-teacher, part-student, part-mentor, part-recluse. I went from a kid who wore colors to a kid who wore leather jackets. I went from a kid with dreams of being a singer to a young woman with much more serious desires.

You stole my innocence. Was it a perfectly polished trophy at the time? No. But whatever amount of innocence I had left in my life, you took from me. And you did it without even touching me.

You lied to me. Go ahead. Own up to it. You lied to me. You lied to everyone. You lied to your family, your friends. And I bet, at some point in time, you even lied to yourself. Your life, as I knew it, was a lie. You were a lie.

You let me believe that I was fighting a battle worth winning. You let me believe that you were going to come home. You let me believe that you were the victim of some terrible, unspeakable crime.

It took me three and a half years, and some very painful conversations, to come to terms with the fact that the only criminal was you.

We were together for two years before you left. Two years of ups and downs and discovering the best of each other. I was thirteen when I fell; you were sixteen.

You should have known better.

I didn’t.

I didn’t really date in high school.  Not after you left. Every time, it seemed, I took a stab at acting like a normal teenager, you came back to stop me. Like an invisible force-field keeping me from living my life. I had depression. I was suicidal. I was miserable. My entire life collapsed around me in the span of five hours. One minute, you were there. The next, you were gone.

That was January 20th, 2012.

You still aren’t back.

I got through high school with the help of my best friend and my drama teacher. Without them, and the unending patience of a family that just couldn’t understand my unpredictable emotional breakdowns, I wouldn’t be writing this letter.

I thrived. I made it through school. I didn’t let you affect my grades. I didn’t let you destroy who I was. In fact, what you put me through made me stronger. I created this blog. I became a professional writer. I went to New York University, and I still had enough self-worth and self-respect to know when it was time to change course.

But it wasn’t without scars.

I can’t drive down country roads anymore.

I can’t listen to Nickelback.

If I hear Metallica playing, I have to leave.

I don’t know how to talk to one of my longest-lasting friends, because seeing her brings back too many memories of you.

I’m afraid to answer my phone when I don’t know the number, because I’m terrified that it’s going to be you.

I don’t know how to be intimate. In any way, shape, or form. I almost got myself killed in Manhattan because I was so desperate to feel anything but loneliness. And every time I got close to falling, I pulled back.

My best friend, my mentor, and my family kept me alive.

But it took my boyfriend to bring me back to life again.

I never thought I could fall in love again. Not after the hell I endured when I thought I was in love with you. I never thought I could trust someone that way again. I tried. Believe me, I tried. But I gave up on the idea. I decided that no one my age could meet the qualities that I so desperately needed.

Luckily for me, one night changed all of that. And I’m happy to inform you that I did fall in love. For the first time in my life. A real love. One that isn’t based on lies and sick, twisted secrets.

If you’re reading this, I hope it hurts. I hope you feel the pain that I feel every single time I hold onto him so tight that I leave marks on his skin, because I’m certain he’s going to be gone when I wake up. You’ve given me that fear. That cold realization that someone can be gone. That fast. And never come back.

I hope you feel every fight. Every breakdown I have because, even though I’m happy with someone else, there are parts of me that can’t trust someone in the carefree, happy way that I trusted you. He has to spend each and every day convincing me that he’s not going anywhere. He continually has to earn the trust that you got for free.

He has to work ten times harder in our relationship because I’m afraid. Irritable. Untrusting. He has to make up for the mistakes that you made. And he’ll continue to pick up the pieces of the mess that you left behind in 2012.

I’m writing this letter because I spent two years believing in you, even after you left. I spent two years defending you, when I should have had the strength to walk away. It wasn’t until my boyfriend came into my life that I was finally able to say, “This is wrong. And I was wrong.” I haven’t spoken to you in nine months. And that freedom is all I ever could have asked for.

I’m not one to say that women need heroes. Quite frankly, I believe that we all have the power to save ourselves. But he was, and still is, my superman. He gives me strength and confidence and courage every single day to overcome my fears and my insecurities. And he does it, whenever he can, with grace and kindness.

If you want the truth, I didn’t write this letter for you.

I wrote it for the person who deserves me.

Lord knows you didn’t.

-Cassie

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5 Things You Never Knew About Writers

1.) First and foremost, we actually hate writing.

Nothing is worse than waking up and realizing you have a 5,000 word count for the day (sometimes more), 4 papers to edit, 2 outlines to review, and 6 calls to make. The hardest part about being a writer is actually forcing ourselves to sit down and do the work.

It’s not that it’s difficult, or that we’re lazy. It’s not even that we’re spoiled from being able to work at home in our pajamas.

No, it’s out of a deep, existential fear that we’ll sit down and nothing will come. That we’ll just sit there for four hours trying to come up with content, much like I sat trying to come up with something interesting to write in this blog post.

Once the words start flying across the page, we forget about all of that and we write. We exist in our own little world. Until, god forbid, we have to get up and do something else.

Then we have to do it all over again, and that could take anywhere between 2 hours and 6 days. The procrastination is real.

2.) We  LOATHE what we turn in

I could sit down with one paragraph and tweak it for 30 minutes. It still won’t be good enough when the deadline comes.

Writers read their old work and they cringe. I don’t know a single writer who can look back on a piece of work and say, “I wouldn’t change anything about this.”

My first book was horrid, my second book was barely acceptable, the rewrite of my second book was above average, at best. And it never really gets all the way to the top. We’re just not easily satisfied people. Even Stephen King, the god of writing itself, has said that he can’t read his first published books. It’s too difficult to accept that it’s too late to fix them.

Don’t get me wrong. You might read it and think it’s brilliant. But every writer on the planet actually finds their work mediocre. And if they say they don’t, they’re lying. Most of us literally don’t understand why everyone keeps reading our stuff (and paying us for it).

3.) We all work in different ways

Not every writer gets flashes of brilliant ideas. I know I don’t. I’ve experienced that feeling maybe three times in my entire life, and it usually comes along with some careful planning and pacing in my bedroom.

For some of us, the words pour onto the page and we don’t know where they plan on going. I’m not one of those writers. I don’t know any of those writers. In my world, outlines are the only way to keep a plot straightforward and focused in one direction.

Then again, I don’t do most of my writing for fun. I write so I can get paid by a client. I need a little more structure for that then, say, a novelist who can take their time and let the story work itself out.

But the stereotypical, slightly eccentric writer who spends his/her time locked up in a desolate office doesn’t describe all of us. Or really, even half of us.

4.) Most of us can’t focus away from home

I know I’m one of these writers. If I’m not in my house, I can’t work. I could be at my kitchen counter, in my living room, or in my office. But I can’t write a lengthy eBook or article unless I’m completely and totally focused on it. And being in a strange environment makes that hard.

That’s why, when we say we have to work, we can’t just leave and do it anywhere we want. It isn’t quite as flexible as it seems. We can’t sit in a room with our friends and write quietly in the corner. As I said, we’re procrastinators. We will take any excuse to put the writing on hold.

So if I ever say I can stay the night at your house and do my work while I’m there, call me on it. I’m bluffing.

5.) We don’t make crap money. We just don’t have enough work.

I get paid, on average, $10 per 1000 words. Keep in mind that most professional writers make five or ten times that amount, sometimes more. This is just what I make as a freelance writer without a degree.

If I’m focused on absolutely nothing else, I can write 4000 words per hour. That’s about 90 words per minute, plus review and editing time. That means I’m making $40 an hour.

So, if I worked forty hours a week like most adults, I’d be making $1600 a week. The problem is, I don’t have enough work to sustain me for that long. If I wrote that much every week I’d be done with my jobs by Tuesday.

Writers don’t actually make crap money. We just can’t take on enough clients and projects to get substantial hours every week, so we have to settle for $500 and fifteen hours of work.

However, we don’t get paid for our hours of procrastination, and that pretty much makes up for the other twenty-five.

But you know what? We give our hearts and our souls to pouring out story after story to entertain the world.

And I guess that’s payment enough.