Emma Wall – Washington, DC

Everyone has probably dated an asshole – often because they have issues with self confidence or because they are feeling rebellious.  I fall victim to this about 97 percent of the time, so trust me, I get it. Most of the time, you’re able to realize someone’s a douche before getting too emotionally invested.

But then there’s that small margin of  error when you fall “in like” before you’re able to have the “they’re a douche” revelation. By then, it’s too late; you want to spend every free minute with each other, you’re comfortable in sadness, silence and everything in between; you adventure together and every mile between you feels like a light-year. You begin to think, “I could be into this whole relationship thing.”

Then things get hard – you move away, he takes on more responsibility or any mixture of constant shit life throws at you. And you break up. All of a sudden, you’re no longer part of their everyday life, and in your mind you don’t exist or really matter at all. And that is the hardest feeling you’ll ever have to cope with. With all that confusion and hurt, it’s easy to regret ever trusting someone who was so willing to disregard your existence after such a close connection.

As you may have gathered by the vivid imagery I was able to produce for this “hypothetical” situation: I lived this. While it’s easy to fall into a spiral of regret, I came to realize that’s no way to live a fulfilling life where I do things for me. That’s when I realized: giving my heart to an asshole is the best decision I’ve ever made.

Emma taking her life to new heights – literally – at a sorority sister retreat.
  1. Being ignored forced me to cope with being hated for no reason. Realizing not everyone will be my friend made me become more comfortable in my own skin and not as worried if what I said was cool or made me look “chill.” I realized that I question and blame myself too easily, and it’s okay for me to be confident in my decisions and actions.
  2. Being made out as the pitiful victim allowed me to play the vulnerable one. I’ve always been caught up in this false sense of pride that has stopped me from making close relationships, but I’ve come to realize that caring doesn’t make you eager and lonely, it just makes you genuine
  3. Having my ex show up just to remind me of his existence forced me to be more mature about my interactions. Not everyone needs to know how royally fucked over I was by my ex-boyfriend. Pretending those kinds of games don’t phase me is getting me closer to actually feeling that way.
  4. Letting the door slam in my face allowed me to take a higher road. And believe it or not, taking the higher road can be strangely satisfying, even if no one else knows you’re doing it.
  5. Losing friends because I became the “crazy ex” gave me the clarity of judgment I needed to do some quick edits on my friend list.
  6. Feeling like an outcast on my own campus allowed me to find so many communities outside of my comfort zone that gave me the self confidence I needed to come back and take over the campus the way I knew I could do.

All of these actions hurt, but they cannot and will not run my life. These actions led me to write this article. They led me to find a place I could call home as well as advance myself and learn what I was passionate about.

Emma, far left and third up, in a group selfie with her Amnesty International peeps.
Emma, far left and third up, in a group selfie with her Amnesty International peeps.

I found Amnesty International, the first place that trusted me with thousands and thousands of dollars of photography equipment. It allowed me to find the faith in myself from the faith they put in me. I got my first minimum wage job at a doughnut shop, where I met some of the most genuine people in the world who taught me that being myself is the best person I can be. I was able to put confidence in myself, and take on some deeper issues: fighting my eating disorder, anxiety, re-entering myself into Greek life full-swing.

Sure, it bugs me when people still think he’s the nicest guy in the world, that we’re in the same social circles and I have to see him and be ignored over and over again. But I can walk around with my head held high knowing how much better my life is after that break-up, and how much I learned about myself in that process.