As 2017 was coming to a close, I was applying to colleges as a transfer student from Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, California.
Many of my fellow Santa Cruz natives, and all who have passed through that eclectic beach town will find it easy to understand my eagerness to flee the nest. The thought of attending a university of such prestige was a longshot while I was in high school, but the fact that UC Santa Barbara was just an arm's length away was nothing less than mind-blowing.
Around that same time, I downloaded Tinder.
Why? For the ego-boost, if I remember correctly. Who doesn't like random men DMing you, "So when do you wanna hook up?" or "Fuck, marry, kill: Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Ready, go"? Trust me, I was not expecting to get into a relationship with the second guy I went on a date with from Tinder, but I wasn't opposed to it either. (Disclaimer: neither of those pick-up lines were from my boyfriend).
He was cute, successful, athletic, and boy was he charming. He asked me to be his girlfriend after two weeks of dating. He wanted to meet my parents right away. He brought me over to his parent's house on the fourth date. And he told me he loved me after a month. Was I dreaming? Or was a higher power screaming at me, "RED FLAG! ABORT MISSION!"
Oh, and he didn't pay for my coffee on the first date. I should have known better.
As April approached, I started receiving college acceptance letters. I was so consumed in my new "adult" relationship, I almost forgot I had to make a huge life decision in just a few months. Before I met my boyfriend, I was telling people that UCSB was my top choice and I was likely moving to Santa Barbara in the summer. Just to be safe, I also had submitted an application to UC Santa Cruz during that time.
After I found out that I had been accepted to both schools, the decision wasn't so black and white.
Needless to say, I was so head-over-heels, that the longer I pondered my decision, the more I wanted to stay in Santa Cruz. I certainly was willing to give up my dream of attending UCSB for this boy. It seemed as though we both were on the same page — our commitment to each other allowed me to submit my "intent to register" for UCSC without a second thought. Not only did he sway my decision to stay in Santa Cruz, but he asked me to move into an apartment with him! So, guess what I did...
Santa Barbara quickly became a distant thought as we started looking for quaint one-bedroom apartments together. I settled for the small, dark studio that he insisted on because it accommodated his bike collection. Nevertheless, I was just happy to be living with him. I was supposed to be happy, right?
After we signed the lease, we set off on our own summer extravaganza. We drove 10+ hours to Oregon. He joined my family vacation to Cabo in July. We celebrated my highly-anticipated 21st birthday in my favorite place, Disneyland. And we lived together for three weeks.
In August of 2018, just one day after returning from the Happiest Place on Earth, my dreamy Tinder boyfriend dumped me and my 21st birthday weekend quickly turned into one of my worst memories.
That morning, I conditioned my hair with my very fragrant citrus Aveda conditioner in our cramped, dingy shower. He kissed me goodbye. It was a typical morning that let to a typical day at work. That is until I received the infamous and highly dreaded, "We need to talk," text message.
My mind was running a thousand miles a minute, but I couldn't get any words out. "You've been a perfect girlfriend, but there's just something missing," he said as soon as I walked through the door, "I wanted to see if moving in with you would change that." All I could do at that moment was tell him to leave the apartment as I started throwing my belongings in the closest thing I could find: a laundry basket.
After I heard his Subaru leave the driveway, I called my mom in hysterics.
I glanced down at my mascara-smeared, shaking hand as I tightly gripped the side of the laundry basket. My mom instructed over the phone, "Pack an overnight bag and come home, Tay. You just need to come home." So I did.
I woke up the next morning to a Venmo notification from my now ex-boyfriend, returning my rent I paid him for that month and a text that said, "I would be happy to help you move your stuff." I ignored him.
I took the day off work and my mom, dad, little brother, and I drove to that apartment and got everything out in an hour. He already had thrown a lot of my stuff in bins, but I knew it wasn't out of kindness the moment I saw our photo in the picture frame I gifted him face-down on the ground.
I was beyond confused as to how someone could go from saying "I want to spend my life with you" to "There's something missing" in just two days.
For some inexplicable reason, I didn't shed a single tear as I ripped our pictures down from the fridge and threw them in the trash. I actually didn't cry the entire time it took me to move my stuff out of that place. The rage took over my body and told my brain to get out of there as quickly as possible, at least until the car ride home.
I thought about leaving a note that said, "I hope you find what you're missing." I knew that wasn't true, so I left that small, half-empty apartment without a trace and never looked back. On the drive back to my parent's house, I decided to just delete every picture of him on Instagram instead.
The last I heard of him was a text later that evening that said, "What about your house key?" and when I replied with an abrupt, "I already gave it back to the landlord," I saw the typing bubbles bouncing up and down for a few seconds as I anxiously waited for what he was going to say next.
"Tell your parents I'm sorry and thank you," was all he could come up with. So I blocked his number.
The deadline to submit my "intent to register" as a transfer student for all UCs was in June and I was supposed to start my first quarter at UCSC in September. It was August at this point. The distant thought of UCSB seemed so out of the picture and I was kicking myself for letting a relationship consume me like it did.
A couple of weeks later, I was more mad than any other emotion. Distraught with the fact that I felt like I was being forced to settle for a university I didn't want to go to, I thought, "What if I picked up everything and went to UCSB? That was my plan all along." What was I supposed to do? There were only a few days of August left.
A few email exchanges with the UCSB Office of Admissions later, I was able to register for classes.
I had 48 hours to make a decision. I knew where my heart belonged as soon as I discovered this was a possibility, but I still didn't click "submit" until 11:48 p.m. on August 22, 2018. I knew I had made the right decision.
After finding housing in the following days after I submitted my SIR, the reality set in that I would be in a new town, experiencing the loneliness of my breakup among strangers. The last month of summer flew by as I prepared myself for the biggest life-changing action thus far in my life. I barely had any money saved up because I had to purchase a new car a few months back, and going from my well-paying (for a college student) full-time job to being unemployed was definitely my biggest hesitation.
Just a few days after unpacking my Volkswagen Tiguan and unloading my life into a small, shared room, I got a job in the Santa Barbara Harbor. I landed a marketing internship at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival the very next week. I got into all of the classes I had to waitlist, as my only option was to register during Pass 3 (slim-pickings, to say the least). I made a few friends.
And, I met a boy. A really nice boy. But we are taking things slow.
I told myself I wanted to be single for at least a year, but it's hard to reject a good thing when it comes into your life, and I'm glad I didn't. Moving to Santa Barbara was the best decision I have ever made. I get to work on boats, livestream celebrities on the red carpet at the film festival, and share it all with someone who has taught me what it means to be in a caring and genuine relationship.
I stopped using that Citrus Aveda conditioner bottle after we broke up in August of 2018, even though it was way more expensive than I would like to admit. For a long time, the smell reminded me of how painful that day was.
I dug that half-used bottle out of my forbidden box of untouchables a few weeks ago. The citrus scent of that conditioner still faintly reminds me of that normal morning before I experienced my first true heartbreak, the moment that triggered my decision to uproot my life as I knew it.
It no longer makes me feel the way I did a little over a year ago. I now use it in my new cramped and dingy shower in my little apartment in Santa Barbara.
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