Jamie Shupak is the Emmy-nominated traffic reporter for NY1, the Big Apple cable network that’s the end-all and be-all on all things Gotham for New Yorkers. She’s also a beautiful, single woman navigating New York’s treacherous dating scene after the painful breakup of a 10-year relationship. In her weekly column she’ll share her war stories and offer her advice and admonitions.
I was sitting on the stoop of the building I now call home, tucked under the arm of my baby brother, shaking and sobbing uncontrollably, waiting for the real estate broker to arrive. I had summoned Brian to come help me choose an apartment because I was unable to make a decision for myself.
Last September my life felt like a shaken soda can that had just exploded. My already petite frame shrunk to rather frail proportions because, just as I had lost the ability to think clearly, I also couldn’t eat. But that wasn’t my worst problem. I couldn’t sleep, which was torturous because all I wanted to do was escape the pain that was literally wearing me down to the bones. Each night I would eventually pass out from pure exhaustion, but only for the few moments before my alarm would go off. And at the time there was no sound more devastating. Not because I had to go to work, but because I just didn’t want to be awake.
That meant it was real. That the guy I'd been in love with since I was 19 years old had fallen in love with someone else—a girl he worked with, someone I knew well.
I was broken.
My life had been derailed like one of the commuter trains I report on each morning. And like those trains, it only takes a split second for everything to go careening off course. But it takes what feels like forever to get back on track.
What are you supposed to do when you realize the person you thought had your back is actually sticking daggers in it? When you realize the person you put so much faith in everyday isn't being faithful? When you realize the person you lean on and look to for so much strength is so weak inside?
I was never taught how to comprehend these kinds of things.
So there I was last September, one year ago today, homeless, hopeless, and single—three things I had no experience with or desire to be.
I stood in the doorframe of my old apartment and took one last look around. My dad and younger brother, arms overflowing with shoes and dresses falling off their hangers, were already making their last trip to the car parked at the curb. But my older brother was still inside, busy calculating his destruction of anything left in the apartment that belonged to my ex. I got choked up begging him not to and, reluctantly, he listened.
Unlike my brother—and many of my other family and friends—I had no animalistic anger during this whole saga. Sometimes I surprised myself with the calmness of my reactions. Maybe I was so broken down that I didn’t have the fight. Or maybe part of me—somewhere between my conscious and subconscious—knew that this was the best thing for me. Either way, it wouldn’t be the last time my own strength would catch me by surprise.
As soon as my older brother saw tears, he wrapped his arm around me, much like our younger brother had done just days prior when we were looking for my new home. But this was different because Lonnie’s not the affectionate one—that's Brian: sensitive, thoughtful, warm.
But Lonnie did something for me in those fragile seconds. He carried the emotional weight for me. He knew to save his rant about how much he’d always hated my ex and instead offered his silent compassion through a big brother embrace.
I learned more about love in that moment than I had in the last ten years.
And with that I closed the door to my old apartment—and life—and was on my way to a whole new one.
My world was spun around on its axis a Friday night three weeks later. I flirtexted and ultimately kissed a new boy for the first time in a decade. You might think that was a quick rebound, but consider this: earlier that week I learned that my ex and the girl were not only officially dating, but also officially cohabitating.
Yes, I moved out. She moved in.
The news was appalling, albeit unsurprising. It was the proverbial kick when I was already down. But I didn’t cry; I had no tears left.
This was a guy whose lead I followed for almost a decade. Taking one last appropriate cue, I expunged him from my life.
His work, home, and two personal cell phone numbers—deleted from my iPhone. Birthday—removed from iCal. Two personal and four work emails—erased from Gmail. An IM name, a Skype account—and then I dropped every song in my iTunes that would remind me of him. I threw out any item of clothing he ever bought me or that represented a time or place we were together.
While material and only scratching the surface, it was a start, and I was determined. He moved on; so too would I.
At the start of the road back I tried to believe the people who said that things would get better if I gave them time to do so.
The months that followed seemed to be scene after hilarious scene of my valiant and often bumbling attempts to understand the new, single me. As weekly magazines and gossip sites do unto our favorite celebrities, our two names had been morphed into one breath for so long that I didn’t know what Jamie meant standing alone.
Little by little I found my own beat again, and after that I found the joy again.
On Sunday, September 19, 2010, I packed a bag of clothes and things for the week and took the lonely walk to my best friend’s apartment just up the street. I was dragging my feet, head hung low, both confused and ashamed of what had become of my life. I called my mom and through the gasps and tears asked her how I was ever going to go on TV the next morning. Her words, which she repeated to me every day for weeks, were, “Listen to me, Jamela. You put on the prettiest, brightest shirt you own and you go in there and do what you do every day with a smile on your face. I never promise anything, but I promise things will get better.”
I crawled into bed with my best friend that night, not the guy I had shared a bed with the last five years, and a life the last ten.
I can barely remember that mournful girl. But I remember her thinking that was the worst day of her life.
(As always) Mom was right. One year later I know better; it was the best.
Next week: One Year Later, Part II: How to Close the Chapter