Nearly two months ago, my long-distance boyfriend and I broke up. On the surface, it was due to distance. He’s in graduate school in LA while I live on the East Coast. While he initiated the breakup, I felt somewhat helpless to fight the decision and I didn't fully disagree with it. The relationship was becoming difficult to maintain, overly expensive, and my anxiety about our future was taking its toll.
I typically have many bad habits when it comes to post-breakup life, with social media being the worst of them. But if there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s that I never text or call an ex. It’s a rule that I strongly maintain. My thinking is that if an ex wants to talk to me, then he can do it himself.
This morning I woke up, checked my phone, and I broke my rule.
I texted my ex today because I was worried he may have been in Thousand Oaks, CA at the time of the Borderline Bar & Grill mass shooting. I sent the text from my apartment in Pittsburgh, PA, less than a mile away from the Tree of Life Synagogue. The mass shooting in my neighborhood was just 12 days ago.
I knew he was most likely not in Thousand Oaks last night, just like I’m sure he knew I most likely wasn’t at Tree of Life 12 days ago. But still, I was worried and wanted him to know I was thinking of his safety. It’s a lonely feeling when someone doesn’t reach out to you during a moment of extreme crisis. I first learned this not 12 days ago, but 11.5 years ago when I was a freshman at Virginia Tech. The mass shooting at my school began just feet away from my dorm room while I accidentally slept through my alarm.
Our conversation this morning was quick; I didn’t even say hello. I cut to the chase and basically had him confirm that there was no reason for him to be at a country bar the night before. When his name appeared in reply on my screen, I felt a dizzying relief. It wasn’t until I saw his name that I realized how worried I had been.
He confirmed, seemed to genuinely thank me, and then quickly apologized for not texting me after the Pittsburgh shooting. He said he didn’t know if it was his place anymore and was afraid that by reaching out, he would somehow make the day even worse.
Let this all sink in for a moment. We live in an age where you can text someone to make sure they’re safe from a mass shooting in their neighborhood – only to have them apologize for not calling you during the mass shooting in your neighborhood.
Talking to him today was difficult. I ended up crying, which I haven’t done in weeks. We didn’t say much, but of course, I overanalyzed. I’m afraid that the last text I sent came off as aggressive and angry, but I meant it as genuine and heartfelt. I was emotional, relieved to see that he was okay. I would’ve phrased things differently now having all day to rethink my words.
Today’s emotions remind me why I have my no-text rules. But we live in a dark time where normal rules and barriers need to be set aside. I am not angry with my ex for not reaching out when the shootings in Pittsburgh happened. There are no guidelines for how to behave and communicate during these seemingly endless crises.
Deep down, both of us knew neither person was in true mortal danger in either city. But these mass shootings, that I had so naively thought would never happen again after Virginia Tech, serve to remind us that nothing is guaranteed. While these heartbreaking mass shootings become increasingly more common, we shouldn't have to worry if it's our place or not to reach out. We shouldn't have to fear about whether sending that first text will make us seem weak to the other person. And we shouldn’t have to have a guidebook on how to cope with these disasters. So it's my advice that if you need the peace of mind then break your rules, check on the people who matter to you, even if they're no longer actively in your life. Breakup barriers be damned. Life is too short.