an open letter.

To the men who I've loved,

First of all, let me say, thank you. Because without me loving you, I wouldn't be so strong today. From my first heartbreak, to my last, I've gathered some type of strength. I've cried, yelled, & screamed through each relationship, whether it was external or internal. With each tear & raised voice, I learned how to stand on my own two feet. 

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 I learned what I didn't like & what I did. I learned that dating a man with kids is hard, especially if they're young. I learned a boy with trust issues isn't a man, but a child too afraid to commit. I learned patience is the end all, be all. I learned love doesn't fix what's broken, it only hides it. I learned love is fickle, at least by today's standards. One moment someone can be telling you they love you, the next they're telling you how much they hate you. 

To the very few men I've said I love you to, I meant it down to my core. & I still love you, because for me, love doesn't stop once someone leaves your life. It's forever. The lessons you taught me made me the woman I am today, as cliche as it sounds. So thank you for every laugh, every tear, every argument, every heartbreak. & for those I've hurt--I'm sorry. For those who have hurt me--I forgive you.  

I still have pieces from the broken men I’ve dated.

I still have pieces from the broken men I've dated. I still have scars on my soul from trying to put them back together. I've dated men who didn't love themselves & in turn, I tried to love them more than I loved myself. I've dated men who didn't take the lessons they learned from our encounter & went on to be destructive, blaming me for faults of their own. They had so many insecurities, that eventually their uncertainties became mine. They took on a life of their own & caused chaos. Imagine disorder & disarray completely taking over your life & not knowing exactly how to conquer it because it wasn't your mess to begin with.  It took years for me to find peace within myself & to face those demons. 

Life has a funny way of humbling you. Things can go from being perfect to being shit in a matter of minutes. & while I don't have trust issues, I've learned to always keep your guard up. I used to be one of those girls who spilled her heart out on the second date. The girl who told all her secrets just to feel close to someone--to force a connection that was never there because I wanted it so bad. 

I was wrong. 

I wear my heart on my sleeve. However, my vulnerability is not something I can just show off. It's not a new toy for me to bring for show & tell. It's my fears, dreams, & goals. Things I need to keep hidden & protected. 

I told myself after my last fiasco that this was the universe telling me to stop looking for what I want & sit down somewhere. My fear of being lonely used to consume me so I made sure to never be alone. Unfortunately, that caused me to settle for men who were not for me. I knew that, they knew that, however we kept forcing it. Eventually things would blow up & that was the end. 

I won't lie when I say I'm terrified of being involved with someone else. I've finally gotten to a place where I find peace in my solitude, I don't want another man to come into my life & completely fuck that up. Now the disappointment isn't on them, it's on me, which is a terrible feeling to have. It's one thing to be disappointed by someone else, but to disappoint yourself... 

Being left with questions like is there someone else?  What's wrong with me? Maybe if I looked that way, this wouldn't have happened. I wonder if I let one of my standards go, if we could be together?  Where did I go wrong?

Through it all, I've learned more about myself than anything. 

I'm loyal to a fault. I love hard. I trust too entirely easily. I get jealous. I can be naive. I'm guilty of trying to save people. I've settled way too often. Once I get in my head I'm going to do something, it will be done. I'm passionate, hardheaded, & I will ride hard for anyone I consider dear to me. 

Through it all, I’ve learned more about myself than anything. 

I once read somewhere that you have to be what you want--that you attract what you are. It's cliche, but I understand. If I'm insecure with myself, I'm going to attract insecure men. If I'm broken, I'm going to attract broken men. 

So yes. I'm extremely flawed, but I'm working on it. I don't want to someone's superwoman. I don't want to be saved, I don't need to be. & I most certainly don't want someone who needs to be saved.  I want someone who is whole, who has taken their time to get to where they're at.  I've had a fixer upper, he was trash. & I was trash for dating him. 

So I thank every single one of you for all that you've done. For every heartbreak & smile, you all have taught me so much. I wish you all the best because I'm no longer looking in the past. It's time to finally let go. Every single one of you. 

- BSG

Brittani Gaines