Once there was a girl—let’s call her Hannah—whose heart was broken by a boy—let’s call him, oh, R.R.S.Butty McButtface. Hannah and Butty had dated for one perfect semester at the end of junior year. Then, when summer vacation began, Butt dumped her like a day-old acai bowl in a Silverlake cafe or a pair of dark skinny jeans after pale baggy jeans came back in.
Hannah was about to realize what most of us know: Heartbreak is the actual worst—but it can be beaten. For even as Hannah wanted nothing more than to ctrl+z her dating life and leave her html brackets open forever more, she was well on the path to ctrl+s-ing her heart. Here are six painful, frustrating, interminable and anything-but-easy steps to overcoming heartbreak that you and Hannah are 100% strong enough to endure.
Step 1: Cry
At first, Hannah just cried. She cried until her sadness muscles hurt and her bed floated away on a raft of tears. She cried so much that the governor of California wrote her a nice letter asking if she’d come cry on their parched desert floor—then she remembered that “parched desert floor” was one of the many adorable pet names she had invented for Butty, and at this, she cried doubly hard.
And strangely, she felt better.
Step 2: Call Your Squad
When Hannah was done crying alone she thought it might be nice to cry in public, so she called her friends. But her friends didn’t understand that all Hannah wanted to do was wrap herself in blankets like a soggy sadness burrito. Kindly and stupidly, they tried to make her feel better.
“You should come jogging with me,” one friend threatened. “Exercise releases endorphins and gives you a natural high, like finding a $20 bill in your pants!”
“No, no—you should look at cute pics of teensy animals,” said another, better friend. “Looking at cute things releases oxytocin. That’s the hormone babies use to trick you into loving them!”
Not wanting to disappoint either friend, Hannah volunteered as a dogwalker at the Home for Unfortunately Rambunctious Poodle-Cross Breeds. But even as she galloped along breathlessly behind a cockapoo who sprung five feet into the air with every leap, Hannah could not help but think, “This is just the sort of thing my ex would love.”
Step 3: Spring-clean Your Soul
“You need to forget him already,” Hannah’s friend said several weeks into the heartbreak. “Cleanse your life of everything that reminds you of your ex.”
So, Hannah unfollowed Butty on Instagram (“goodbye, artful donut photos”) and deleted every photo of him from her phone. She shredded the overdue library book he had left at her house and burned down the Starbucks where they had first sipped chai tea from the same disgusting cup. It soon became clear that there was no way to cleanse her life of everything that reminded her of her ex, because literally everything did remind her of him.
Sad and desperate, Hannah visited a local Hedgewitch to erase her memory of Butty entirely. The witch danced about, setting fire to stryofoam trays of herbs like a miniature Whole Foods cremation and singing some spells, and Hannah’s memory was pronounced clean. But as soon as she left the witch’s van, Hannah fell to the ground; the wound in her heart throbbed harder than ever. “It’s futile,” the witch cackled while stroking her beard. “Heartbreak is independent of the person who inflicted it. Like my feral cats or an enchanted baby, it feeds itself.”
Step 4: Give Yourself a Project
The witch’s spell wore off the next morning, leaving Hannah with a magical hangover you wouldn’t believe. The long summer stretched before her like a filthy ocean, and Hannah knew she would have to distract herself or perish.
She made a list of creative projects she was determined to finish before summer’s end, and got to work. On Monday, she practiced baking. Blending up some mac’n’cheese with pizza and ice cream, Hannah invented a new type of comfort food, then set a speed record for eating it without utensils or hands or shame.
On Wednesday, she wrote a long and honest letter to Butty with the intention of never sending it. Instead, she adapted it into a one-act puppet show and performed it for her bulldog, Tupac. After reading Tupac’s notes, she tightened the dialogue and pared down the 20-minute torture scene. Proud of her work, she added it to her Behance portfolio.
Step 5: Get Out of Town
The end of summer neared and Hannah was going crazy in her own life. She needed to get away, to fill her soul with art and culture, and to fill her Snapchat with some truly diabolical, jealousy-inducing crap. So, she flew to Paris.
Alone for a week in the City of Lights, Hannah was truly free. She Instagrammed herself drinking Cheese Tea, tagged herself at the Museum of Rudeness, and snapped selfies on Picasso’s Bidet. Only once did a croissant remind her of Butty’s wide, dry smile. The more time that passed, the easier it was to focus on her ex’s flaws—things she both missed, and didn’t miss. Maybe he wasn’t so perfect, Hannah thought as she looked at all the happy couples on the observation deck of the World’s Tallest Crepe. Maybe she didn’t actually want Butty… she just wanted someone to make her feel how she felt when she was with Butty. The world was filled with potential loves. Hers could be right around the corner…
But he wasn’t, because life doesn’t work that way.
Step 6: Endure, Endure, Endure.
Back at home, school resumed and Hannah’s life moved impossibly forward. She did homework, watched YouTube, laughed with her friends and argued with her parents about Hillary versus Bernie. Without her even noticing, the wound in her heart began to heal. Time passed. Hannah graduated and got into a good school in another city. One day, a cute guy in her English workshop laughed at her witty t-shirt. Four years later, they moved in together.
Imagine Hannah’s surprise when out of the blue she got a text from Butty. He was in town and wanted to grab lunch—specifically, hipster ramen—if that wasn’t weird. Hannah decided that it wasn’t, and when they met they laughed about the old school and talked about their future plans, and about soy eggs. She wasn’t sad, or even resentful… he seemed happy, and she was happy for him (and also, secretly kind of happy to see that he had gotten a little fatter.)
Her life busy with meaningful projects and relationships and TinyLetters, Hannah slept easy that night. The wound in her heart was still there, but it had shrunken to the size of a paper cut. And a paper cut is an easy thing to ignore.