This is a story about the time my life was flipped completely upside down by a movie but starting at the end seems silly, so let me start where good writers start, at the beginning.
When I was an undergrad student, I was 19 and alone in a new country for the first time. I had an awesome life. I stayed out late partying, had tonnes of friends, put in the bare minimum for my education and passed all my classes anyway. I loved my life. My favourite club was a place called Chilli and Lime. I was even offered a job as a bartender there because the club owner thought I had the right “spirit” I’m not sure looking back what that means but I guess it was a compliment. One night while out I met the guy I would spend the next year and a half of my life with. For the sake of this story I will call him Mark.
Mark was incredible. He was smart, and funny and the nicest possible person. He wasn’t the kind of guy I normally would have dated but I’m open to new experiences and besides, the previous one’s hadn’t worked out anyway. Well we dated for a year before his true side started coming out. He became jealous and possessive. As I’m not usually the kind of person who can be controlled, it became a constant battle and in the end I gave up. I gave up my friendships, with other men and women. If the men were hitting on me, the women were influencing me. There was no winning those arguments so I didn’t try. I was too in love to see what was happening. This went on for a while, getting worse and worse. I learnt that nothing I did was right, I was always wrong. It became easier to just apologise whether I thought I was wrong or not. I was kept away nights while Mark cried. He cried because I didn’t love him enough, I did. He cried because I cheated, I never did. He cried because I wasn’t this perfect person. I sure tried to be everything he needed. I lost myself in order to make him feel better about his world. I gave up everything that made me happy.
I didn’t realise then the kind of emotional abuse I was going through. I remember at Christmas time, we bought airline tickets to go visit his family, the day before he told me he doesn’t want me to come and I was left behind. Wondering what I had done. We always patched things up, what ever I had done, I was sorry. Everything was fine.
One day he surprised me, with tickets to go see a movie he thought I would like. That was the problem, he would do these nice things and I would forget that he was awful. Off we went to see The Notebook. I hadn’t even heard of this movie. At the time, Ryan Gosling wasn’t even on anyone’s radar. I sat there, nonchalantly, watching this movie. Not realising that my life was about to change.
As the film went on, I remember feeling this change wash over me. I remember thinking, is that what love should feel like? Is that what other people experience? I watched the movie. I cried, like everyone else did. Except I was crying for me. For the life I was missing out on. I was crying for the love that I wanted so desperately for myself. The love that deep down inside, I knew I deserved.
When the movie ended, we got in the car, he asked me how I liked the movie. I remember staring out the window but certain to reply before he got upset. The slightest thing could set him off. The tiniest mistake could last for days. I didn’t want to take the chance. I told him the movie was lovely. I’d had a lovely evening. After all, it was true. We drove home making general small talk the rest of the way.
When we got back to my place, as he parked the car, I remember thinking. This is it. This is my moment, it’s now or never. I opened the door but I stayed in my seat. I turned to face him, with my hand still holding open the door and I said “I think it’s best you don’t come in, in fact, I think it’s best we end this, what I saw tonight, that’s love, not this mess of ours.” I got out the car, closed the door and walked away, of course he rushed after me but I went through my gate and pulled it shut behind me. I cried as I walked away. Tears of sadness, of loss, of joy and for finally following my heart.
He thought I was the devil. He told anyone who would listen but I had never felt so empowered in my life. I was finally free. It took a while to gain back my confidence but in that moment, I decided that never again will I let someone else dictate my happiness. The Notebook changed my life. Every time I lose sight of who I am and what I deserve, I remember this story.
“You can’t live your life for other people. You’ve got to do what’s right for you, even if it hurts some people you love.”
Let me know if a movie has ever changed your life, I would love to hear your story.
Beautiful, Joni. And it makes me feel empowered myself seeing how far you have come and how confident you are. I bet while writing this you didn’t think you would inspire me and fill me with so much hope.
Aww Carl, thank you! It’s such a growing and learning experience but I’m loving it. I’m so glad this has inspired you! So much love for you!