CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE HUSTLE

It’s so easy to fall in love, but it takes a while for a broken heart to mend. And that’s what I was learning the hard way. I couldn't stop thinking about what Nathan was up to or who he was with. I knew it was bad and I knew that I needed to stop feeling like that, but I was heartbroken and still in love at the same time. I would tell people that I was okay, because that was the easiest thing to do. In reality I was suffering from severe panic attacks and confidence issues which scared me deeply. But with realising that things had really come to an end, I began making an effort to put myself out there again and begin the hustle of moving on.

 When harmless hook ups escalated into serious dates and potential relationships, I would run away from the fear of being hurt again. I couldn't take any more pain, I just wanted to escape my mind and feel wanted, if only for a brief moment or a night. I knew this couldn’t last forever and although I wasn’t ready for anything too serious because I was still so hung up on Nathan, I was willing to give it a go. 

When I discovered that Nathan had gotten into a new relationship I felt a little betrayed and decided I really needed to move on myself. I needed to find myself a little arm candy, with Splendour in the Grass fast approaching and knowing that I was going to be the only person in my group who was alone. In that time I met a cute Canadian backpacker named Connor, who perfectly played the part of arm candy for the festival. He was very attractive, muscly, funny, easy to talk to, and did I mention he was Canadian? After a few hangouts I decided to mention that I was heading to a music festival that his favourite band was playing and that I conveniently had a space available in my bedroom at the AirBnB. He took the bait and excitedly agreed to come along. A week later we were heading down to Byron Bay with my group of friends and expecting a very boozy and fun couple of days. The chemistry was there and a little festival fling felt like a good idea to me. My friends instantly liked him and were excited to see me smiling and having fun again.

The first day of the festival was a bit of a blur, we were running around pleasantly drunk and dancing along to the acts. We met up with my friends to see Banks perform, but as we approached the stage we turned around and saw Connor running off into the distance with one of the girls in our group, Natalie. Obviously confused about why they’d run off, we messaged them to see what was going on and got no response. Twenty minutes later we finally got a message saying they had decided to go and watch the Peking Duk set and would meet up with us again before Vance Joy. Although it still seemed a bit strange, we shrugged it off and danced away before heading off to meet them. When we saw them again they didn’t mention anything about running off, and acted like nothing had happened. After Vance Joy’s set, Connor and Natalie went to grab a drink, telling us to hold their spots, and never came back. With messages being ignored I started to become angry and frustrated. I’d tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, tried to play it cool and not overthink their behaviour, but this was just rude. It instantly resurfaced my trust issues that were sparked by Nathan and the anxiety that being left on read had created. 

I struggled with the idea that I wasn’t enough for Connor. I wanted to believe that I deserved more, and that at the bare minimum I was at least enough for some flirty fun. But his actions on that first day of the festival really got to me. I felt embarrassed with myself as I realised I’d hoped this moment with Connor would help to cure my heartbreak over Nathan. And being alone at that festival made the whole thing feel stupid and childish. I felt used by someone I’d wanted to get to know. And I felt stuck in a situation that I didn’t want to be in. This was becoming all so familiar to the German backpacker scenario I’d found myself in a couple years earlier. Maybe I was way too trustworthy with people I questioned? Maybe I had a sign on my back that said I was easy to walk all over because I felt like an absolute joke. 

We finally received a message from Natalie saying that Connor was hooking up with some guy and that they would meet us after HAIM. I couldn't believe it. I felt sick and betrayed. “Why can’t I even have a normal fling or hook up without it turning to shit” I questioned. I felt used. He’d joined my friends and I for this festival, had a nice place to stay, and could just ditch me and leave me with a girl I’d only met the day before and had the nerve to not reply to me at all. 

After HAIM Natalie returned without Connor and grabbed another girl from our group, Georgie, and was like “let’s go watch RL Grime”. Georgie turned to her and said “Where’s Connor, we can’t leave Thomas by himself. Connor has his key”. And she looked at her and was like “He’s hooking up with someone else, who cares”. Georgie looked at her shocked, “But what about Thomas? Connor has Thomas’ room key. And we can’t just leave Thomas alone”. Natalie snapped back “He’ll be fine, he can meet up with us after”. But Georgie wasn't having it. She firmly had my back even though she’d only known me for 24 hours. Refusing to leave, Natalie went off on her own sulking whilst Georgie stayed with me to watch the first couple of songs from The XX before I joined her to watch the end of RL Grimes set. And during all of this I still hadn't heard from Connor. The XX were his favourite band, this was the set we were meant to be seeing together. I knew he was somewhere in the crowd with some other guy and I just wanted to go home.

As I made my way to the bus to head back to the hotel with Georgie, I finally got a message from Connor saying he was heading back to a tent with some people he met to keep drinking. But I knew what he was actually heading to the tents for. I told him to not bother about coming home and that I’d see him in the morning, but asked that he be back by 10am to drop me off my key so I could go out and do things in town. He was genuinely concerned by my bluntness and couldn’t understand my frustration.

I went to bed upset and annoyed with myself. “Maybe this is what I deserve” I told myself. After all I was kind of using him to get over Nathan, but deep down I was actually enjoying his company and affection. Maybe I’d been hoping Connor could help me transition between hooks ups and real relationships. When he got home in the morning he hopped into bed and tried to cuddle me. I rolled over and grunted a “good morning”. As we laid in silence, I finally said “I’m going to get some breakfast in town. You gonna stay here or come with me”. He looked at me and asked if he could come for a walk. I agreed and we met up with the girls and went exploring. After acting like nothing had happened and spending the whole day before the festival hanging out, as soon as we got to the festival grounds he ditched me again to find his new “friends” but this time I wasn't surprised. Instead I spent time with Georgie and met a cute guy during Catfish And The Bottlemen who made me smile at a time when I hadn’t imagined being able to.   

Once I woke up on the third morning I was a little emotionally scattered. I didn’t want to see him or speak to him. I was over being manipulated and used. I got up, got ready, and left to go into the festival. As I was walking out the door he ran up to me. “Do you want me to come in with you?” he said, I looked at him and half laughed back. “It’s okay, you’ll just ditch me as soon as we get there anyways, so I’m happy heading in by myself too”. He texted me immediately apologising and promised to make it up to me and explained how he actually really did want to hang out with me today and realised he’d been neglecting me. I thanked him for his honesty and told him that i’d love to spend some quality time together, so I told him to come meet me after Tove Lo and he agreed. Throughout the whole day he was texting me and checking in to see how I was going and I finally thought maybe things were turning around. But after Tove Lo he turned up 20 minutes late with the guy he’d been hooking up with in tow. My body started to shake as I realised what was happening and I immediately wanted to run. As he awkwardly introduced me I bluntly replied and began to message Georgie asking her to come rescue me which she promptly did. We told them we were going to head home early and just have a chill night drinking and relaxing. He asked if he could stay and by this stage I was completely over it. “Connor, you’re going to do whatever you want to do anyways. So just go but make sure you’re home by check out”. He looked at me confused And said “I’ll be back tonight”. But I turned around and sharply replied “You do whatever you want, I’ll be asleep so it’s fine”. I had given up because he just didn't seem to understand. That night he hopped into our bed whilst I pretended to be asleep and the last words I heard from him were goodbye in the morning when we dropped him off at a backpackers in town. I wrote him a nice and reflective text on the way home explaining how I felt used and manipulated but wished him well and he unsurprisingly never replied. I still haven't heard from him since, which is a shame because I never understood why he ditched me on the first day. Or why I wasn't enough. It shattered my confidence for a little while as I fell back into the spiral of being afraid of connection.

It’s that worry that you’re never going to be good enough for another person or the risk that you may give your all to someone but they won’t return it. It’s a hard truth that plagues a lot of our minds. But I knew I couldn't live in fear of that so I attempted to meet people, however I still found myself shutting people down as soon as there was one sign of possible heartbreak. I began to show people an alternative side to me, because in my mind if I didn't actually show them the real me there was no way I could get hurt.

But that could only work for so long. I met a cute guy called Jake. And what started off as a lot of fun and ridiculous flirting turned into cute hiking and concert dates, with heated sleepovers and a lot of laughing. The feelings began to develop, but I was guarded and suspicious of being hurt. I began to over analyse everything as I had a weird gut feeling that something was going on in the background. But I told myself that I was just being paranoid and tried to lower my guard. In hindsight, my gut instincts were right. He was still in love with his ex boyfriend, and maybe he just didn't have strong enough feelings for me because he ended up meeting someone else. So whenever he wasn't with me he was with this other guy instead, and he thought I didn't know but I did. They would spend a lot of time going ice skating together and his interaction with me started to fizzle. He realised he wasn't making enough effort with me so he reached out and asked me to dinner, I obviously agreed but as soon as we arrived something felt off. He didn't want to be there and he was making it super obvious with his body language and short responses. I was furious, ashamed, and annoyed. I kept telling myself I just had to get through dinner and that was it, and 45 minutes later I was saying goodbye to him. He insisted on driving me home, so I agreed as I thought he may want to say something. After we sat in silence on the drive to my house I asked him if he wanted to come inside but he respectfully declined. I said goodbye to him and he jumped out and was like “do I not get a hug?”. I looked at him confused and gave him a hug and walked inside. I closed the door and felt like crying but I stopped myself and felt relieved. I wasn't crazy. I knew what was going on and I ended it. I took the initiative and I grew. I was respectful and did everything right. In the end he was in the wrong. I had peace with the closure of that and whilst it was hurtful feeling like I wasn't enough for someone again, I knew I didn't want him in my life if he was going to treat me like that. I knew I deserved more and for once I believed that someone would come into my life unexpectedly and it would happen. I just didn't realise how soon that would be.