Subject: Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Sent: April 11, 2017

Dear Friends,

It feels like it’s been forever — at least, since I popped into your inboxes with an unsolicited “hello” to tell you about the emotional exhilaration of bra-fitting, the difficulty of folding underwear, or the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

You might have heard that, since we last spoke, I split ways with my lingerie startup co-founder to participate in a Reality TV show called Find My First Love

(I know, my career has been nothing but an upwards spiral.)

For those of you who missed it, Find My First Love is a series about “the one that got away.” My episode, the pilot, debuted two years ago on FYI, bringing Kathie Lee and Hoda to tears on The TODAY Show before making its way around the world: Indonesia, the Philippines, Italy, Romania, Poland, the UK, and Australia. Ever since, I've received messages from viewers asking things like, does true love exist? Or, when are you and Benjamin going to get married and have lots of adorable babies?

Questions that, until this week, I've left unanswered.

Ostensibly, I've avoided updating you on my life out of consideration for my growing fan base in the Czech Republic (spoilers are the worst, right?). The reality, though, is somewhat less glamorous: after two years in Champagne, I decided to leave Ben and, by extension, the life we'd built together.

It sounds silly but, when you’ve subjected a romance to the bright lights of television, it’s hard not to feel like a failure when it ends. I remember standing on the Pont des Arts as if it were yesterday — the sound of water lapping against the quais and the smile in Ben’s voice when he called his mother, to tell her the news:C’est bon, Maman, c’était bien elle. The sound of her voice, gentle and laughing, as she relayed the news to his father: c’est bon, mon minou, c’était bien elle

I remember calling my own mom from a Parisian hotel room — one hand on the phone, the other removing mascara — to tell her I’d found my husband.

How it was all so happy, until I wasn’t.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why I left, hoping I could provide viewers (and our families) with a satisfying answer. But the truth is, for every reason I left, there are a dozen moments I wonder if I shouldn’t have stayed. We were perfect for each other and terrible for each other, best friends and complete strangers, and ultimately each a little too crazy — a little too lost, a little too hopeful, a little too stubborn.

There's a tendency to talk about past relationships in terms of lost effort, lost investment, and lost time; the years I spent with Benjamin were anything but. He shook me up and changed me in ways I’m just beginning to understand (mostly for the better, I'd like to think!) He taught me to value solitude a little more, to make a delicious chocolate mousse (trick: add Cognac), to devote more time to daydreams and reverie. At his encouragement, I spent most of our time together pursuing an unofficial MFA: online writing classes and multiple afternoons cuddled up in the garden with our angora kitten, Oliver, and a good book.

Maybe there’s some irony to the notion that, the more I've fallen in love with stories, the less I've felt equipped to share my own. What do you say, exactly, when you’ve made the decision to leave a relationship and wake up to a tweet that makes you think twice? How do you communicate from a place of authenticity when you’re feeling a little guarded? Acknowledge pain and failure, especially online, without inviting judgement or unsolicited advice?

In this crazy, social-media driven world, it seems we've designed a million templates for announcing a relationship's beginning — Valencia filters and #blessed humblebrags, among others — but hardly any for acknowledging its end. We hide heartache away in a drawer and pretend it never existed, or else let it fade into the ether as the status update that never was. But maybe that should change. Maybe we need more reminders —and, OK, this is definitely my French side speaking — that not everything needs a filter to hold meaning. That there's a certain beauty to unedited snapshots, and even to pain.

Writing this update, I kept going back to something a close friend told me over coffee in Paris. "You’ve lost a few feathers," he said. "But you’re on the verge of something beautiful."

I like to think that's true.

With love and gratitude,
from the cobblestoned streets of Montpellier,

Alicia