A Habit Hard to Break


It was probably close to 11 p.m. when the song came on. I had broken up with my boyfriend only a few days earlier, spent an hour crying, took a fifteen-minute break, started crying again. Nothing was ever going to be the same. What if he had been “the one” and I had let him go? Two weeks before I was more than ready to move on with my life. Now that I was free to, holding on was all I could think to do.

I was driving back up to school from my hometown where I spent the weekend eating my mother's comfort food and watching Lifetime movies on cable. Saw old friends who told me I could do better and took me shopping. I felt lighter than I had in awhile until I was in my car on the highway late at night, the heater stinging my eyes while love songs looped on every country station I had programmed on my radio. Deep-voiced men singing about the woman they just caught sight of in a bar, the woman they were falling in love with, the woman they wanted to turn into the mother of their children. Songs I listened to six months earlier with a smile on my face and his name on my heart now had me close to pulling over to the side of the road until I could see through the tears again.

But then finally, finally, a break from the deep-voiced men. A woman's voice breaking through my self-pity with a song about; how nothing was ever going to be the same; how he might've been "the one" but she had let him go; how she struggled to see through her tears at night. But then one line in particular…

“Even though it was right to let you go, you’re a habit hard to break.”

You’re a habit hard to break.

The “good morning” and “goodnight” texts. The phone calls late at night. The constant missing him when he was eight hours and 400 miles out of my reach. The love that was as constant as the nagging voice in my ear telling me something wasn’t working.

It takes 21 days to form a habit. That’s what friends, my mom, studies online have told me.

21 days of cooking dinners and you won’t even want to go out for pizza anymore. 21 days of waking up at 6 a.m. and your 10 a.m. weekend wakeup times will be a thing of the past. 21 days of going for runs instead of watching Netflix when you get home from work and you’ll finally have a good fitness routine going.

I’ve failed over and over again to dedicate 3 weeks of my life into forming lifelong healthier habits, despite any New Year’s resolution or pact I’ve made with my friends. But one thing I have been able to do is use 21 days to turn people into habits.

It's been two years since a voice on the radio taught me that heartbreak was nothing more than the pain that comes from breaking familiar patterns. Two years, but I'm finding myself in a déjà vu.

Four months ago, things began.

Day 1 we went for a drink.

Day 2 he told me I was beautiful.

Day 3 we kissed.

21 days, and not one of them passed without a phone call or a text message or a date that ended with the kind of smile I hadn't felt for two years. It took 21 days, but now we're months into something and he's become my habit.

Habits like wine and whiskey drinking on his bed. Like holding his hand through stores and bear hugs that don't last long enough. Like phone calls when we wake up in the morning and text messages with kissy face emojis. Like parking my car on the top of the hill by his house and waking up to him offering me breakfast.

We've come close to saying goodbye. When I look back on it, I never meant for us to last longer than the 21 days it took for me not to fall in love, but to fall into a new habit. I'm too used to his lips on my cheek and his hands in my hair to think about if we're supposed to keep making it work.

So we are.

You're a habit hard to break.

I catch myself singing it to myself in my car on the way home from after an afternoon with him. But I'm still wearing that smile it took two years for me to find.