I realized I was gay in middle/high school, but didn’t have the vocabulary or experience to define it. It wasn’t until my junior or senior year of college that I came out. Overall the journey has been incredible. I feel very fortunate that I live in a city where I can express myself openly and authentically. I’m surrounded by people who support and encourage that.

It wasn’t always like that, though. J* was the first woman I seriously dated after coming out. I had joined Her and Tinder when I first came out, because it was a way to kind of explore at a distance. I could match and talk with people without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by approaching them in real life. I had met up with a few people, but it never really went past a few dates. After graduating college and moving back home, I downloaded OkCupid. J was my first and only OkCupid date up until that point. When we met I still had self-doubt and nervousness around my inexperience. To add onto that, I was living with my family in my hometown, so my dating life was nonexistent. She made me feel validated and safe — I felt that, as I was getting to know her, I was getting to know myself too. We spent a lot of time together in the beginning. Our personalities were similar, we had good chemistry, and she had a studio apartment, which made it easier. I was falling in love for the first time, and someone was falling in love with me! Before that it was hard to imagine that I was even capable of feeling this way. Looking back, I don’t think I would have done anything differently.

I was blindsided by the breakup. She never mentioned that she was unhappy, or that she wasn’t feeling as invested in the relationship. One night she just said she wasn’t physically attracted to me and she wanted to break up. Her reasons didn’t make sense and rather than talk about it, it felt like she’d made a decision without even talking to me.

Looking back, though, there were definitely signs that she wasn’t the person for me. I felt very self-conscious around her. She liked to tease me, but sometimes it was hard to see the line between playful banter and just downright being mean. I didn’t feel like I was myself and I didn’t feel like I could be myself. A lot of my effort wasn’t matched. While the circumstances of the breakup sucked, in hindsight it needed to happen. I think I was so caught up in it being my first serious relationship, and having that person I could always turn to. It was hard to look back after the fact and realize that I was unhappy, and that I wasn’t myself. But this realization is the main reason why I moved on.

For the first time in my life, I’m out, single, and out of my mom’s house. I feel more secure in myself and my identity than ever before. I have a lot to offer, and I know what I want — and, more importantly, what I deserve. I’m dating and looking forward to meeting new people again. I’m making more plans with friends, going out more, and just making myself open to new experiences. I even have a new album coming out this week!

Despite my heartbreak with J, I’m glad it happened because I learned so much about what I want and need in love. I definitely still have a lot to learn, but I’m at the best possible place with myself right now, and I can’t wait to see where that takes me.

Find Kaitlin’s music on Spotify, and follow the band on Twitter for updates!

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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