The Purpose of Heartbreak

by S.W.G.

At Commencement 2011, Internet publishing entrepreneur Arianna Huffington took a moment in her keynote speech to offer some advice for life’s darker moments.

“As you’re experiencing [heartbreaks]—and you will, because we all do—the most important thing to remember is that there is a purpose to them. It may not be obvious at the time you are experiencing it, but there is a purpose to them.

“Let me tell you about one of my heartbreaks. When I was 22, I fell in love with a man who was twice my age and half my size. Love is blind. I actually fell in love with him before I met him. Has that ever happened to you? He was a brilliant writer, writing for the London Times. His name was Bernard Levin.

I used to cut out his columns and actually put them between pressed flowers in books. Then I met him one night and I was completely tongue-tied and idiotic, and nevertheless he invited me to dinner a week later. Of course, I spent the entire week prepping for dinner. No, not going to the hairdresser or anything trivial like that, but reading everything he had written about Northern Ireland and the Soviet Union. I wanted to be really, really smart at dinner.

“Of course, he never asked me about Northern Ireland or the Soviet Union. I ended up spending seven years of my life with him.

“Then I was 30. I desperately wanted to have kids, and he wanted to have cats. So, I did something that I was at the time terrified to do: I left him. I left this man I was very much in love with, and because I didn’t trust myself to leave him and stay in London, I left him and moved to New York. So, the rest of my life—my children, my books, the Huffington Post, the fact that I’m standing here speaking to you on your commencement day—would not have happened if this man had married me.

“My whole life happened because a man refused to marry me. So, remember that, okay? In life, the things that go wrong are often the very things that lead to other things going right.”