By Louise A. Barile
August 22, 2002 01:00 PM

Britney Spears’ decision to do nothing for the next six months, as well as reports of wild behavior after her breakup with Justin Timberlake, prompted talk that the 20-year-old pop princess was in need of some emotional rescue. But in the new issue of PEOPLE, the Jive Records star says she’s just fine. “I’m taking a break, so people are writing that I’m having a meltdown. I don’t get it,” she tells PEOPLE. “I need this break to rejuvenate and to just play.” Spears’ breakup with the curly-haired ‘N Sync singer, whom she’s known since their days together as members of “The New Mickey Mouse Club,” was also the focus of widespread media scrutiny. Spears does admit to PEOPLE that the end of their relationship earlier this year was traumatic. “First Justin broke up with me, and then I broke up with him,” she tells PEOPLE. “(The split) was horrible. Very upsetting, and it took a lot out of me. He was my first real love, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to love anyone like that again.” The couple “recently tried to get back together,” but the singer says “right now in my life, it’s not right.” What is right for Britney is some much-needed time off, and time to think about her future. She plans to read film scripts — she may star in a romantic comedy that would start shooting in October — and write more songs. “I need find new influences, get reinspired.” She acknowledges that “I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” but right now “I’m kind of the happiest I’ve been in a long freakin’ time.”

For more on Britney’s big break, check out PEOPLE’s cover story.