means to protect myself, I instinctually began to build a wall around my heart. You can only be rejected so many times before you stop being able to trust people. Before you start believing you're not good enough. Rejection parallels worthlessness, and well, I just wasn't in the mood to feel worthless again. After this last boy - the one who let me call him my boyfriend, the one who made me believe we could be something beautiful - the wall became steel. I had thought I'd found my person and he decided he'd rather continue his life without me. But this is not the story of him, this is the story of the boy who came after.
Three weeks after my breakup, when the allotted grieving period I had given myself had run out and I was forcing myself to get back to my normal life, a friend of mine told me he had a friend he wanted to set me up with. I did not respond to his text message. Of course I would love to fall crazy madly passionately in love, I've never done it before and it seems like a magical experience. But being broken up with sparked in me a determination to focus on nurturing the pieces within myself that are a bit damaged. Clearly there is some hidden part of me that feels unworthy of love if I consistently chase men who I know will never give it to me. As wonderful as it would be to get lost in another human being, I was tired of escaping into men and I wanted to try and find happiness being alone. And lets be honest, I wasn't entirely over my ex-boyfriend, as much as I wanted to be and I tried to convince myself I was, he still had a part of my heart. All of that on top of the fact that I hadn't eaten much more then fast food and donuts for the past three weeks, and well, I wasn't feeling like my most beautiful self.
My friend persisted, and eventually I gave in, after some serious social media stalking that is. He was cute and his smile was sweet. But it wasn’t so much about the boy, but about a night out that appealed to me. I hadn’t had fun in a long time, after all I'd been wallowing in my post-break up misery for the past few weeks and binge watching TV had become my favorite activity. A night out and a reason to put on make-up seemed like just the thing I needed, a cute boy to flirt with was just a bonus. And so I went on my first blind date, well technically it was a double date since our friends joined us, which was wonderful because it made the experience entirely less scary. The four of us went mini-golfing. Here is advice from someone who knows very little about dating: if you are expected to interact with a complete stranger it is best to do it over some sort of activity because it gives you an experience to share together and takes the pressure off trying to appear intelligent, interesting, and put together all at the same time. He was smart and kind and easy to talk to. He asked me questions about myself, which is not a typical quality among the men I date. We acted young and played games in the arcade and when our friends decided to leave I was happy to experience time alone with this boy. He held my hand and excitement bloomed inside me. We sat in fake race cars while we flirted and shared stories and ideas. And I knew right then, if I let myself I could fall for him. It was one of those beautiful nights that you just don't want to end. Not being hungry, but not ready to say goodnight, we moved the conversation to a bar and while I sipped Diet Coke I gave him the censored version of my life. Whatever this may be, I knew I wanted to do it entirely different then I did all of my past romantic experiences, given my pretty horrible track record of success and all, I knew I must be doing something wrong. And that included not telling him the entire messy truth of my life. I don't have much of a filter and I tend to over expose myself to anyone who will listen. I wanted to show him who I was now and not bring along all of the people I have been. I didn't invite my past to join us on this date. He didn’t need to know he was sitting across from a chronically depressed girl with Borderline Personality Disorder who enjoys escaping into food and cutting. I wanted him to see the results of the girl I fought to become. If I keep holding on to all of my past selves I'll never build a new identity separate from them.
We continued to get to know each other until the lights came on bright and the bar closed. He drove me back to my car and we sat there in that awkward moment when you both know what's about to happen and you are just waiting for someone to lean in. The complexities of nerves and excitement swirled throughout me. We kissed, not the light and tender exploration of a first kiss, but hard and aggressively. Tongues slipping between lips and hands grabbing at skin. I wanted him. But I wasn’t going to let myself have him. Now I am no stranger to sleeping with someone on the first date, and I don't think there is anything wrong with it, but if I feel like there is the possibility of a future with someone I like to wait, that way once we do sleep together the experience is emotionally intimate and in turn entirely more beautiful. It was also the fear of getting hurt again that stopped me. It was crawling into morning but we still weren't ready for the night to end and so we ended up in the only place you go when it's two o'clock in the morning and you want to continue spending time with someone.
Hungrily we continued to explore each other on my couch. That night I happened to be wearing a sweater that my ex-boyfriend had given me for Christmas and under it a white blouse. I had considered throwing it out, or perhaps cutting it up in a dramatic act of self-empowerment, but the truth of it is that it's a really cute sweater, and well, I'm too poor to go shopping. As we kissed, he pulled me up and took my sweater off leaving my blouse to cling to my body and then discarded it on the ground. The pieces of my ex-boyfriend laid in a heap on the ground as this new boy kissed me. He was no longer between us. Here I am making a significant metaphor out of something that was purely coincidental, but it felt real. And that was the moment I closed my heart to my ex-boyfriend. I knew then that I could let him go. I was having one of those favorite nights with a wonderful boy. I wasn't looking for him and I wasn't entirely certain that I wanted him, but I am so grateful that he came into my life that night. This boy made me realize that there are other cute, sweet, funny men that I can share my heart with. That I don't need to hold on to the boy who let me go because there are others out there who will hold my heart close to theirs and not want to give it back. When I woke up the next morning, cuddled in the creases of his arms, legs tangled in affection, I didn't know if anything would come from this first date. If there would be a second. If we’d fall in love. If he'd be my forever person. Or maybe I’d never see him again. But this boy unknowingly gave me so much, and maybe that's why people are in our lives for as long or as short as it takes for us to grow from the experience they have to offer.
We talked everyday since that first night. And I really started to like him. He held me close when he kissed me. He texted me good morning with little x’s and o’s. He would call me beautiful for no reason at all. Sometimes I would catch him just looking at me, smiling, and it made me feel cared for. He is smart and taught me things about the world and he never made me feel stupid for asking questions about all the things I don't know. He's what I would think about when I was falling asleep at night. I found his all consuming career ambition both inspiring and maddening. And for all of that, he made my heart warm. But we were very different. We saw the world in strikingly different ways. I enjoyed his company, of course. It was an attraction that laid deeper then his handsome exterior. But I soon became consumed with the differences between us. I was never certain he was my person, my terrifyingly exciting romance, my life partner. I wish I could just let things be and trust in the happiness of it all, but I need more. Not in the sense of titles and commitment, but an intricate list of his feelings and what we're doing together and he wasn't able to give me that, which is perfectly normal, but I am too controlling or perhaps to insecure to exist in the unknown. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with passing the time with someone who makes your heart warm with the complete uninhibited freedom of seeing how you can learn and grown from this person who you know is not the person you're meant to build your future with. Or would more be learned by spending this part of my life on my own and growing more in love with myself without a guy to fall into? I simply didn't know. I wanted us to fit together more then we did. I found myself fighting for the fantasy of what I wanted us to be rather then accepting the reality. Eventually our differences became too much and what we were doing seemed to be defined in two entirely different ways by each of us.
Last week, after a two month romance, this boy and I decided to go our separate ways. We were a part of something beautiful and greatly mismatched and that's okay. It's okay to say goodbye to someone you really care about. If this relationship had happened earlier in my life, I would have stayed with him. I would have stayed with him because he was kind to me and because he was affectionate and because he was someone I could escape into. But I'm in a place now where I feel comfortable asking for what I need in a relationship. For needing to feel important to the person I am sharing my heart with. I love myself more and I'm no longer afraid to ask for that love from other people. And I'm not afraid to be alone if they don't want to give me that. We cared about each other but our individual needs became greater then the affection we shared. And so we said goodbye, with our hearts still warm for each other. I'm going to miss him, I already do, but that just means we shared something special, I don't think that's a reason to stay with someone. It's never fun to ask for your heart back from a boy you have given it to. And who knows if this is the end of our story. We may stay in each others' lives and have a beautiful friendship. Or maybe in a different time when we are in different places we may find ourselves more wonderfully matched for each other. I don't know. But I am grateful for the experience that I shared with him and that I got to know this boy. And for all the things about myself he unknowingly helped me fight for.