When it happened, it was as though the rug had been pulled from underneath me, unveiling a wormhole to a place where I had no ties to anything. It kept me from knowing what was forward and what was backward. I was slapped across the face. My goals made a mockery, my expectations crumpled behind my back: I had been made a fool.
That was how I felt anyway.
By the time it happened, I felt very secure about my solid investment: a fifth of my life and five-fifths of my devotion, admiration, respect and love. I was all in. “All or nothing,” he once said to me. Looking back I would have seen that as a warning sign. Back then, though, signs posed as challenges to prove myself. And prove myself I did, but, only to myself.
Surely it’s obvious by now, but all this melodrama could only mean one thing. Boy meets girl. Girl falls in love. Girl finds out about other girl whom boy met just a month before. Girl ends up sobbing in her closet for hours.
But that moment, the peel-yourself-off-of-the-floor-even-though-you-feel-like-that’s-where-you-belong sort of moment, isn’t what I want to dwell on. Believe me, I’ve spent enough time doing that. The endless scenarios and excuses and questions never got me any closer to the truth and never got me any closer to an answer. This story does not end happily in that regard. I never did find out why he did what he did. He never could meet my eye again and certainly could never muster the bravery a confession would require.
As promised, I’m moving on to what I have been meaning to say, which is why I am actually, sincerely happy I got to experience this.
And it is true. I’ve grown up enough since then to say that this experience brought some of the most profound beauty into my life, and I would like to share just what it gave me.
1. It took me outside of my life so I could see the corner I’d painted myself into. I had dreams of culinary school in New York City, and another of becoming top in my field in animal behavior research. These were ideas I had loved and cherished and then averted my gaze as they drifted away from me. I knew these goals would interfere with his. Or maybe, his own ambition and goals would be overshadowed by mine if I’d let them grow to fruition. That wouldn’t do. Not in his world, and it was in that world that I so desperately wanted to be in too.
While crawling out of that wormhole, I had the sort of awakening everyone should have. I realized exactly nothing was going to be like I thought it was going to be. Where was I headed if I couldn’t head there anymore? Who was I going to be if I couldn’t be that person anymore? The canvas I’d created was abruptly made blank. It gave me a stark mirror where I couldn’t escape taking that longer than I want it to be, harder than I have ever looked before stare at the actual me without any of the romanticized accoutrements I’d donned for the past four years. This was a girl with a very unknown future ahead of her. A future with a precipice I would fall from into the world I left when my judgment began to fail me. A precipice my toes had already crossed.
I took this time to understand myself. What were my values when there was no second thought into what others thought they should be? What was my future? I was on my last semester of college, which I’d shot through at top speed so as to not become a liability to him.
For just a moment, I’d dreamed that maybe I’d get that job. I’ll go to New York City and write there. The New York Times wouldn’t take me at first, but I’d work my way up. Then the economy collapsed. I had no hope of getting a job. All the pieces fell into place, and I knew what I needed to do next.
2. I did a lot of thinking. I did some prioritizing and getting my feet on solid ground again. But I finally decided I would serve a mission. My life again had purpose, and to be honest, it was a purpose that was always there, only before it had clashed with my former life plan and so I tucked this one away. I made up my mind, and I decided to go.
My mission was the most alive I have ever felt. It was the most free I have ever been. Under extreme limits and rules, I was living a life free from anything I had cared about before. As cliché as it is, I felt like I was finally living the life I was supposed to be living.
I realized on my mission that I could do anything. With God, nothing is impossible. In Taiwan, He was my Best Friend and my Greatest Ally. I learned to love, because the sweet faces of the Taiwanese could not inspire any other feeling. I remembered that there are so many roads to any outcome, and there’s not only one outcome. I learned I did not have to place each footstep into someone else’s print.
I learned to love a people whom I would have never known. I learned and loved the most spoken language in the world and one of the most difficult at that. I had the adventure of a lifetime that I cannot think about and not associate it with the harshest elements of nature and the extremes of emotion. I loved this moment of my life and as it turns out, this moment was given to me by the letters t-h-a-t-j-e-r-k. He gave that to me. I never would have had the guts on my own, until I was free to be on my own and to take the reigns.
3. After my mission I had to deal with the once again stark realization that maybe I am unlovable. The dating world is awkward and insincere and a bore. He had given me so much though. This time I knew what to look for. I felt wise beyond my years. I must always treat men with dignity and respect and treat myself likewise. I could under no circumstances let someone tell me that what I had to say was subpar. My mission had given me the ability to concoct some confidence in my intelligence and myself. My ideas are valid and my opinions are meaningful. This served as a sort of mantra until I knew it had stuck. Although challenging in the dating world, this confidence would lead me down better roads.
I was free to choose what my life would be like. I got a real job, where I get to write every day. I finally allowed myself to really date people, and see what I needed. I was in a good enough place where I didn’t rely on hearing from someone everyday to feel like that day was great. And that was very liberating.
I had recently broken up with a boyfriend hardly worth mentioning and decided it was time to spend some time with friends, as friends. I was drumming my fingers as Jen tried to vouch for the character of her tardy friend with “He’s usually not late,” and “He’s a great guy.” My incessant clock checking had been a bad byproduct of my mission punctuality. During the next hour, we waited for him to arrive so we could finally be on our way to Logan. When he would arrive, I would begin to discover someone who would throw himself in front of a bus before he would try to cut you down. He is made of kindness. His partner is the most important thing to him. He lives to love, and the recipient of his love would learn there is not anything he won't do for you, you the object of his adoration and devotion. You, the most precious thing to him. I would learn he is just the sort of person I never thought could be nonfiction. And there he was, an hour late, walking in looking fresh faced if not slightly apologetic. “Hey, I think we’ve met before.” I wasted no time, well, no more time than we already had wasted.
“No, we’ve never met. And you are very late.”