There was a guy once who seemed like he was everything. He was kind and smart, fun and down to earth. He was a vegetarian because he loved plants as much as animals. His wit won me over, his taste in music was unparalleled, and he is the only other person I’ve ever met whose body temperature also goes up by around 10 degrees when he sleeps.
What I found out a month after I met him, was that he was going through a personal crisis- a crisis of conscience, I suppose. He had been seeing this girl pretty seriously for a couple of years, but he wasn’t quite sure what he was doing with his life. He was finishing law school, finding a new place to live, etc. etc. In short, he wasn’t ready to settle down with her, so he told her he needed “some space to figure things out.” We got to know each other over several months. He taught me what a gimlet was. He helped me paint my kitchen. We cooked, we played, we ate, we drank, we laughed. We even loved a little. He told me he thought the three of us- me, him, and Ryan- would make a “pretty happy little crew.” He gave me hope. He made me feel like it was safe to fall. So I fell.
He told me he loved me the same night he told me he was going to make it work with his girlfriend instead. And that was that.
A few years went by, and there was a guy who seemed like he was everything. He was different somehow. He was a musician, handsome and poetic. He was sensitive and passionate, playful and driven. Our first phone conversation lasted 5 hours. We could talk for hours about silly things like the difference between jam, jelly, and preserves, and which of the three is obviously superior. His smile lit up a room, his charm won over strangers. He came to visit for an entire week and we lived the good life…we ate brie with fig preserves on crackers; we roasted a turkey for Friendsgiving; and we spent an entire morning doing nothing but lying around talking. He played the guitar and sang; I showed him around my city, and he agreed Dayton could give any city worth its salt a run for its money. He went to a gym to see about getting a membership since he figured “he’d be spending plenty of time in Dayton.” We talked for hours about our lives, our families, and about all the things we wanted to do. He told me I had raised the bar for women everywhere, and we made plans for me to visit him a couple weeks later. A few days before that visit, in the middle of Blind Bob’s, I got a text. He assured me he wasn’t still in love with his ex, but just wasn’t “over that situation” and couldn’t see me right now. A few months later I found out they were back together, and he told me in a tone I had never heard him use before not to contact him again. I was crushed. I felt like I couldn’t trust myself to know what was real anymore. I had been so sure. And yet, that was that.
Why am I telling you all this? “What’s the point?” you ask. Because. It’s how I got here.
I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not trying to be pedantic. This isn’t meant to be a golden morsel of sage wisdom; it isn’t profound in the least. But I believe we learn (and grow with each other) through shared experiences. Chances are, this doesn’t sound unfamiliar to some of you. I’m also sharing this story because it’s one that’s been locked up tight for several years, and yet like a knee-jerk reflex, it still affects how I respond in certain situations today.
It’s pretty widely known that where we’ve been and the lessons we’ve learned the hard way (usually from people we decided to trust) have a profound influence on who we are today– they impact how we respond, react, and feel in our everyday lives and relationships. Whether it’s trust in yourself, or in someone else, trust is a tough commodity to come by, and an even tougher one to hang onto for any length of time. Particularly when you’ve learned that sometimes things aren’t what they seem. At all.
Is that it then? Are we just destined to keep repeating the same mistakes, or is there hope yet?
How do we trust ourselves to have better judgment going forward? How do we resist punishing the people in our lives today for the wrongs inflicted by those who came before? How do we maintain our optimism without turning a blind eye to our experience? I don’t know exactly.
But I will try to be painfully honest with myself, communicate openly even when I fear losing something, and eventually live my way into believing that this is (finally) every bit as real as it seems.