Growing up, I would watch how romance and love were portrayed in Hollywood: music coupled with various clips of couples smiling while baking bread, painting a living room, or eating a salad. Even though I was a young boy and pretty naïve to the experience of romance, these ideological images of true love were subconsciously engrained into my psyche so that when, or if, I were to ever develop a strong connection with a girl, I would know how to act and what to do.
That experience didn’t really come in high school simply because I didn’t really know who I was, myself. I got caught up in a way of thinking that made me convince myself that I was given a terrible hand in life and then, consequently, turned to drugs and alcohol in order to get by on a daily basis.
When you’re drinking every day and your only objective is to hate yourself and everyone else around you, love is pretty much the last thing on your mind. After some tough times and horrifying realizations that I was quickly heading nowhere, I got my act together and quit using drugs and drinking alcohol, with the help of people who used to think and act like me.
Fast forward to my sophomore year in college. It was the beginning of September, I was eleven months sober, pledging a fraternity, living with some of my best friends, and I felt like I was on top of the world. Throughout my teens, I felt like the world was completely against me, but now it felt as if though things were finally falling into place.
One of the first weekends into the school year, I laid eyes on a beautiful girl. She had blonde hair and hazel eyes. She was tall and her smile seemed to light up the entire room. She was one of those girls that always had a perimeter of potential suitors hovering around her, because she was that beautiful. Our first night together was the result of the stars aligning, her having a little too much to drink, me giving her water, and us having a mutual friend.
We ended up going back to my suite with all of my roommates, a couple of friends, and this newfound girl of my dreams ended up staying the night. Now, if your mind is in the gutter and you’re thinking that I had a one-night stand, you couldn’t be more wrong. Even though my morals were questionable in high school when I was in the midst of my substance abuse, I knew enough to not take advantage of this stranger now that I was sober and a respectful member of society.
To fast forward through all of the courting and talking, somehow, someway, I had managed to win over this girl. From the start, she said that she didn’t want a relationship, but the way that we acted towards each other insinuated otherwise. For all intents and purposes, we were a couple without any formal labels.
It was like it was in the movies. This girl answered all my texts, forced me to open up, and completely won over my heart. I’m hesitant to say that I fell in love with her, but I think I came pretty close. In the beginning, I thought she was perfect and I fell for her. Then I discovered her flaws, realized she wasn’t perfect, and I fell for her even harder. In my eyes, she could do no wrong. She was the first person I thought about when I woke up and the last person I thought about as I went to sleep.
Winter break came and she said that it would be good for us to take some time, have some space, and then start things up again once the second semester started. I made a rule that if we were to talk, she would have to initiate it, meaning that I couldn’t text or call her.
Of course, she reached out almost every day and we spoke constantly. Days before the start of the second semester, I was more than excited to be able to see her after our month long hiatus. I couldn’t believe that I had actually developed feelings for a girl. This self-centered, selfish, miserable human being that hated everyone in high school actually cared about someone and wanted her to be happy.
Seeing her smile made me feel weird inside, hearing her laugh prompted this involuntary smile to take over my face, and holding her hand or cuddling her made me never want to let go. Life was at an all-time high.
The unexpected happened when she contacted me and told me that she wanted things to be “different.” She wanted to spend more time with her girlfriends and experience college life on her own for a little while. I was devastated and felt like I had hit a brick wall, but more than anything, I was confused. I couldn’t understand what changed or what made her want to change things so drastically. To this day, almost four years later, I still don’t know what happened.
Every weekend from there on after, I went out expecting to see her, sweep her off her feet, and make her fall for me all over again, but that never happened. I waited for the 3am phone call with her on the other end saying that she missed me and wanted to fall asleep next to me, but that didn’t come, either.
I was experiencing something else I’d seen in the movies: the break up. I resorted back to my old ways of isolating myself and not opening up to anyone about what I was going through. I didn’t want to feel the way I felt. I just wanted this girl back in my life. I basically turned into my teenage self, except I didn’t drink or use drugs. My behaviors changed and I was entering a crisis that would last much longer than anticipated.
Months later, she ended up dating one of my fraternity pledges and they had a relationship for almost two years. Seeing her fall in love with someone close to me was brutal. Seeing her in the fraternity house where I lived broke my heart. Watching her smile in someone else’s arms made me want to run away and never look back.
During my remaining years of college, I was elected president of my fraternity, had a great job on campus, and was chosen to speak at my commencement ceremony, so it seemed as though I had made somewhat of a comeback.
But I think boys and girls go through things differently. Girls bounce back quicker than guys do. Boys internalize while girls seek guidance from their friends. Why do I think that? Because four years later, there’s still this part of me that thinks about her almost every day.
Occasionally, we will contact one another and briefly catch up, which is fantastic. Her laugh still makes me smile and I still very much value her as a person. I just wish It would have ended up differently.
I’ve had short and brief relationships since her, but nothing has exactly taken over me the way that she did. Every girl I take an interest in, I compare to her and there really is no comparison. I must admit it that it’s a lot better than it was four years ago, so I guess that just tells me that I need more time.
Whenever I think about our time together, I can’t help but smile, because nothing bad happened – nothing really went wrong, except for the end. Sometimes, I’ll feel sad and search online for some self-help guides, but I’ve come to the conclusion that my experience is unique and I need to get through this in my own time. I can talk about it and share about it with friends, but at the end of the day, the only person that needs to heal is me. Life is a journey of peaks and valleys. The higher the peak, the lower the valley.
So while movies can provide, for me, a sense of relief and comfort knowing that my love story isn’t the only one to go array, movies are only a couple of hours long. My love story is pushing four years. It’s something that’s shaped me and molded me into the person that I am today.
I may have wished things were different, but I don’t think I’d want to go back and change anything, because at the end of the day, if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I am going to turn out all right. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.