“I don’t care where you go next year, I want to come with you.” I had just woken up and thought I was dreaming. I listened to his voice message again. “I wanna be with you. That’s the most important thing, that’s what’s on top of my list.” I jumped out of bed and immediately replied! Our relationship started as a summer romance, doomed by his move to Mexico, and my love for Spain. His first word on the subject of children had been “NO” while mine had been “YES.” See? Doomed.
I was never going to move to Mexico with him; he was never going to stay in touch. I have attended a big wedding. The bride wearing a beautiful dress, the groom’s eyes sparkling as she walks down the aisle. It is all very real then. But the decay of that happiness is also real.
People change their minds. People grow apart. People disagree and fight about it. Bonds break. Love is not exactly known for being tame.
However, I am not bitter about relationships. I still believe love to be the most incredible, beautiful, earth-shaking feeling in the world. It is undeniable that I have always believed in fairytales of all sorts. I just stopped banking my happiness on “The Future.” My previous relationship had the entire vision of “The Future” laid out before us – or at the very least, before me: The wedding in Spain. The home in Madrid. Saturday mornings walking the dog. Sunday afternoons with his family…I banked a lot of happiness on that fantasy.
When the relationship ended, my emotional investment crumbled, and naturally, so did I. But I have never been one to become bitter – just smarter, and far more alive than before. So how come my “summer fling” – who did not want to stay in touch after his move to Mexico – is now my boyfriend? How is it that I – the girl banking happiness on marriage and babies – am taking a serious chance with someone that is not into parenthood? We thought about this a lot. We cried about it, too.
It seemed silly to try a long-term relationship knowing our differences. But this is what I realized while falling in love again:
1. “The Future” never looks exactly the way I pictured it.
There we were, considering all the things that would eventually break us up. I always worry about what will happen next. I always plan things out, and half the time my plan doesn’t work *insert Taylor Swift’s gasp face*. The other half the time I am going with my back-up plan, which is as much of a 50/50 risk as the first one. I enjoy creating short-term and long-term goals. If I relax my vision of the future, life can become quite adventurous (which is really the main thing I am looking for). My happiest trips have been to places I never thought I would visit. Every incredible thing I have ever done (like moving to Spain by myself) started out as a dream. So I began to question the future’s reliability. Finding a man to marry and having babies may not necessarily turn out the way it looks in my head. But living in the present, with this amazing man felt out of this world! Spontaneous adventures, mind blowing conversations, mornings of laughter, nights of passion, understanding stares, caring hugs, new challenges, authenticity. The present is real.
2. Disposing of something that makes me happy makes NO SENSE.
We cried every time we asserted we would not last. A clear sign that we both wanted it to last, despite our reasoning. A relationship like ours never seemed “realistic” to either of us. We were just having fun. This was a summer fling. A cute story. A learning experience for future relationships. At the same time, breaking up did not make any more sense than staying together did. What were we supposed to do? *insert long thinking break here*. I would say Happiness is a pretty reliable barometer of what to do with your life. He did not want to stay in touch, but sending me WhatsApp messages made him happy. So he sent those, and some e-mails…and some Skype calls.
I never wanted to move from Europe to Latin America, but exploring a new country with him sounded so much fun! So I gave him my (doubtful) word to visit him in a few months if I found a cheap flight. Next thing I knew, he was showing up at my home in Miami while I visited my family. He met my mother, cooked ceviche with my stepfather, and held me tightly, saying he wanted to start a life with me. Next thing he knew, I was researching jobs in Mexico, which gave me that adventure rush I am highly addicted to.
3. Time is a limited, valuable treasure.
Life flies right out of our hands. I learned this the hard way when I lost my father at 22. Time goes by, and not to scare you, but: You will never get it back. My life as I know it, will one day, actually, legitimately, come to an end. I am hyper-aware of this. I don’t know when I’ll die. I’d rather not know when. As much as I may imagine my story unfolding a certain way, who is to say when I’ll be living the last chapter.
My dad (whom I pictured dying when I was in my 40’s, never early 20’s!) did not make it to 60. I do believe in long term goals, and I like having a sense of general direction for my future. I like to think I will live to have pretty, snow-white hair, and grandchildren that will not like the way my house smells. But really, who is to say I will even live to have marriage and children? I do not want to cut back my happiness now for a future that may or may not come.
4. I learned what I really, really want.
Thanks to much needed travel experience, soul searching, and multiple heartbreaks, I have learned a thing or two about what I really, really want. Rounding up my life into four main areas, this is what I thrive to see in abundance: adventure, love, contribution, and happiness. Adventure could come in the form of travel, or any random change of life plan *cough* like falling in love with someone I was not supposed to *cough*. Love can also come in different shapes and sizes.
I love my friends, family, and students. However, a big, unexpected, worldly romance sounds like a deal I personally don’t want to pass up! Contribution – originally why I was eager to have children. I wanted to contribute to someone’s life in a BIG, personal way. While working in child education, I realized my contribution is as legitimate as being a mother. Children are a cause I really care about, and where I really want to make an impact.
While career goals are also significant to me, in my mind, the highest contribution to this cause would have been through motherhood. Now, I feel the options are more unlimited than I had previously acknowledged, and I dream of impacting children around the world. That’s right. The world. As far as happiness goes, life direction can be nice (even comforting), but I have never felt happier than when I am living in the moment, embracing some ambiguity. Maybe this relationship is not going to last the rest of my life.
Maybe I will get married, and I will not have children. Maybe I will have children, but I will not get married. Maybe I will die single (but not with cats because I am allergic). Maybe I will marry multiple times. Maybe this man I call “baby” is the great love of my life, and all the details surrounding our future do not determine our relationship happiness any more than the next daydream. I do not want another conversation crying over a fictional future break-up.
I will not have another tantrum because “the future” I built my life around did not turn out the way I planned. My happiness is too precious to bank it on the high-definition details of days I am not guaranteed to live. Instead, I am investing today in the moldable, flexible, ground covering concepts: adventure, love, contribution, and happiness. However those things show up, intertwine, and get established is suddenly trivial.