I’m frustrated. Truly and sincerely aggravated. Not because I’m twenty-two years old about to be thrown out into the “real world” where there’s no jobs available for me to apply my degree. Not because I’m living in a country that has me graduating with $50,000 worth of student loan debt. And not even because last week I got a $150 speeding ticket for going ONE mile over the speed limit. Although these are legitimate reasons, this is not why I’m fed up.
I’m fed up with love. I’m fed up with love, the game of love, and the rules of love that govern my generation.
I dated my ex boyfriend ‘Noah’ for three and a half incredible years. What we had was real, you know? None of that on and off bull shit. We didn’t “talk” for a few months before becoming exclusive, we didn’t play games, and we didn’t hide our feelings to keep one another interested. We were truly in love from the very beginning. We had a love that made people envious. I had a friend tell me after we broke up, “I’m afraid to fall in love because If you and Noah didn’t last, I’m scared to love and get my heart broken”. Three and a half years and when I looked into his eyes I still got butterflies. When we argued, I found myself loosing my train of thought and staring at him, dumbfounded by how much I loved him. Those feelings I have for him will always be with me; despite everything he put me through when he left me.
I felt as if we did it all: long distance one year, same college the next, moving in together…then Noah decided to move across the country. Naturally, I was devastated. Deep down I think I knew that we were going to end. I would have never admitted it to myself then, because we weren’t supposed to end, we were supposed to last. So instead, I spent the summer leading up to his departure trying everything in my power to get him to stay. I acted selfishly and lived in the future instead of enjoying the little time I had left with him in the present. The summer came to an end, as did our relationship. Not because we stopped loving each other, but because Noah needed it. He needed a change and he needed to grow up. He couldn’t do that staying with me. And I didn’t want him to do that staying with me. He deserved to go on whatever path would bring him happiness. He deserved to experiment, learn, flourish, and he deserved to do this without a girlfriend. He couldn’t be the amazing guy and loyal boyfriend to me if he was going to go focus on himself. I got that, and I understood why he left and why we couldn’t be together. I wasn’t even mad at him. Sad, yes, but how could I be mad at the man I loved for wanting to better himself? But that all changed when he jumped into another relationship.
A month after he moved, he met a girl who also had just left a long-term relationship. He didn’t think it was anything serious. He called me each week, and I know the feelings that we had, once so strong, weren’t easily going to disappear. But I also knew right away that he was projecting what he felt for me onto her. And I knew that if I wanted to take care of myself, I had to cut him out of my life completely. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I couldn’t keep him in my life if I wanted to heal my broken heart.
I removed him from every aspect of my life. I ignored his texts and calls and when he came to visit over the summer and reached out to see my family, I left town. I was angry. In that year, I grew in ways I never imagined. I learned that I don’t need a man to make me feel happy. I realized that my life is filled with SO many inspiring, loving, and amazing people for whom I am grateful. I learned to be independent and strong. I healed myself, but I still missed him. I figured that if he was still with this girl, he must really like her, and it was finally time for me to let go. So I did.
Almost a whole year passed and his family (who had been reaching out to me all year) asked me to stop by on Christmas. I don’t know what possessed me to agree to it, but after ripping a shot of Whiskey, I confidently stepped through his front door and into our past. I saw Noah for the first time in a year, and much to my surprise, everything about the evening exceeded my expectations. We had a year’s worth of things to catch up on and we easily fell back into the swing of our friendship. Our jokes, our jargon, it was as if he never left. We were ‘us’ again. He talked about his girlfriend…they live together now. He admitted he rushed into things with her way too fast. Apparently she graduated and turned down a job to stay with him. He said that he thinks about me all the time and often finds himself comparing her to me. He told me that he wasn’t unhappy, but he doesn’t love her the way he loved me. He said what we had was real, and powerful, and he doesn’t feel that with her.
What happened next I wasn’t proud of, but I didn’t have the strength to stop. We made love. For the rest of the time he was home we laughed, talked, kissed, and loved. We talked about how good it felt to be back in each other’s arms. And it was so damn real. And that’s why I’m fed up.
It’s been two weeks since he went back South and I haven’t heard from him, because that’s how things have to be. I’ve been thinking a lot. About him and me, and my feelings. And what’s right and what’s wrong and what I’m supposed to feel versus how I actually feel. And I’m fucking tired. Dating, love, relationships, they’re all a game. We as a cohort tiptoe around our true feelings and cling to these “rules” that don’t even tangibly exist: don’t text back too fast or you seem desperate, don’t be too available to make plans or you seem clingy, let him start the conversation first. When did love turn into a board game where all our moves and countermoves are planned strategically? In love, there should be NO rules. You should be governed by how you feel, not by what society says is right. We need to learn to love by our heart more and by our brain less.
This is why I’m frustrated. Here I am, single, trying to “find” love. Trying to find guys to date, searching for someone to fall in love with. This isn’t how it’s supposed to work! Love is supposed to happen naturally. I’m frustrated because I already have love. I have it with Noah. Noah who, despite it being against his moral character, cheated on his girlfriend with me. Noah, who said he hasn’t felt a spark since being with me, who told me he didn’t love his girlfriend the way he loves me. Yet, because he lives with her, he feels obligated to keep things going. How stupid is that? Why do we hold onto everything that is constant and comfortable even if it isn’t what we truly want? Why are we afraid of drastic change? Why do we take the easy way out?
I sit here, driven by these unwritten rules. I want to talk to him, but I can’t. I shouldn’t have feelings for him, but I do. I am forcing myself to suppress how I feel because “timing isn’t right”, or “we are on different paths”, or “it would be too complicated”. It’s all bullshit! When was love ever an easy thing? Love is not easy, but true love is worth it. It feels unnatural to me to have to ignore how I truly feel about him. We still have feelings for each other. But no, we can’t pursue it because it’s “not right”.
You know what’s not right? Cheating yourself. Settling for a mediocre love because it’s convenient, because you’re too lazy to fight for what you want. Settling because you feel trapped. Not leaving and not doing what makes you happy because you’re afraid.
We aren’t over. Our love hasn’t extinguished. But we are taking our flame, that once burned so brightly it lit up everything and everyone around it, and we are dwindling it. We are dousing it prematurely when there is still so much flame left to burn. How sad is that? To have something so unique and powerful, something that happens once in a lifetime, and diminish it because that’s what the rules of love say to do. Fuck the rules. Love without rules. Let love rule.