I remember the exact moment that I saw him. It was seventh grade, I was twelve years old, and it was my first day of Spanish class. He had a bridge of freckles across his nose and instantly I thought that he was captivating, simply by him trying to find his seat.
That was the day I met my soul mate.
I know what some of you might be thinking already. That soul mates, that loves of your life, are not actually real. That this is a ploy by Hollywood and idealistic humans to make us always root for the happy ending. Cue the music, and the rain, and the “love can get us through anything.” Some of you, are plain skeptical.
Others of you, brought forth by the fact that you feel as if you have your own or hope desperately that you will find yours, agree. Some of us just love, love. I think that might be me.
Honestly though, if you do or if you don’t believe, I still hope you can take something away from this. As I can confidently say I have never been surer of anything in my entire life.
After meeting him, John, in middle school, when hormones are slowly on the horizon but actions are rarely more than holding hands, we became close friends. For the first two years of knowing each other we discussed a lot of whatever thirteen year old discussed back then. We worked on school projects. We graduated into high school and took drivers ed with each other. We had mutual friends and family members and a town to call our own. We shared dreams and hopes and goals and it all. Yes we were teenage inseparability. But we really were best friends.
Because before I go further in anything, I am here to challenge the very notion that soul mates is a purely romantic word. I instead, believe it to be, the word of someone who sees who you are, shares who you are, and who entangles their soul with your own. An unbreakable bond. And this sprouts out of pure friendship, the most revolutionary relationship one can have that transcends every vital part of your life.
Sometimes though, soul mates can share, and more often than not do, a romantic relationship too. This was the case for John and me. When I was sixteen, and after a girlfriend or two of his, we inevitably became a couple. We went from talking all night while watching football to talking all night, kissing, and watching football. We explored each other both physically and emotionally, in a way that defines adolescence.
But even back then, we both knew there was something at play here, something bigger than puppy love or first love. Or at least I did.
This came in part of course acting older than our ages (or at least seemingly believing we did.) Have you ever seen those 90’s television shows and you think to yourself if teenagers ever really speak like that and have those life altering existential thoughts? They do.
Our bond also came from a genuine respect to divulge everything to each other. It came from me, as an aspiring writer, encouraging us to write back to each other in composition notebooks about anything and everything we could. By the time we left high school we had more than seven of them filled with everything from long days at school, to fights with our parents, to hopes that we would always be close. Before we went away to a new chapter in our lives we buried them and promised to open them in ten years on our friendship anniversary – July 4th.
As close as we were still in our hearts our romantic relationship fumbled throughout high school. I idolized him back then and dismissed how he treated me in our relationship. He was selfish. I was insecure. He was immature. I was too. And of course we were both irresponsible teens who did not know how to deal truly with all the feelings we had for each other that were given to both of us too soon. We fought our way through this trying to make a relationship work again into college (we both attended the same state school.) Before that drifted off as well.
We had simply become different people. And he had become someone I didn’t recognize anymore. I thought that was the end, the typical end, of a relationship that ends when two people go their separate ways in a place where there’s thirty thousand other people who might be “the one to complete you.”
Cutting off communication with him was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my entire life but also what I knew I needed. And believe me I cut off communication in every way that every relationship article would tell you to. I blocked him on social media sites, I dropped his number from my phone (but still had it memorized). I was so enthralled in the idea of trying to distance myself away from him physically that I didn’t even think about distancing myself from him mentally.
And there he was always. I could not escape him no matter how much I tried. He was in me as this default person I wanted to tell my good and bad days to. His inquisitive look was there in my head, along with his mouth, but most all of his comfort.
When I gave him up I felt I lost a part of me. And I feared no one would understand this.
The deep connection of a soul mate is feeling as if you have found not just another part of you that was missing but that was someone out there “gets you.” As cliché as this sound, the cliché holds meaning.
But I do believe it is entirely possible to be happy with another person who isn’t your “soul mate.” The idea of a soul mate is not the end all be all of your romantic endeavors. The idea of a soul mate is grounded in the fact that most of the times it is beyond your control with having one but you can control what happens with you and this other person.
I chose to have happiness. And I found that in a new boyfriend while John turned to a new girlfriend in college. Although I was facing happiness head on with my new man, there was always a part of me that was incredibly uncomforted by the fact that John and I had not truly talked in a year.
Then one day I got a call from my sister, who told me that John’s father died. Knowing he was studying abroad when this happened I hurried to talk to him, and the second I did over my computer his voice came forth, and seven years of rushed memories accompanied by visions of what he was going through alone made my heart break.
Following the funeral and after seeing him again we lost ourselves in each other, because I was the only person who could be there for him. I was the only person that could understand him. I was the only person that could cry with him about this situation. And I was the only person he said he wanted.
A few weeks later after breaking up with my boyfriend who cheated on me, if you can believe it with a secret fiancé, it was as if our souls had found a way back to each other. As I do believe that sometimes in sadness souls connect more. And we cheated with each other. No justification given to the terrible thing we did but just the love that we always had for each other. And a moment that was equally as heart wrenching as it was beautiful.
The results and the rest of that year were not that pretty. We put it behind us but months later we slipped again. Even if we told each other that we did not regret doing it we did regret hurting other people as a result of our actions. After, we tried consistently to be friends. And eventually, because I felt once again that he might not be taking responsibility for what he did, I said that I needed to once again not be a part of his life. I demanded apologizes, said comments I thought I never would to him, and told him to never speak to me again.
I assumed of course this was the actual finale to whatever saga we signed up for. Life continued to pass on through as life always does. I graduated college, my sister got married to her longtime boyfriend, and I published my novel – a book loosely based on the adolescent days of him and I. I wished for him to be there at all of these events, but that could never have been.
And then one day out of the blue a few weeks ago while sitting on my balcony at my apartment, and he was a couple of hundred miles away in his new city, I called him. Because I felt that I should. Because I thought to myself that I was faced with a decision that was becoming increasingly real every single that went by in my life. If I did not go out of my way to speak to him again it might not happen for years, if ever. And when getting to the point of my life where the future was now the present I decided that I could never let that happen. That some relationships, no matter what happens between them, are meant to be saved. More importantly I wanted to say sorry for my share of what I did. And even if he picked up the phone and pretended to be above it all I could hang it up knowing that I did my part.
When he answered, after asking me fervently if I was ok, we talked for three hours until sometime around four in the morning. True to us telling each other to turn on our tvs and watch the baseball game that had gone into extra innings, the bond was still there.
We said our “sorrys”. We spoke longingly of the past. He told me how much he wanted me to be successful and happy with my published novel. He was a changing person. The soul mate of my youth.
It took us minutes to finally hang up. “The you hang up, no you hang up” is a real thing. We joked about us dreaming this all, and how in the morning we were going to check our call logs just to make sure it really had happened. He said to me “I feel as if you are wearing an invisibility cloak in my life at all times. I missed you.” I missed him too. Like after the longest day of your life, and you had to go in early to the office, and the traffic is stacking up bad on the highway, home is the only thing you want. I felt like I was coming home. I slept with my phone in my hand that night because it was like feeling closer to him again. Not romantically, just spiritually. For all you cynics out there (I am one too) I know that is making you cringe.
But this is not the typical happy ending, in the friendship nor the romantic sense. But it is a real one.
We ended up meeting up for the first time in a long time and I gave him a copy of the book I felt was at least a little his. We spoke about the future of us, there in person and on the phone, and tried to see how we could make our new relationship work as he was still with his girlfriend from college and she was understandably not pleased about our interaction.
We spoke of everything having to do with us down to our ideal worlds, one in which he wanted me to attend his wedding (I said this would not happen.) One in which he wanted his kids to call me “Aunt” (I said this might happen.) An ideal world in which we were friends again, good again.
The thing is we are good again. But we can never be that good again. And as much as he wants it and as equally as much as I do. This cannot be.
Because it is not just the two of us, soul mates, in a world of our own. There are families, our friends – in particular mine who are fiercely protective of me – and there is of course his girlfriend. In this difficult way to comprehend as well, there are the unknown people of the future. My future boyfriend or husband. Future people who could get hurt.
And even if all these people didn’t matter it would be still him and I, at different points in our lives right now that are not conducive to not just being together but not sharing matching bff necklaces.
I have mourned a romantic relationship with this man that I loved for years before always hanging onto the idea that while we could not be together we could still be best friends, which truly has always been more important to me. That I would be the person he calls when the world seems like it just might be too much that day. When a death anniversary pasts. When our favorite teams win. When we are near a beautiful ocean.
It was a job I had done for so long I could gladly have done for the rest of my life. Instead I realize that his girlfriend, whether or not that is his future wife, is the one who should take over this spot.
She is the one who should be there for him in his successes and in his disappointments. More importantly she deserves the respect of me never interfering or being a threat. She is a real person with emotions and feelings. I would never do anything anymore, not that I sought to ruin it before, which would further destroy anything between them. I say this all because I have courtesy towards them as a couple but also because I love him.
John and I speak of this love frequently with each other. The love we have not rooted in sexuality but in this deep understanding that for whatever purpose we were given to each other in our childhood to help each other grow. It’s a gift I could not be more grateful for, but it’s a gift that has consequences.
Just last week when we were eating lunch to catch up with each other and stop briefing over the past we spoke about his job, his brother, small talk for give or take an hour. I stared at him, and realized two absolute certainties.
He is not a man I would ever pick for myself. He is smart, caring, and attractive but he does not have the defining personality traits of the man I see myself with in the future (I see this as someone a little less calculating and serious and a little more affectionate.) More importantly though? He could not be that man even if I wanted him to be.
Soul mates are not your perfect person. Soul mates are the perfect people to help change you and they are the people you can grow with but they are not everything you want in your perfect person. They aren’t the prototype Ryan Gosling. They require work like every other relationship but their foundation is absolutely unshakeable.
This does depress me because I do believe that he and I could have made it work. But this takes two people and forgiveness, and the situations in our life, as said before, do not call for it. It might very well have been a life of trying too much.
Now, and for the past few years, I focus on the friendship and forego the romance.
If you can believe it I can’t see into the future. I do not know exactly what is in store for us. However I am certain that we will continue to be in each other lives till the day we die. We have made this unfathomable promise.
Our relationship now, however impactful, is full of needed boundaries.
We have resorted to being birthday and holiday friends, people who call each other to check in, people who go to rushed lunches between meetings. It disappoints me, but it’s realistic. And every time I let it bring me down too much I contemplate our great x factor and smile fondly.
Losing a soul mate though requires that you grieve the soul mate. Whether a physical or emotional loss, long lists of things you will never do with each other will pop up at random times. John Mayer concerts. Trips to Ireland. Insert what you wanted to do with them here. Knowing that they will not want to call you at the end of days to simply talk about them has to stop as well. Breaking the habit of “the default person” is a continuous choice John and I make daily. Letting each other go, in that way at least, is a daily decision.
With his sharp voice, contemplative, in a way only applicable to him a few weeks ago he told me “I shouldn’t be saying this being with someone but no one has ever made me feel as invincible as you have ever made me feel.”
That’s when I realized that that, finally, is the last part of what a soul mate is – a true person who makes you feel invincible, who inspires you, who has every moment of you wrapped up in them without realizing it. Who cares for you so unselfishly, who loves you more than that. Who comes back every time remembering your faults and not glorifying them, but instead accepting them. Because they always accepted yours. You two will become different people, as everyone does, but you are always the same two people together.
And sometimes like me you don’t marry them, you don’t stay their best friend, but that does not make them any less special. Sometimes it makes them even more.
The skepticism will reign forth. There will be those of you who think that this person I have frequently spoken about is nothing more than someone who is using me for my body and my company (he and I both have never had sex with each other by the way.) There are others who think that we have far stretched what we should have given up a long time ago (both he and I ask this question from time to time and still firmly decide “absolutely not.”) And then there will be those of you who just refuse to understand it. Soul mate is not a term that is meant to be understood it is a term that is meant to be believed. Like faith.
Even though we have this connection we both very much recognize that years from now we might be married to extraordinary loves of our lives. This is a wonderfully good thing. Just because John is my soul mate does not mean that I cannot have a love of my life, for a new season of my life. However, like John’s future wife, I hope my future husband will support and understand this bond that we do have. How we will always be there for each other, no questions asked.
Five years into the July 4th promise and five more to go, I can’t wait to open up the safe and take a peek back at our evolving relationship. I can’t wait to share a few laughs and really celebrate how far the two of us have come.
I didn’t get to walk down the aisle to John nor will he be there when I do that to someone else. But that’s ok.
I can’t wait to see who he grows into. He has grown up so much these past twelve years. I am honored to be his soul mate. It’s not conventional; neither are we – but we’ve created our own happy ending.