I bet that’s the one thing you’ve never considered.
That somewhere, someone is kicking themselves for letting you go. For never having had a chance. For never mustering the courage to tell you that they liked you, too. We live in a world where there are too many missed attempts and chances never taken to not be someone’s “should have.”
I am not telling you this so that you scroll through your roster of Facebook friends, trying to figure out who it is. Don’t search through all the one-named listings in your phone of people whose numbers you got at bars but never called. Trying to narrow down Missed Connections to find one that matches your description is time you could spend doing literally anything else. There is little to gain in the knowledge that somebody out there wishes they had the balls to simply say “hi” to you.
But having that knowledge is enough in itself. Why? Because it matters. Of course it matters — not necessarily to your ego, because it is the kind of knowledge that will go to your head if you’re not careful. It does matter to the scope of relationships, though. On the grand scheme of things. The scale. The odds. The probabilities. That one question: Why doesn’t anyone want to be with me?
Because someone does want to be with you. You were the classmate they never passed that note to. The coworker they never chased because they feared the taboo of dating in the workplace. The friend of a friend. The friend’s ex, and therefore coded as off-limits forever. The cute stranger in the park, on the subway, in the grocery store — anywhere you could have been where they could have seen you. And they saw you. You stuck yourself firmly in their heads. Whether or not you knew it. Whether or not you meant to. But you did.
And they never said anything.
Maybe they were scared. Maybe they were in another relationship at the time. Maybe they were moving, or maybe they were just a tourist. There are so many “maybes” that amount to one thing: the timing wasn’t right. The timing is never right. But that doesn’t stop people from sitting down on empty stools next to attractive people and striking up a conversation. They do it every day.
The difference is that they are brave enough to start. Willing enough to sit down. Daring enough to open their mouths. Crazy enough to say hi. Insane enough to put themselves on the line and ask for a number and say they want to see you again. These people exist — both in person, and online. (Have you ever worked up the nerve to send a message and start a conversation on dating sites? That takes its own set of balls.)
And everyone else is left with could have. Would have. If only.
You could argue that these people don’t deserve anything more than regret. You wouldn’t be incorrect. You don’t play, you don’t win. You don’t ask for the number, you don’t get to make the call. You don’t vote, you don’t get to complain about the state of affairs. It’s pointless to ruminate over all the missed shots you never took, but this is what we do. We’re human. We like living in the alternative realities: what if I had talked to her; what if he knew who I was; what if I said hi; what if I told them I was into them.
If you break the cycle, if you say hi to someone who might be your next big regret, you stop the cycle a little. Eventually, you find someone and realize you don’t want to let go — so you don’t. You hold on. The cycle gets broken a little more. You might be another stranger’s regret still (worse: their taken regret) but that’s not for you to worry about anymore. You can only control your carbon footprint of regrets. If you make them a little less infinite, you do what you can. You do your part. You live a lighter, less burdened life. When you don’t have burdens like all those could haves and would haves, you get to focus on the good stuff. The stuff you were smart enough to not let go.
So hold on. Because somewhere out there is someone who knows that they will never let you go.
Whether or not they know who you are yet. A little weird, but no less true.