I spent the entirety of my late teens and early 20s in a committed relationship. I was happy and I was in love, until one day I wasn’t. There was something missing. There was some level that my relationship just couldn’t reach. It wasn’t enough, no matter how much I wanted it to be. I stayed longer than I should have because I was too afraid to leave. Eventually I felt so trapped that I did the only rational thing I could think of: I ran away.
On Monday, I told my boyfriend of five years that I was moving 300 miles away. By Friday, I was gone.
I questioned my decision the minute I drove away. Despite everything, I still cared about him, and I was hurting him beyond repair. I broke his heart. I watched him fall apart, knowing that he had done nothing to deserve this pain. I spent the next few months hating myself for what I had done, questioning all the choices I had made. I was a mess of self-doubt and self-loathing. What if I had been wrong? What if our relationship was as good as it was going to get? What if I had thrown away the closest thing I would ever find to love?
After spending months making myself miserable, I decided to find something to fill the void. Maybe a random boy to make out with, or at the very least, someone to talk to. I downloaded Tinder, and swiped right and left at random.
You were the first person to talk to me.
We had a good conversation. You asked for my number and I gave it to you without really thinking. I didn’t know how any of this worked. We had an even better conversation, and you asked me to hangout. I wanted to say no, to push myself further away from anything that might resemble happiness. I felt like I deserved to be alone, to be unhappy after what I had done. But this was why I was here. This was why I had abandoned a boy who loved me and moved 300 miles away. To find something more.
Honestly, I didn’t really like you at first. You were foreign and bizarre. You talked about sports, which I hate. You didn’t get my nerdy references. You held my hand wrong. It took everything I had to go on a second date with you, to not just disappear.
Being with you was harder than I could have imagined. Being a girlfriend was my default. I didn’t know how to just be a girl. I didn’t know how to kiss someone who wasn’t my boyfriend. I didn’t know how to hide the darker parts of myself after having them fully exposed for years. I didn’t know how to go slow.
For whatever reason, you let me in. You peeled back the walls around yourself and let me really look at you. You told me things about yourself that, from the way you spoke, I could tell you didn’t normally share. I did the same, and despite my fears and anxieties, you understood.
We went from discussing our thoughts on the universe to tugging at each other’s’ clothes in no time at all. You kissed me for hours, and in between kisses teased me about my skinny arms. We laid intertwined staring at my ceiling, digging deeper into ourselves, pulling up pieces to share.
I didn’t love you. I didn’t need to. I just needed to know that people like you exist. You didn’t love me either, and it was such a relief not to be loved. It was a relief not to feel like I held your happiness in my hands, not to feel like I was the most important thing. This wasn’t about love anyway. This was about starting over. It was about knowing without a doubt that I had made the right decision, that I was going to be okay, that something really had been missing, that whatever it was, it was out there for me to find.
Thank you. You were exactly what I didn’t know I needed.