Last night I cried. It was a cry I’ve never experienced before. It was real and raw and terrifying.
I was lying in bed with my sort-of-boyfriend. We had been talking and laughing and kissing and I was happy. Then I laid my head on the pillow, looked at him, and the tears started to fall. I’m not that kind of person. I’m hard and strong and emotionally independent. I don’t cry in front of boys. Yet there they were, tears rolling from the corners of my eyes to the pillowcase. I rolled over before he noticed the tears, but he had already seen the expression on my face.
“You have a look right now,” he said.
We try to identify each other’s “looks.” So far I knew his “I want to say something but I don’t want to scare you” look, the ever popular “I would like to have sex but I can’t tell if you want to” look, and his “I need some attention” look. He hadn’t correctly identified any of mine.
“No I don’t,” I responded, my voice muffled from the blanket I had pulled up to my cheeks.
“You look really happy with a little sadness mixed in.”
I didn’t say anything; just tried to wipe my tears without him noticing.
“I’m right. Why are you sad?”
He sounded worried. It broke my heart. I tried to sound lighthearted to ease his mind, so I half-laughed.
“No, it’s not sadness. Close, though. I think I’m just scared, but mostly happy,” I managed to say without sounding heavy.
He scooted closer to me, rolled me over so my head was on his chest, and put his arm around me.
“You don’t have to be scared.”
I nodded against his chest and he kissed my head. A few minutes later, I heard his breaths steady and I knew he was almost asleep.
After his light snoring started, I rolled over so I could feel what I knew I needed to feel. I started crying, the same silent tears. They knew I was changing and they were crying for the old me.
I’ve always been a wanderer; not literally, but emotionally and mentally. I’ve had a few “serious” relationships that were significant in my life. Once I even thought I had found “the one.” Throughout each relationship though, I always felt anxious, like I was waiting for something but I didn’t know exactly what it was. I was always dreaming of the places I’d go and the things I’d do. Never in any of those relationships did I feel inclined to stay or put my dreams behind me. Once or twice I imagined my boyfriend tagging along, roaming the world and making our wildest dreams come true, but even that felt a little heavy.
Some might say it’s a commitment issue or a fear of being tied down and I guess that could have played a part in it, but it felt like something else. There was always a want in my heart, an urge to find adventure, a need to see and feel everything. The most epic case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) known to man, I guess.
It wasn’t just a case of small-town blues, either. My dreams were more important, leaving would have just been a bonus. I wanted to write, sing, act, invent a new fuel source, find a cure to ignorance, change the way people treat each other, end sexism, give a little girl hope, make a teenage boy feel less alone, feed the hungry, give jobs to the poor; I wanted to do everything.
Unfortunately, I never went anywhere or did anything. My lack of funds and a major case of social anxiety have kept me close to my hometown, even though it never felt quite like home. My fear of failure and general laziness has crippled my ability to make things happen for myself. Before this year started, I was constantly trying to convince myself that I could be content with how things are now. My heart was busting out of my chest with excitement of what could have been, but my head was firmly telling it to calm the hell down because it’s just going to be disappointed. I didn’t want to hurt or feel un-wanted or get rejected, so I made myself believe it was better to just pretend to be happy with my life as is. Fake it ‘til you make it.
Then my relationship with “the one” ended. I woke up one day and saw him for what he was and what he had made me and I left. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in regards to my own heart and pride. I was so embarrassed when I realized what had happened; I had been letting someone emotionally and mentally beat me down for a year. The signs were there from the beginning, I just didn’t want to see them. When I finally opened my eyes, I was a completely different person.
Three months after I packed my bags, I was feeling good again. Four months, I was moving forward and dating again. Five months out, and I was myself.
People say it takes half the length of the relationship to completely get over it. I’m not sure if that’s true or not; I would assume it’s different for everyone. For me, six months passed and I could still feel everything he did to me, hear every word he screamed at me, but I was done. I had scars but I was whole again.
Since the six-month mark, I’ve gone from rebuilding myself to renewing myself. I’ve been working on the personal obstacles that have always been in the way of my dreams. I started writing, working harder, learning new things, and straightening out my priorities. I’ve been coming to terms with failure and rejection and fear, realizing that without them I wouldn’t know success or acceptance or courage. I’ve been trying. I’ve been happy.
A couple months ago, I applied for a few jobs within my current field but in other cities, states, even countries. I figured if I got a job somewhere else, money wouldn’t be an obstacle. I imagined myself in each place I sent my resume to; working during the day, writing at night, exploring on the weekends. I wanted it and I was making it happen.
Then I ran into Jacob.
I’ve known him since we were kids. We went to school together, lived in the same neighborhood, we even dated a couple times before high school. We’ve always been friends and seeing him never felt like anything more than that. I would say hi, hug him, make small talk, and then go back to whatever I was doing. Except this time, I decided to sit with him and his friends and have a drink. By the end of the night he had asked me to go to a wedding with him. And that was that.
Now it’s been one month and I have a key to his house and he has naked pictures of me.
Things are spinning out of control and it’s the most incredible feeling I’ve ever experienced. I’m not scared of this at all. I can’t wait for the next moment, the next explosion; I want to feel all of it and I want to feel it with him. Whether it ends or hurts or burns or blows up in our faces, I’m in. I want to rip myself apart for him, just to show him every part of me. I never feel judgment from him, there’s no shame or regret or guilt in any piece I show him; only acceptance. It’s truly beautiful and I’m memorizing every second I have with him.
Those tears weren’t tears of joy or overwhelming love or anything like that. They were mournful tears. They knew, even before I did, that I had laid my old self to rest.
The wanderer in me will never die. I’ll always want to see and feel and learn new things. I won’t stop craving adventure and change. I will still dream and pursue and work and reach. The part that died was the discontent nomad. She was lonely and scared of being plain. She wanted to run free and be someone important but didn’t have any idea of what would make her feel important or free. She was childish and wild and fearless and I’ll miss her.
I’m a new kind of adventurer now. I’m finding the things unfolding around me exciting and wild. I’m feeling happy with who and where I am. Now I can see what could make me feel important, I can see that I’ll never be plain, and most importantly, I can feel the contentment settling around me, and it’s glorious.