Because this is what I learned from her:
- Put yourself first
- Go on adventures
- Be spontaneous
- Speak to her
- You can respect each other when you’re done
- What “happiness” is
- If you’re excited to get home from a lecture to see if she’s still in your bed, you like her
- It’s ok to not always be a leader
- If you start talking to another girl, it’s over
- Know your worth
1. PUT YOURSELF FIRST
I was in awe of her for this because I didn’t know how she did it. I pretended not to like it but, really, I was jealous.
I never asked her how she did it. How could I be in love with her and not ask her how she did it? I think it’s because I didn’t even realise she was doing it. I just knew I was jealous.
It’s what attracted me to her but it’s not what I gave her.
Perhaps I should learn, finally, to give the thing I want.
2. GO ON ADVENTURES
We went to Portugal after only a few months of knowing each other. Her finality in wanting to go helped me say “yeah, why not?”
She said for me not to expect to spend every moment together because she liked to explore on her own.
My stomach burned hot with anger and fear when she said that but what was I going to say? “No, we have to spend every moment together…”
I didn’t say that, though my ego wanted me to. The way she said it, with confidence, with an edge, made me say “yeah, cool…”
She wanted to go to France for her birthday. I didn’t know how to say “no” to people I loved so I said “yeah, let’s do it,” while thinking “even though I have exams…”
My parents weren’t too happy about me going on a holiday when I should’ve been revising for the most important exams of my life. So overbearing, I know.
Of course, they were right. And that’s what I told my ex.
She said she’d go without me. I was frustrated, and hurt, and I couldn’t help but admire her.
I went because I didn’t want to disappoint her. We stayed in Rouen, a quiet and picturesque town, we visited Paris, and she hated on me for being “such a tourist.”
I learned more from this than I did from revising.
3. BE SPONTANEOUS
I put my hand back to find her knee, and I rested it there. I liked being close to her and letting her know I was thinking of her. I learned that from my parents.
She put something into my hand. I was confused. I brought my hand back to my lap and rested it there for a few seconds to make sure the taxi driver wasn’t looking.
I opened my hand.
We got out the taxi and I shoved her panties in my pocket. She was wearing a little black dress and she looked like I wanted her.
What happened next was a thrill, a rush, a memory.
She was in charge. She led me. I don’t often like that.
Then it was ok.
4. SPEAK TO HER
We went to a bar and my friend saw a girl he knew and introduced me. She had a friend. A small, pretty, blonde friend.
I was nervous but my friend was talking to the other girl so I pulled out my best line.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hey,” she replied. She had a cute voice.
We chatted. I made fun of her accent. I got her number. I didn’t even try to sleep with her that night.
“A simple hello could lead to a million things.”
And it did. Good and bad.
5. YOU CAN RESPECT EACH OTHER WHEN YOU’RE DONE
She reached out to me and told me she was sorry for the way she’d treated me at the end. That was kind of her. She didn’t have to do that. She could’ve been doing something fun. But she chose to message me and apologise.
I said thank you to her and I apologised too. We didn’t respect each other towards the end of the relationship and we both acted like we didn’t.
I told her just a few days ago, for the first time, how in awe of her I used to be.
How she made decisions, how she didn’t care what people thought, how she walked her own path.
How “her” she was.
She asked me what I was doing now and I told her I’d taken voluntary redundancy from my job, that I was writing every day, and that I was loving it.
That I was happy.
“That’s all I ever wanted. For you to be happy and be you.”
6. WHAT “HAPPINESS” IS
I was jealous of how easily she seemed to be able to put her happiness above mine. I’d never done it before. I didn’t know how to do it.
Ok, maybe I did. But I didn’t like to disappoint people.
Sometimes I thought she was being unfair to me by prioritising herself, but that’s because I rarely dared to do the same, because I wanted to keep her happy.
“Just make a decision.” She said that to me more than once. But I didn’t seem to be able to because helping her to be happy was more important than me being happy.
She taught me happiness is putting yourself first. It’s caring what you think of you more than what everyone else thinks of you. It’s realising that being who you are is more important than anything else.
I barely even thought of the word before I was with her.
7. IF YOU’RE EXCITED TO GET HOME FROM A LECTURE TO SEE IF SHE’S STILL IN YOUR BED, YOU LIKE HER
I left her in bed and she said “I might be gone when you get back.”
I said “ok.” What I really wanted to say is “just stay.”
I went to my lecture but I couldn’t concentrate. I kept thinking of her in my bed and I wanted to rush back and dive under my duvet and cuddle her warm body against mine.
Wait… why didn’t I just text her to tell her to stay? I don’t think I wanted to appear clingy. That’s why.
Anyway, I rushed back. I was desperate for her to be there because, if she was, that meant she liked me, right?
I rushed up the stairs, opened my door slowly, peeked around the door, and there she was.
“YES!” I thought.
I crawled into bed, into the warmth, into her.
I felt content.
8. IT’S OK TO NOT BE THE LEADER
She led our relationship by leading herself.
Even as little as a year ago I wouldn’t have wanted to admit this.
“I have to be the leader,” I would’ve thought, and I would’ve been disappointed with myself for not being the leader.
But if I want mastery, of relationships, of writing, of myself, then I need to be ok with letting go of being a leader.
I wasn’t a leader with her because I didn’t know how to be.
But how much did I learn from her? More than I ever thought I had.
So, now I know how to lead, will I let go of being a leader?
If I choose learning over leading.
9. IF YOU START TALKING TO ANOTHER GIRL, IT’S OVER
She told me she was worried about it but I told her there was nothing to worry about. The other girl was just a friend.
It’s hard to know what I thought I was doing but I think I was talking to this new girl because I knew that my ex-girlfriend and I were over but I wasn’t strong enough to end it.
I said we were “just friends” but I’d always had a thing for her.
When my ex-girlfriend and I were in France, the new girl called me. At 2am.
I didn’t answer because I knew it wasn’t innocent.
“Who called you?”
“… I don’t know.”
I knew. She knew. She’d seen the screen.
“Why did you lie to me?”
“I don’t know… I just panicked.”
“That’s exactly what my ex used to say…”
She turned over and didn’t go back to sleep.
10. KNOW YOUR WORTH
Would I have still pursued her if I was the person I am now?
I pursued someone who said to me “I don’t want a relationship.”
She was unkind to me and yet I still wanted her
Well… I let her be unkind to me. I was too scared to say “no” to her being unkind because I didn’t want her to leave me, so I said “yes” or “I don’t mind” whenever I had the opportunity.
What was I telling myself? That I didn’t deserve to say “no?” That trying to make her happy was more important than being who I really was?
She got frustrated with that.
And that made it worse. I was trying to make her happy and now she was annoyed because I was trying to make her happy, even though happiness was the most important thing to her?
I got frustrated with her.
I thought she was trying to make me into something I wasn’t, but I think she was trying to help me be who I was, and trying to make me realise I was worth more than just trying to make her happy.
Because she was who she was, and she was happy, she wanted me to be who I was.
Finally, I am.