Once upon a time, my mind was a medley of multiple voices screaming out for attention. Shrill sounds and conflicting demands throbbed in my head; antagonistic thoughts flung my mind in every direction and left me tossing and turning until the early hours. I wanted you, I really did, but no part of me was ready for any of this.
That freezing winter night, you put your coat around my shoulders as we sat and chatted for hours on the hill. We listened to the distant sounds of the party that we were both content to miss out on for the sake of a fascinating conversation that brought us together for the first time. We huddled close and exchanged favorite music artists, alcoholic beverages of choice and tales of childhood, exclaiming in surprise through chattering teeth as we realized how similar we were. I felt like I’d heard these stories before; that I’d known you for years.
Our first encounter was followed up by a romantic stream of moonlit conversations and lots of kissing, but a dread welled in my stomach that I was unable to kick: I knew I couldn’t give myself to you the way you deserved. Fresh out of a long-term relationship and still a little volatile, I craved you for your stability, your ability to make me feel wanted and your innocent oblivion toward my brokenness; the fact that you saw me for the person I wanted to be. Back then you were an escape, a rebound, and I knew that pursuing anything with you at that point would amount to nothing but you filling a void in my life and me remaining cold and indifferent. I wanted to fall for you so badly because I knew exactly how utterly wonderful you were from the start, but something didn’t click. I couldn’t create butterflies in my stomach, I couldn’t force smiles because all my mental resources were in damage control mode: channelled exclusively towards healing my own wounds. Self-reparation took precedence over feelings for anyone or anything. I was a strange ghost while waiting for the storm to pass, waiting to return to the tangible vitality of who I once was.
I was frustrated at myself: how could I pass up the opportunity to start afresh with the one person in this school I could actually visualize myself being romantically involved with? Why was I shutting out the prospect of love when I needed it the most? I had never felt lonelier and you were gently reaching out to me, but I was sprinting away with tears streaming down my face without anything to say for myself. I wanted to believe you could make me happy and save me from the mess I’d disintegrated into, until I realized I wasn’t your mess to clean up. This was a job for me alone.
I told you all of this with all the honesty I could muster, apologizing profusely for my indecisiveness and selfish behavior and constantly on the verge of backing out of everything I was saying to resume our exciting ascent into a relationship.
“The timing of this isn’t right,” I said. “I do really like you, and if this was happening a couple of months from now, I’d be all aboard. But I’ve jumped from relationship to relationship with very little time in between before, and I’m not about to make that mistake again. I promised myself some time alone after this relationship, something I haven’t had much of in the past. I’ve never been a truly single teenage girl and I feel like that is an important thing to experience, especially for someone who enjoys relationships as much as I do. At the moment I’m not ready to invest fully and emotionally in someone new, and I know you deserve so much more than being someone’s rebound so I don’t want to do that to you. I don’t know how long it’ll be until I’m ready to give romance a shot again, and I certainly do not expect you to wait for me, but I would love to remain friends.”
In retrospect, it was probably my subconscious holding me back from fucking up my one chance with you and making me wait till later.
You took this the best way I could’ve asked for, thanking me for my honesty and commending the careful articulation of my thoughts. You smiled that same smile that melts my heart today, and I felt you understood me completely. We walked away from each other that night as friends, and although I felt swollen with regret immediately after, I knew this was what I needed. I spent the festive season with family and friends; I loved being able to spend time alone and see my life for the first time in a long time as something other than defined by someone else. Being single felt empowering, but a part of me still couldn’t quite shake you. We texted periodically while away from each other, and when I found out you got into Stanford I was uncontrollably ecstatic for you, messaging you manically with an indescribable elation that could only be explained by a deep rooted soft spot for you.
I honestly didn’t know when I’d be ready to open myself up to the possibility of something new, but as we eased into it with lots of laughs, long walks, late night phone calls, coffee dates, days spent exploring London together and special moments I’ll always remember, this finally felt so unbelievably right. This time round, I feel like I can never spend enough time with you. This time round, I was ready, and that made all the difference in the world because through all of this, you haven’t put a single foot wrong. You brought hot chocolate over on a snowy day, you calmly explained math problems to me like a tutor sent from heaven and you visited for cuddles when I was ill in bed; you’re brimming with thoughtful, sincere gestures, and that’s probably why my mom so fiercely approves of you already. Our conversations feel limitless and are always filled with laughter. The butterflies in my stomach are so real and so plentiful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You are never smothering or overbearing and always let me have my space, something I’ve only recently come to acknowledge the value of.
Today, although you stand by my side, but I am still defined as my own person on my own terms; I’ve retained the empowerment I gained from spending time alone. I have never felt more whole before, and I credit my current stability to the fact that I let myself be on my own and taken things slowly in this new romantic endeavor. This is what I’ve learned: relationships are about more than simply finding the right person, they also require you to be ready for them. So thank you for waiting for me. For never questioning, for always understanding, for patiently letting me do what I had to do for myself and then allowing the magic of what we have together now to unfold so organically. I never thought a second chance with you, or a second time round with anyone, could ever make this much of a difference, but it boils down to the fact that I was finally ready – and that changed everything for the better. Thank you for waiting for me to be ready.