I am an independent woman. Or so I like to think.
For years now, I have prided myself for being able to be happy on my own without being in a committed relationship. I like men (and sometimes consider dating women), I get butterflies in my tummy at the thought of romance, and I believe in love — but I don’t need it. I am perfectly capable of doing things for myself and keeping myself happy. I don’t need a man.
I hadn’t always been like this. I’d spent most of my life being the stereotypical teenage girl who participated in friendship drama and was always on the chase for some boy. I distinctly remember having my first crush in pre-school, and being constantly obsessed with boys up until I was 16 and in my final year of secondary school. I was practically a 12-year-old girl for 12 years. It was terrible – I was constantly hung up over the love of my life, and truly believed that if I’d lost him, that would have been it. I would never love again. But the first day I stepped into college, that girl melted away, and a woman emerged. I not only fell in love again, but also realized how pathetic my first love was.
No. It is never it. Someone new — someone different — always comes along, and you learn to love them for the things that make them different from the one before. And with that understanding, I never took heartbreak the same way again. I learned to hold my own. I learned to be happy.
Five years came and went — and in that time, I had only truly fallen in love again once. He was the new love of my life — romantic, genuine, talented, and he loved me — but I was independent. I loved him dearly, and still do, but I had dreams of my own that I needed to chase. I stayed with him for one amazing year – the best year of my life — and then I left. I got on a plane and came to a place, halfway across the world, where I would be completely alone.
I thought I would be happy. I thought I would see amazing things, learn more than I ever had, and meet incredible people. Instead, I got into yet another new relationship within the third week, and I spent all my time with just one person for five whole months.
I had been reluctant at first to commit to anything so soon. I had just gotten out of a relationship just before I left home, and wasn’t planning on getting into another one for perhaps years. I wanted to grow as an individual, discover and explore the vast world around me – not meet someone and commit to not seeing anyone else ever again. The sheer idea of it scared me. It went against all my senses, but I did it anyway – because I did love him. Mind you, I never fell in love with him. Those are two distinct concepts in my eyes.
To me, loving someone is always about the other person. If I say I love him, that means I care about him and want the absolute best for him. If it were someone else who made him happy, I would want him to pursue her rather than to settle for second best. Loving, to me, is an act of compassion, and it is sensible. It is the kind of love that one has for family and friends. It is always about the other person.
Falling in love, on the other hand, is all about me. It is about what I want. What I need. What makes me tick. It involves my innermost desires. It has everything to do with what my id, or the most basic of my natures, would do if unrestricted. It is everything the sensible part of me cannot comprehend. Falling for someone is about inexplicable attraction; it is how a celebrity heartthrob might make you feel — if in the same person lies your very best friend. You crave their attention, their company, their love. When I’m in love, there is a need to always want to be with the other person; regardless of how inconvenient or irrational it might be, or whether or not they even want to be with me.
Being in love makes you jealous and insecure. It comes with the fear of loss. It reminds you of the prospect of loneliness in any moment that you are without the person you are in love with. Being in love is absolutely frightful. And I make it one of my topmost priorities to be wary of it.
Going through my first heartbreak — I must’ve been what, 15? I was an absolute wreck, and it was clear for everyone to see. My dad, to whom I avoided displaying my emotions, could see it clear as day. He didn’t have to ask. He knew I was hurting – and he told me one thing that stuck with me, which shaped the mentality that I strive towards today, every day. He said, “Girl, never love a man more than he loves you.” It took me a while, but I finally got past that difficult adolescent phase, and sometime five years ago, I became the strong independent girl — woman, if you may — that I would be proud to say I was.
After practically living with someone for nearly half of the past year, I decided I needed out. The relationship became very easy and too comfortable; I was becoming complacent and turning into an incredibly lazy and unproductive human being. We did everything together, and we began to depend on each other to get through our days. And that wasn’t the woman I had been for five years. It wasn’t the woman I was supposed to be. So when this thought occurred to me, it freaked the hell out of me — and after a week of deeper contemplation, I left. I could not end the five-year streak now.
It hasn’t been two months after the last breakup — but I am here again. Hung up over a guy I had first met a month ago, and only seen twice. A guy who didn’t have much time for me — but I was all right with it then, because I was strong and independent, and I had options. I had started seeing four different men a week, and I held my own.
I held my own for five long years (and now a little bit more); and then I went out with him the second time — and overnight, I became 12 again.
I had such a good time. He was intelligent, charming, and there was barely one quiet moment between us. I had the feeling we could’ve talked about absolutely anything that could’ve come up. I’m a smitten kitten for this boy, and it’s weird.
I don’t remember the last guy I’d dated who was the same age as I am. I’d always connected better with guys who were quite a bit older — by five years, on average. This guy gets me, and he’s my age. In fact, if he was born in the same year as I was, then chances are I’m probably older than he is.
What an interesting guy. He seems reserved but quite the open book at the same time. I guess he’s the artistic type; plays beautiful tunes with six strings, and paints pretty colors on a blank canvas. But also logical. Intellectual. Sensible. But cynical. Pessimistic. Realistic. But adventurous. Romantic. A cutie. Who doesn’t go anywhere without his beanie.
I feel like I know him, but also like there are loads more to him to get to know. Said he doesn’t “do love”, but I could somehow feel a child’s yearning expressed through the closeness at which he held me. His strong arm wrapped around the smallness of my waist, and his warm palm spread out across the skin on my side, grabbing it tight; offering but also asking for safety and security. Asking for love. Asking to be loved.
The softest kisses – everywhere and anywhere on my body. Anywhere his lips rested. They reminded me of me. At night, in my bed, on my own. Clinging onto my bolster. Kissing it. Just to pretend I have someone to whom I could show my pent up affection. And for the first time, I felt like a bolster. Clinged onto. Showed affection to. Loved.
I wonder if I’ve imagined all these unspoken feelings. Romanticized a fling. Glorified casual sex. Maybe I have. Maybe I haven’t. Maybe for the first time, I’ve met someone like me. Someone so different to, but so alike me. Maybe we could be best friends. Maybe we could fall in love. Maybe we’ll see.
Or maybe we won’t. It frightens me — the uncertainty –— and I don’t know why. I’d gotten so used to ambiguity and non-exclusivity over the years — in fact, it was what I’d wanted. Needed, even. But all of a sudden I find myself obsessing about possibilities, playing all sorts of scenarios in my head, trying to predict the future. It’s unbelievable. Who am I? Surely not the 12-year-old girl in me I was certain I’d been rid of? Unbelievable! So here I am, feeling seriously indignant about the situation, in which I have practically regressed in my emotional development.
I’ve been told that this isn’t necessarily bad. It’s romance, apparently. There’s a hopeless romantic inside every girl, and some boys coax it out of us. But why this boy?
I can’t help but feel that there might be one thing we share in common that would throw everything else off: the commitment issues. If he’s anything like how I’ve been in the past five years — self-sufficient and commitment-phobic, and doesn’t “do love” — I’m in trouble. My guard seems to be being torn down rapidly and drastically, and if this guy decides that I’m not worth letting his guard down for, I’m going to be vulnerable to whatever it is 12-year-old girls are vulnerable to, all over again.
And I don’t know if I can afford it. I don’t know if I can stand the madness and misery of dependency and emotional reliance one more time. I can’t accept that it would only get worse with time and with emotional investment, and that it would only –— ironically — drive him away from me. I don’t want to be broken again. And it sure feels like I might. Two dates are unlikely to have had the same effect on him as they have on me. Two dates is way too fast.
I’m falling fast, and I’m falling hard. But I can’t stop myself from falling.
So much for being independent.