Surprisingly, I’ve ended up in a relationship. Even more surprisingly, we’re planning on making it permanent, once I’m back in the states (I’m currently studying abroad). He’s my best friend, and I can’t wait.
I met him while working at a scout camp. I was nineteen and he was seventeen. I thought he was cool, but so not my type, because he was younger, a redhead, my height, always happy, and he talked A LOT. I was pretty sure I wanted a tall, dark, and brooding type, after all.
Two years later, we meet again, back at the same camp. He’s my buddy, so I run right up to him, shouting his name, and give him a big hug. As you do. Honestly, I think the change might have started with that hug. But I was too dim to realize it, when I was a girl barely past her teens who’d come out the other side of a domestic violence case, a manipulative Friend With Benefits, and working at a call center. And we were just friends, as I kept telling myself every time we worked together. I kept my head down, and did my work.
What really made me realize I was falling for him was the dumbest thing ever. I overheard him and a couple other people talking about the best way to get to know a girl. And then they changed the subject once they realized I was there. My suspicious mind went into overdrive, wondering if this meant one of these dear boys had caught a case of feelings for me. The naturally following question was, “If they did, which one would you prefer?” One was only barely eighteen, another was too much of a doormat, and then there was the redheaded goof who talked too much.
My brain had a horrible “Oh no” moment. I did not want to fall for another guy. It only ended badly. I was a mess, and nobody wanted to deal with that. Besides, two years age difference. Even if he was hilarious, cute, immensely likeable, and he had good taste in music. I was determined not to go through that again.
As the very smart girl I was, I tried to ignore it. I thought about it as little as possible, keeping my distance from him, refusing to mention his name even in my mind. I was sure I could make this awful little crush go away with sheer willpower. Because I was smart like that.
Maybe a week later, a group of us went out stargazing. Somehow in the dark, he and I ended up lying right next to each other. His arm was touching mine, and my nerves were going crazy. Maybe it’s ridiculous and cliche, but I completely forgot about my plan to make it go away.
However, I was still determined not to act on it. Because he was a nice guy, really friendly to everyone, and there was nothing else in it. We hung out, took long hikes, and listened to music together. One of our friends told us we should date. I looked at the ground and didn’t say anything. While on a hike, we were sitting right next to each other. He tried to point something out to me, I couldn’t see it, and he leaned in closer to show me. I wanted so badly to just kiss him, but I didn’t. I wasn’t going to make an idiot of myself. We stayed up late listening to music, and took a walk in the full moonlight out to a hill overlooking the camp, talking about everything and nothing, eventually cuddling up together for warmth. Just for warmth. Nothing else in that. Completely platonic (I am dense). In fact, I didn’t have any clue that we were thinking anywhere along the same lines until he kissed my forehead, and told me he was dumb because he’d never kissed a girl. And, grinning like an idiot, I smoothly offered to rectify that.
First kiss on a moonlit night in the mountains, complete with a fantastic view. I’d say that was a pretty good way to do it.
It wasn’t a real thing, though. Over the course of the summer, we kissed a few more times, went on a couple dates, had one amazing makeout session, and that was it. I was craving more, with my depression hitting me so hard. I was addicted to him. He was a crutch. We lived on opposite sides of the state. It wasn’t right. And when he started acting distant, I decided that I wasn’t going to beg. It wasn’t so much heartbreak as it was a slow dissolve, but that didn’t mean it hurt any less.
I moved on. Went on a few other dates, got diagnosed, started both antidepressants and therapy. I was still crazy about him, and really didn’t want anyone else, but he obviously wasn’t interested, and I needed to be better. For me, not for him. I started dealing with my depression and the self-esteem issues I have in relationships. I started college. I applied to my school’s study abroad program. I was still hurt that things ended the way they did, and I really wanted to ask him why, and what was wrong with me, but I knew better.
Fast forward three years, and out of the blue, he starts messaging me on Facebook, talking about the new Avenged Sevenfold album, and how I needed to listen to it. We started talking again, and I was quickly getting right back where I started. Especially when we got started in a battle of classic rock puns. Plus, I was planning on moving closer to him already (again, not for him), so I figured the timing was getting better. And then he told me he was going back to camp. I’d been ready to trade up camp, finally, for a higher paying job, especially as I was getting ready to leave the country. But, I realized, this could be my last chance to figure out why. And maybe–just maybe–I could work it out, this time. Because I didn’t want anyone else.
I was moving out of my apartment that summer, so, the first weekend, I headed down the mountain to start on that. Then I got a text from home, saying to let him know if I needed help (turned out he was in the same city, staying at his friend’s for the weekend). After much second-guessing and agonizing over it with my roommate, I invited him out to dinner and ice cream with us. Throughout the evening, I couldn’t stop laughing, and he and I talked all night long, before falling asleep cuddled up on my couch.
This was quickly becoming like the summer three years ago, but I realized I could live with that. Now, I was more mature, had years of therapy behind me, and I would be living near him after I got back from studying abroad. I could work with that.
The next weekend, I was going to a play my sister was in, and I invited him to come. Somewhere during the play, we ended up holding hands, and continued afterward, when we went to Denny’s with the cast, some of whom were friends of mine. Awkward questions about how long we’d been together abounded. Especially with my dad introducing James as my “not-boyfriend.”
As I was finally driving him home, very early in the morning, still holding hands, we talked a lot more. And then, after three years of waiting, he asked me to be his girlfriend. (And as it turns out, the reason he’d stopped talking to me so long ago was because, for various reasons, he thought he wasn’t good enough for me. That was something I never would have guessed.)
This redheaded goof who talks too much, is two years younger than me, and is my height is everything important that I’ve ever wanted in a guy. He’s honest with me, goes to concerts and on random adventures with me, and he makes me smile so much my face hurts, and then he laughs at me for it. Being around him always makes the world a little brighter. He takes my abrasive sense of humor in stride, and is always there to support me when things go to hell. And, we’ve been apart for months, and our relationship is still strong. I’m crazily in love with him, though I’ll never admit it to most people.
I’m leaving Europe in less than a week. Maybe I should be sad to be leaving that dream behind, but it means getting back to my redheaded dork, and on to more adventures. The first on my list is an engagement, as neither of us wants to let the other get away again.
I was pretty sure I was never going to find a guy I could stand long enough to want to marry. Even if I did, I was pretty sure he’d lose interest as soon as he saw what a hellish place my mind is. But he’s always there to assure me that he’s not going anywhere, and that I’m stuck with him as long as I want to be.
To those of you out there who are sure nobody could ever want you, I know that life is hard. Everyone tells you nobody can love you if you don’t love yourself, or conversely that only love can save you from yourself. Don’t listen to either of them. Try to love yourself, definitely. Seek the help you need, and do your best to become a you that you’re happy with. Don’t see your significant other as your knight in shining armor, but as the reliable sidekick who always has your back. Because this is your story, and you’re the hero. You have the power to save yourself.
Thank you for your time, friends. I wish you all the best.