What did you let go over this year?
I’ve written semi-extensively about my “Wild Child” phase, which started shortly after my twenty-first birthday and continued throughout much of the last two years. Somewhere along the lines the curiosity began to fade and a pattern would slowly develop. Whether it was getting jealous of my friends or just wanting dance with a guy, nine times out of ten I would usually end up looking for somebody. And it was very rare that there weren’t expectations of where these interactions would lead, so most nights ended with me beating myself up for allowing certain things to happen. Why did I let him touch me like that? Why didn’t I stick up for myself and tell him off? Damn it, I drank too much again. I was lying to myself when I thought less alcohol would cancel out my raging hormones. The next day I would say that I was sick of getting myself into these situations and that I was done. However, something would set me off to make me want to jump right back in again, and the cycle would continue.
I had a fear of missing out, especially during my final semester of college. It was like a race against the clock, where I had to spend as much time as possible with my closest friends before we all went in different directions. When plans fell through or there was a lack of communication, I’d get pissed and decide to go have my own fun. I no longer felt weird about going out alone because it was more than likely I would run into at least one person that I knew. However, they were usually with another group and I didn’t want to be rude by tagging along. By the time the night was it over it was always the same: I was trying to force myself to feel something for a stranger, while deep down wishing that I was with at least one or two in particular that I actually cared about, and I knew they cared for me.
Not all of it was due to loneliness, at least at first. I started talking to this guy whom I’d impulsively met after spring break, and I thought he was incredibly attractive. When he broached the topic of spending time together (meaning just the two of us), I set boundaries and explained that I needed to get comfortable hanging out in public first. He seemed to respect that at initially, but then every conversation would end with dropping a subtle hint about coming over to his apartment or trying to reassure me that I could trust him. When I called him out on his intentions, his response of wanting “something new” made it obvious that either he didn’t know what he wanted, or was trying to keep it casual.
There was something off about the way all of this was happening, but I convinced myself that maybe he didn’t know how to talk to women and to give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t long before we segued into the “how far are you willing to go?” territory; he made it clear that he expected a physical relationship and kept prodding about my decision to wait, and why being alone together was such a big deal to me. It caused me to wonder if a genuinely good man would care about how much or how little sexual experience I actually had, and maybe I was getting anxious over nothing. Despite all that had transpired the previous year, I still felt naïve and frustrated that I didn’t know what certain things were like.
I confided in a few friends who didn’t discourage me or encourage me to make any kind of decision. They reassured me that I didn’t owe him anything, and that however far I wanted to go was my prerogative. I appreciated that they let me wrestle with the situation so openly without calling me crazy or an idiot, especially given my past choices. I decided that I would meet with him in person, if only to confirm that this confusing pseudo-fling needed to end. I prayed for God to give me peace in my heart, even if that meant throwing a figurative brick at me in the process.
The following weekend I randomly got a text from him asking for the billionth time if I wanted to stop by his place, to which I reminded him of our previous conversation (about meeting up another time) and that I was at a birthday party.
But I’d rather see you now, he countered.
I’m actually kind of drunk and that’s not a good idea. Never mind what I’d told him multiple times before, there was no way I was walking seven blocks in the dark, and in a neighborhood I wasn’t familiar with.
So what? I’ll sober you up ;)
That did it.
I can’t say I was surprised, but it bothered me that he didn’t seem to care about consent or whether or not I could give it. The following morning I told him that it was best for us not to talk anymore because I had too much going on in my life and I wasn’t in a place to get involved with anyone (which was true to an extent). He waited several days to bring it up again and claimed that he couldn’t even remember texting me because he had blacked out. Suspicious of the timing and not sure what to believe, I let him have it; regardless of where this was going, I was still a human being and deserved to be treated like one.
There was no arguing or trying to meet halfway. We weren’t on the same page and never would be, so I blocked his number in order to keep from being pulled into communicating with him again. Naturally, part of me did feel bad about it, but I couldn’t take it anymore. Had I kept giving him chances, I would have dug myself into a deeper hole.
Thinking back on it now, I see that a lot of it was rooted in shame: not of what I did or the reasons behind it, but admitting that hook ups and casual flings were messing with my head and I didn’t know how to stop. There was self-pressure and buying into various lies about being mature, but what truly held me down was second-guessing my instincts and believing it would get better. Out of everything I’ve learned but what’s healthy and what isn’t, it’s that when you realize something is not going to work, no amount of time or finding a silver lining will help.
In order to truly let go of what’s toxic, it’s important to embrace what’s good. I wasn’t wrong in the sense of being morally above or below anyone else, but I was wrong to go against the way God made me. I feel deeply and I love deeply, so keeping people at arms-length is pretty much impossible. Part of that denial had a lot to do with how I was brought up, specifically as a teenager. Whenever I talked with certain family members about dating or liking a guy, I was told that wearing my heart on my sleeve would only result in disappointment. I saw that intention was to instill self-protection, but it made me afraid to be honest about what I really wanted. I didn't understand it then, but there's a way to do that without being cynical and putting that much responsibility on only one person.
The beauty of adulthood is the realization that I have my own values and standards, and that there’s no need for comparison or setting a timeline. I’m becoming more confident in taking ownership of my dreams, my opinions, and my feelings, even if others don’t understand it. It’s not a bad thing to want to experience real, romantic love: the kind of love where we take care of each other, make each other better, and possibly even share a life together. Instead of keeping my expectations low, I’m choosing to be open to the possibilities and be grateful for the growth I experienced, regardless of how it turns out. And instead needing reassurance that I won’t get hurt, maybe it’s time to start trusting that even if it does happen, I will heal and I will be OK.
It’s a process that makes me thankful for therapy, writing, and being surrounded by awesome people. My goals are to get to know myself and prepare my heart so that I have a solid foundation to stand on. Despite my mistakes and imperfections, what keeps me going is that God loves me has a plan for me. In this moment, that is enough.