You Know That Guy

All of my friends know him. And probably a little too well. They know his shape and the way he moves in his sleep, all of his best moves in bed. They know the way he likes his eggs and his go-to drink of choice. They could probably recite both his personal and professional resume, without having to dig way back into the memories they keep. Or the ones they’ve imagined so vividly, they almost seem so real, they’d go on record to defend them.

All of my friends know that guy… and so do you.

We all have one: that guy that was the hardest one (ever, ever) to get over. He’s the one who got under your skin when you were too young, too naive, too inexperienced to know any better. He’s the guy who introduced you to something at a pivotal point in your life. After a bad breakup, post-huge move to a brand new city, following the worst year you’ve experienced. He could be the first guy you slept with where you actually understood — and omg — felt a go-numb-in-your-toes orgasm. He’s the guy that treated you terribly, possibly cheated on you, left you hanging on the edge of possibility for months (or years), couldn’t meet any of your needs, couldn’t step up to the plate, called you up at midnight and randomly showed up at your door, so drunk he could barely stand. He’s the guy who knows you so well that he knows how to push every button, linger on each and every heart string and for lack of a better phrase, emotionally torture you. And tangle your lives together, long after you’ve separated.

That guy might not mean the harm he inflicts (though he could be rather manipulative at his core), but he always finds a way to stick around. He might actually love you in the silly, twisted, strange way that he can, but the love you deserve is bigger and frankly, easier than a chaotic relationship (and the on and off months of sex that follow). Without realizing it — because I bet it happened rather quickly — you’ll wonder how you lost yourself in this man. In all of the questions and the embraces and the fever-filled texts and emails and voicemails and mornings waking up naked, hating yourself a little more

But try as you might, with every ounce of dignity you have, you pull yourself out of it. You find the strength (and let go of the crushing fear) to walk away, promising yourself there must be a greater love out there for you, somewhere, somehow. You will refuse to settle. Or maybe that guy left you. Perhaps for someone else, maybe for another country. He could have pushed you to your limits, until the breaking point was simply non-negotiable. However it ended with that guy – it didn’t just end the second you deleted him off Facebook or blocked his email.

It kept going on. Because you let it. Because you wanted to feel something instead of nothing. Because the (select few) good times where everything felt right, where his arms held you tight, when you caved under his façade – are so much easier to remember than the times that he hurt you. Over and over again.

Over and over again, you’ll play through it all. Over and over again, you’ll cry and then you’ll stand up. You’ll say you won’t do anything and you’ll do everything you swore you would never do… again. You’ll give into the fear that perhaps there isn’t anything better out there, and he’ll play off your terror in a way so subtle you won’t detect it until someone points it out. That guy will haunt your romantic dreams long after he’s gone, long past the time when you were together, in a scary, confidence-busting way. And you’ll watch him do it. You’ll probably sleep with him. You might even find a day where you give up  that anyone will ever mean as much – or make you feel so much – than that guy. Because that guy has you addicted to the story. To the drama. To that fragile piece of silver lining that make you wonder that maybe, just maybe, it could all work out one day.

That guy is a pretty obvious one for me and two years since we “broke up” – his emails still sit in my inbox. His phone number appears in my voicemail. He’s still here on these pages and occasionally on my mind more than I’d like. I blame it on a lot of things, like that he’s my last point of reference in a relationship. That he was my first (and only) adult love. That we really had something special.

But really, he’s just that guy for me.

He’s just that one guy that we all have to get past. And even though I have a pretty fantastic life, there’s nothing like clinging to the past that can bring a girl down or make her lose her thunder. If you ask people who found a way to release that guy from their life, they’ll tell you about how they met someone else and it got better. Or how they finally were tired of the constant production. Or how they had to block everything, threaten until they were out of breath and ignore every tempting invitation. Or how they finally realized they were never going to get that guy to be anything close to what they wanted.

We all have that guy, in whatever shape or form, age or stage he comes (and ultimately leaves). And for me, the biggest breakthrough, the thing that’s helped more than anything else on moving on past that guy is reminding myself he’s not the last guy. And if I can move from North Carolina to New York, lose my first job to find the dream job, find a way to survive and thrive in a city that gets a kick off knocking you down, then I can let go of that guy. I can leave him in the dust, in the torn notes, the pages I’ve penned, the hours, the days, the years I’ve lost and in the empty promises that were never filled. In the love I wanted so badly to feel in return that remained rather unrequited, and simply, never enough.

Because that guy can do a lot of things, including breaking your heart so many times you lose count, but he can’t break your hope. Unless of course, you let him.

I Don’t Really Miss You

I don’t miss you. Not really.

I think  that I miss you because I’m terrified — petrified even — of never meeting another you. Actually, I don’t honestly want to meet someone like you– I want to meet someone better. A man who can love me without doubt, someone who knows he wants to be with me and who doesn’t make excuses why it’s not the right time or he’s not in the right place. I want someone who is gloriously happy like I am, not shamefully sad and despairingly bitter. I felt pieces of your heart because I dug them out, not because they were readily available. Those pieces were terribly tender and dark.

But I imagined them rose colored.

I prayed for them to change, to let me hold them. Just for a minute. I prayed for you to love me unconditionally as I felt for you. I wanted you to love and want me — to not be able to live without me so much that it ached. So much that you ached like me. That you swallowed goblets of tears almost every single day for the past two and a half years since the day we met. Since the day I fell for you… Stupidly. Crazily. Instantly.

That’s what I miss, I think.

Not you exactly — but the me who fell for you back then. It was a me that believed people, men could really change. It was a me that had patience beyond measure, hope against any prevailing odd. It was a me who put up with more than she should to love the boy she hoped could.

Could love her. Could be the one. Could be different.

Now, I’m harder. My shell is tougher and it takes quite the effort to break through. My guard is up, along with my expectations and what I’m willing to accept and what I’m not afraid to walk away from. In some odd twist of my personal dynamic, ever since you, I’ve hungered to be single more than I’ve desired to be with someone.

Because the next someone, whoever he is, wherever he may be– has to be the final someone. After you, my heart isn’t willing to risk again. It’s not bursting and vibrant enough to take a chance on being shattered or dissolving into a darker shade of red. It’s finished being the forgiving gal at home and it’s ready to be completely swooned.

No, I don’t miss you. Not really.

I don’t miss the longing and the pain you brought to my life — though I’m sure, it was never intentional, my dear. I don’t miss staring into eyes that never could look back with sincerity. I don’t miss their hollow depths that I searched for any void to tell my otherwise. I don’t miss the back and fourth, and the desperate feeling of being disposable and not worth fighting for.  I don’t miss feeling like you were always so far away, even when you were lying naked next to me. I don’t miss feeling like I had to always be the positive one, the woman who was always ready and there to please, not the girl who needed something in return. I don’t miss the endless curiosity for change and the sunken feeling that nothing would.

Not really, anyway.

But I do miss being able to love so freely and with such naivety. I miss the me that still believed. The me who was beautiful in all the ways that only a girl fresh to the city, fresh to reveries about a man whose possibilities were actually illusions. I miss the me who used to love you. The me who held onto silly, frivolousness hope.

And now, the only hope left is that I’m able to love someone else a little more. I don’t miss you, not really. But I miss the me before you. Really, I really do.

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Seasons of Security

Some used their thumb, others swaddled a mangled blanket, and a few were content on their own. For my sense of security as a child, I had Mary.

Or as my mother called her, Punk Rocker Mary.

Being the loving pretend-mother I was, I carried my prized doll around everywhere – by her hair. She’d go sledding down our snowy backyard, take dives in our kiddie pool, and she’d dig with me while I looked for buried treasure outside. I refused to go anywhere without her and though I gave her hair that stuck up 90 degrees, she was always up for the ride, and I felt safe dragging her along.

One afternoon, when my family was at one of those highly classy North Carolina flea markets (no judging) – I left Mary in my stroller to get an ice cream cone with my mom, and when we looked back, she’d disappeared. To this day, we’re not sure if she fell out or someone stole her (with her crazy locks, why would anyone want to?), but I was devastated. My mom forced my dad to go buy another Mary to keep me from hysterics, but I wanted nothing to do with the imposter: if I couldn’t have Ms. Punk Rocker, I didn’t want anything.

It’s no surprise people attach meaning to objects – it’s the reason athletes wear the same jersey for weeks or CEOs only sign documents with the same fancy pen – though it may just be another thing to most, once emotion is enveloped, it’s hard to take it away.

While Mary meant everything to me at one time, like we all do, I moved on to the next something that would give me that peace of mind. I found Sammy, a stuffed animal I slept with until I went away to school, a change purse I swore was lucky during middle school, and a pair of jeans that made me feel so incredibly sexy and skinny during college, that I only recently gave in and threw them out a few months ago. Until I actually moved to New York, I held onto the Metro card I used two summers previous during my internship, just in case I never had the opportunity to return.

And that same transitional sense of attachment has been just as adhesive in past relationships.

When a love starts to fizzle or I can feel myself strapping on my walking-away boots, prepared for the right moment to suck it up and strut away – I start to notice that ping in the corners of my heart that question: What if I don’t meet anyone who makes me feel this way again? What if I don’t feel as secure and comfortable and loved? I mean, what if this is it and I screw it up?

Perhaps I should be asking though, why is it that the thought of moving on is more difficult than the act itself? Doesn’t moving on happen naturally but deciding it’s time to leave can be more painful, more intense, more relentless than any breakup? That sometimes, we’d prefer our dolls, or our men, to just be stolen away, so there would be no gray area to navigate.

After receiving a text message from an ex who will be interviewing in New York soon, I thought back to the months we shared when his presence, his companionship, his midnight kisses on my shoulder – meant everything to me. With him and with pretty much any man I’ve shared a part of myself with, was for a fleeting moment, a huge part of my life. They were the person I talked to each day, the person (besides my mom) I called when something incredible happened, or the individual who knew the most about me at that given stage in my life. A relationship by its definition causes two people to coexist, to be together – emotionally, sexually, spiritually, or otherwise – for the time they are meant to be in whatever form, side-by-side.

And then, as all things change, all things transition, and pages turn quicker than I could ever write them – love fades. Intensity becomes extinguished. People move. We grow apart. No common ground can be found. Eyes wonder, along with hands. Stolen moments turn into bittersweet memories. And then we find ourselves, weeks, months, years – decades – down the road, not even having a clue what someone is up to. Not knowing, for the life of us, where they live, who they work for, or if they’re happy. In some cases, maybe we don’t care and can’t be bothered to send an email (or add as a friend on Facebook), but isn’t it funny how our partners-of-yesterday become the strangers-of-today? And those strangers we passed hours ago, could be the lovers we eventually never go a day without seeing?

How our security blanket of love, the stability and commitment that comes with a relationship, continuously crumbles and is rebuilt, time and time again, with revolving faces and places we can never quite predict. And though when we first turn our backs, release the protection, the safe harbor of togetherness, and sail into the single sea (where we’re told there are many fish) – we’re terrified. Yet, give us a few miles, smooth waters, and tidal waves to battle – and we’ll be fine. We won’t even see the shore we left anymore, except for those rare occasions when something triggers a memory, but rather, we’ll only see new horizons.

Isn’t that what moving on is all about?

A friend of mine once told me the people we meet – romantically involved or not – come into our life for a reason, for a season, or forever, and the point of the relationship or friendship is to determine which one this person will be. In some cases, I agree with her but in most, I’m under the belief that everyone, no matter what impression they make, comes into our lives at the right moment, for a purpose, and that lesson, that value they were designed to give to us – will forever be part of who we are.

Perhaps learning to love yourself, letting go of not only past heartbreaks and destructive mentalities, is accepting that maybe, it’s okay to remember the good. To remember that simple security that comes with a person you admired or loved and to trust that if you can feel it once, you can feel it again. That if lucky charms and skinny jeans have taught us anything – it’s that the greatest strength, the purest magic isn’t in an object or a relationship, but the credence we put behind it. That moving on doesn’t mean forgetting, it just means believing in the present and in the future – more than you do the past.

And that security we seek, in its most powerful and protective form, must first and foremost, start with being secure in ourselves. Even when we’re one baby doll, one lover, or one something-less.