Everyone has that friend. The serial monogamist. The one that always has a boyfriend…but never for too long. That was me. Some friends call me boy crazy, but my relationships just mirror the rest of my life, constantly moving and evolving. Breakups never hurt me because I was always the one doing the breaking up. Until you.
I’m writing this over six years from the day we met, over two years since we last saw each other, and over a year since we last spoke. And it still hurts.
Our story began out of wanderlust, with a classic love at first sight moment that convinced me for years that you were IT. Perhaps that moment is what made it so hard to let go.
We met in a hostel bar in Santiago, Chile the summer after I graduated from college. I was traveling with my sister before I started my first job, and you were on summer vacation before your second year of grad school. The second I locked eyes with you, I turned to my sister and said “WHO. IS. THAT?!” followed shortly by a “YES, please.” Given my past, she likely had a “Here we go again” moment, but very quickly realized that this one was different. This one was IT. We stayed up that entire night talking in the hostel stairway.
The love, at first sight, was reciprocated: I woke up the next morning and you were outside my door. You quickly changed your travel plans and accompanied me and my sister for the next two weeks. I’ll never forget those first few emails we sent trying to coordinate our meet up. We had only known each other for a few days, but we were both instantly so smitten. I couldn’t wait to see you again.
When you’re traveling with someone you’ve just met, you get to know them at lightning speed, all while experiencing a new country together. You share every waking moment of the day together, and every night (in a twin bed, for us). We both fell so hard, so fast. We free fell our way into love and I didn’t even try to slow down because it all felt so right. You were perfect to me.
Once we returned home, we spent our weekends traveling between where you were in school, North Carolina, and where I was working, Boston. There was just one problem: the US wasn’t really home for you. After your program wrapped up, your visa expired and you had to return home to your native country of South Africa to find work.
To this day, the day you flew home was the only instance in my career where I’ve broken my “Don’t cry at the office” rule. And boy, did I break it. Weeping in the hallway on the phone with you at the airport, I broke that rule so hard.
Because we were so involved at the time, we never really discussed a breakup, but we also both knew that a cross-continent relationship was not feasible. So, the door for our relationship was always slightly open, with a ray of light shining through just enough to know it was still there. We kept talking, and over the years we saw each other in three different countries. I always assumed that you felt the same…that this was IT and we were just waiting for the right time to move and really start our lives together.
Did we each date other people throughout this time? Of course. There were always others. But none of them mattered to me like you did. Men came in and out of my life and I let them go very easily with an “It doesn’t matter, they aren’t you, they aren’t IT” mentality.
But, years later, the reasons that had kept us apart initially were no longer valid. You now worked for an international company that could have easily transferred you to a location in the US. So, exactly five years from when we first met, I lost it. I was tired of wondering. I was tired of waiting. I was ready for IT to start.
After one too many glasses of wine, I picked up the phone and made a very expensive call from Los Angeles to Johannesburg. I said: “I’m 27, you are 29. I’m no longer the 22-year-old kid you met. We’ve grown up together. You know me, better than anyone. If now isn’t the time, then when? I’ve never felt this way about anyone, and I’m ready to do this.”
I expected you to agree. I expected you to say, “Yes.” I expected you to say, “You’re right, it’s time. This is IT.” But you didn’t. You told me that while you cared deeply for me, you weren’t sure this WAS it; that I should move on. You told me that you still weren’t ready to drop everything and change the course of your life for this. That you had felt serious about others. That was the one that hurt the most. So much so, that I couldn’t even include it in the first draft of this letter. I didn’t respond much back because there wasn’t much to say. I needed the door shut. I needed no more wondering, no more small ray of light shining through. I needed darkness on our relationship. I told you I didn’t want to speak anymore.
At first, I was OK. Because we didn’t live in the same place, nothing in my day-to-day routine had changed with you gone. But, a few days later it all hit. Cue tears. Streaming, sobbing, crying openly in the back of a yoga class kind of tears. From there, I struggled not to reach out, but I stayed strong, surrounding myself with friends and running till I couldn’t breathe every day.
The hardest was the first time I heard from you, five months (the longest we had ever been without speaking) after our talk. You told me you were going to be in the US, and just felt like I should know. It took everything I had not to respond, but it hurt so much knowing that you would be in Boston, my hometown, and New York, my old stomping grounds, without me there.
I avoided social media like the plague that weekend. But that moment was the crossover point for me. My 22 (and 23, 24, 25, and 26) year-old self would have hopped the first flight from LAX to JFK to meet you at the airport. But my 27-year-old self didn’t. My 27-year-old self knew that the door had to remain shut and that even a slight crack back open would end in an emotional disaster.
Since then, we have barely spoken, which has finally allowed me to let go of the notion that you were IT. As difficult as our conversation was, it was truly what I needed to hear in order to let you go and move on. While I still haven’t met someone that I feel the same way about, I know what that feeling is. I now know what it means to be completely enamored with someone, and my past is no longer filled with fleeting feelings and crushes. I’m more honest with myself about if someone is right for me or not. I’m not just looking for someone to placehold until you.
I no longer compare the guys I date to you because I know you aren’t IT. I now know what I want in my future relationship, and I know what that long-lasting love feels like. But most importantly, I know that I need him to feel the same way right back.