In 2006, I’d been out of college for three years and my life was starting to feel a little more organized and a little more adult. Instead of chasing several jobs around the city at random times of day or night, I had one job with regular hours. My weekends were actually weekends. I lived with my longterm boyfriend and we quickly got to that point of domesticity where you have favorite brands of products like detergent and toothpaste. I ate vegetables on a regular basis.
But as these facts of my life settled in around me, I started to feel squirrely. With a “normal” job, I felt too square. And as I inched past my mid 20s, I wondered what I had traded by staying with the same person for the first half of that decade. The question “is this it” started to insist on being answered.
Anyone who knew us then probably thought we had a great relationship. And they weren’t totally wrong. We got along great most of the time and when you’re a kid that’s what makes a relationship great. One of my uncles once told his daughter “you can’t help who you fall in love with, but you can help who you build a life with.” I was starting to build a life and it felt like I was building it around, not with my significant other. The detours were wearing me thin.
So we had serious conversations about who we were and what we wanted, as individuals and as a couple. We came up with what felt at the time like a practical plan. Ultimately, it was more like an escape hatch and, with the hatch door open, I agreed to meet up with a woman I barely knew.
In my mid-teens, I found myself, almost by accident, on a tour of the UCLA campus and was caught off guard by an electric connection to the ground under my feet.
In my mid-20s, I found myself, almost by accident, on a date at a coffee shop and was caught off guard by an electric connection to the person sitting before me.
I’d like to say that was that. The path was clear, so I hopped right on and marched confidently in the direction of a better, more fulfilling life. Instead, it’s tough for me to write about what happened next, because it’s tough for me to think about what happened next, because it was tough for me to live through what happened next.
My first years after college were characterized by general chaos and I was constantly buckling under the weight of the decisions I had to make about who I wanted to be and what kind of life I wanted to have. All those options were scattered around my feet like jenga pieces and it took years to start assembling them into a structure that could hold steady. Then over the course of a few months, it wasn’t so much that I pulled the wrong piece and the whole thing tumbled down, it’s more like I realized I was on the wrong side of the structure and just pushed it over, so I could get on by.
Once again, the pieces lay scattered at my feet and I fought to reconcile two urges–one was to get on my hands and knees and start reassembling so I could save the people around me the pain of change. The other was to just kick that shit out of the way and sprint past the debris.
What I ended up doing was moving into a tiny studio apartment without a kitchen, and sitting for hours on my stoop smoking whole packs of Parliament Lights while listening to Bizarre Love Triangle and Don’t Fear the Reaper on repeat. I went to work, but I barely worked. I bought groceries, but I barely ate. I went through a lot of motions.
I was cut off from my ex, from his family and from many of our old friends. I started to cut myself off from my family, because I didn’t think I could explain what was happening to me. And for a while I cut myself off from my girlfriend because I’d experienced so many emotions in such a short of a time, that I made it a goal to just stop feeling.
And I must admit, I ended up being pretty good at not feeling. It came rather naturally, especially because I felt emptied out.
This one day, I was walking from work to my bus stop and I just stopped halfway there. I sat down on a busy sidewalk and had no desire to move. I just couldn’t do “it.” What “it”? Any of it.
“I just can’t” became a common refrain in my head and looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t fall into a catatonic state, because that’s all I really wanted. I knew there were any number of things I needed to sort through, (like, oh wait am I gay?) but I just wanted to opt out of all of it.
Life went on around me, though, and luckily for me, many of my friends didn’t leave me alone. I’m not sure anyone truly realized what a bad state I was in, because I think I kept it hidden. But people picked me up and took me to dinner. A friend asked me to start writing for a website he was running. I started to get my sense of self back. I started to get my sense of humor back. And I got my girlfriend back.
I was going to say “I don’t know what I would do without her”, but I do know, because I was without her for a bit and it became quickly unbearable.
My grandparents got married when they were 18. Then they got their marriage annulled and lived in separate cities for a few years. After a chance meeting, they reconnected and decided to meet on a park bench just to talk. They told my mom that as they sat on that bench, they realized they never wanted to be apart again. So they got married.
Just as friends, my then-ex-girlfriend and I decided to go see a terrible vampire movie together. Sitting side-by-side in the dark theater, a thought became so clear in my mind I had to speak it out loud. I didn’t want to be “just friends”, I only wanted to be girlfriends. Only. Not a single part of me wanted anything else. I realized I never wanted to be apart again. So we’re getting married.