Ok, so Part 4 and Part 5 get kind of serious. To alleviate the mood, I’m going to start and end both of the last posts with more light-hearted tangents because I don’t want to leave y’all feeling down or frustrated.
Neither of the tangents book-ending this post have much to do with anything I talked about in this series, but I just felt like sharing. Not sure why.
Hokay, so.... this might go without saying if you follow me on IG or know me in real life, but I change my hair a lot. And not just my hair, but kind of my entire look. Probably every 3-4 months, I feel the need to transform a little bit, both internally and externally. And I think I’ve been like this at least since college, but possibly before then.
But anyway, this is one of my favorite “transformation” stories. So, my senior year of college, I decided to go progressively blonde. In fact, my natural hair color has A LOT Of blonde in it, and the whole reason I started dying my hair in the first place was because by the time I was about 13 or 14, the bottom of my hair was blonde whereas the top was still a darker brown. I basically had that whole balayage/ombre thing going on with my hair since before it was cool. I think it’s because my mom has strawberry blonde hair naturally and, this might come as a shock to the people who didn’t grow up in so cal so they’re not used to seeing mixes and instead just see me/all of us as brown and thus relate us more to our darker parent, but I actually have way closer skin/eye/hair coloring to my mom than I do to my dad. In fact, my mom wears a darker shade of powder than I do, and my arms and legs are covered in freckles just like hers are. And my eyes are actually hazel and they change colors fairly often, putting them a little closer to my mom’s green eyes.
Anyway, with the combination of my mom’s coloring and my time spent in the sun and pool, my mom started coloring my hair on top so that it had blonde highlights throughout as opposed to being brown on top and blonde on the bottom. One day, she got tired of having to use the Beach Blonde products every day and she decided to use a more permanent highlighting product she bought at the drug store. She assured me it would be fine but it actually ended up highlighting my hair orange. So, after one mortifying day of existing in high school with orange highlights, I went back with her to the store and picked out a shade of brown I thought was similar to my natural hair color. My mom was sad to lose her now significantly blonde daughter, but I didn’t care so much whether I was blonde or brunette, I just didn’t want to have orange highlights.
So, I dyed my hair brown, but of course, we picked a color that was actually a little darker than my natural color. And, because of my mom’s strawberry blonde hair and my aunt’s red hair, I didn’t realize until this moment that red would come out very strongly in my hair. In fact, whatever color my hair is dyed, it inevitably goes more and more red over time. Which is fine with me, because I like having red in my hair--I feel like it brings color to my cheeks and is reminiscent of my Scottish ancestry; and I like that’s it’s something that seems to just naturally come out now.
Anyway, I liked that darker, richer brown/auburn color and usually gravitate back to that or something in that ballpark. But during my senior year of college, and after years of nagging from my mom, I decided to give my “natural hair color” a shot. So, I went back to a medium brown with blond highlights, and then my hairdresser just pulled me progressively lighter over time.
I did this for a few months until finally I got bored and wanted to switch it up. I was in a relationship at the time, and when I met him I think I had a dark brown almost purple/black hair, and then I dyed it a lighter red/brown color and then medium brown with blonde and then more and more blonde. So he had seen me go through about three different types of hair color, but by the time I decided to dye it, it had been about a year since he had seen me with dark hair. And at the salon this time, I didn’t just get dark hair. I also got a whole new messy kind of cut with long bangs. It was a very sexy French girl cut and I wish I had a picture of myself with it because to this day it remains one of my faves, and it was definitely popular with the fellas ;)
Anyway, he knew beforehand that I was getting my hair done, but I don’t remember if I told him exactly what I was doing or if I was just going to surprise him with it. The hair salon I went to was just a few stores down from the boba tea/frozen yogurt shop that was one of our favorite places to meet up and grab a treat after a stressful day of class, and we had arranged to me there once my hair appointment was done.
I remember walking down the street toward the yogurt/tea shop with my new dark locks bouncing and trying to get used to my longer bangs now partially obscuring my view. I saw my boyfriend walking toward me slash toward the boba tea shop and when I caught his eye I smiled and waved at him, a little coyly because I knew he must be surprised at my new ‘do.
And in fact, he looked a little surprised but he smiled unsurely and waved back with kind of a confused look on his face before he ducked into the tea shop. I didn’t think too much of it because the shop was usually packed so it made sense for him to head inside and snag us a table and/or a place in line rather than walk past it to meet me. And I figured the weird look on his face was because he had something to tell me.
I ducked inside the shop and headed over to the table he had grabbed and set down my bag. I was about to start to ask him how his day was going when he looked up at me and his mouth dropped open in shock.
“Oh my god, it’s you!”
And then it was my turn to be confused.
“Umm… were you expecting someone else?” I teased, not sure what the hell he was talking about.
“I didn’t recognize you!”
“You didn’t recognize me on the street just now? You waved at me.”
“No, you waved at me, only I didn’t know it was you because your hair is so different. And I thought, holy shit, that beautiful girl is waving at me and I waved back but then I felt bad for thinking you looked so pretty when I was meeting my girlfriend here… but thank god it’s you! Now I don’t have to feel guilty.”
First of all, this whole exchange was hilarious on several levels, but I thought that it was insanely cool that just by changing up my look a little bit, I had become almost a different person to my boyfriend. In fact, over the next several years of us dating, it was a running joke between us, that it was almost like he got to date several different girls because I was always changing my look (and he’s not the first boyfriend who has made that comment). We would laugh about it, but I knew there was seriousness underlying his words. And, to be honest, I liked constantly being the new shiny thing. Even after years of dating, it was cool and important to me that I was able to keep things new and interesting by doing these kind of external transformations that I would have done anyway. One of my previous boyfriends who had been very controlling always gave me shit for changing my look. I think it was because he knew that every time I changed it meant that I had grown on the inside and that growth was reflected on the outside; and to him that was scary because growth on my part meant it would be less easy for him to control/manipulate me. And he was right.
But anyway, most of my exes have been into my changing look, and for that I am grateful, because it’s one of my favorite things to do. It also reminded me of this one Halloween when the same boyfriend from the first hair story and I happened to be in New York. In fact, to this day, this was one of my favorite Halloweens. We went to a party in the city that was hosted by Princeton alums, and it was supposedly a Princeton-only party. The apartment that it was at actually consisted of several different floors of apartments, all of which were connected by secret stairs or passageways. The lore around this place was that for as far back as people can remember, it’s been occupied by Princeton alums—all of the apartments that were connected that is. They built the secret connecting stairs and doorways for the sake of having these Princeton gatherings, and I’m not going to lie, the setup was pretty freaking sick.
Also when you’re in college and you’re hanging out with the older “cooler” version of you already out in the adult world, well, there’s definitely a “wow” factor in that and I felt pretty special gaining admittance to that party because we were some of the only undergrads allowed there. But that particular ex had connections and I guess I was starting to as well by that point, so… anyway.
My boyfriend and I had been dating for about six months already when we went to this party, and at one point we found ourselves upstairs in a hallway with people in the various rooms around us. We were just talking in the hallway, I think we were waiting for one of his friends to meet us, but we had consumed some drinks by this point, and the vibe was definitely gettin’ flirty and the sexual tension was pretty high.
A guy walked by and looked at the two of us, and made a comment to my boyfriend and I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it basically insinuated that he was assuming my boyfriend and I had just meant that night and were probably going to hook up and he was congratulating my boyfriend on that fact.
We looked at each other with similar expressions on our face because obviously we were like, dude, we’ve been dating for awhile now, this isn’t like a novel thing for us. But we didn’t say anything to the guy, and we just kind of laughed about it. But I remember Iater talking about that moment, and we both said that we didn’t want us to lose that quality we had with each other—the one that made other people think we were just strangers who wanted to rip each other’s clothes off as opposed to a boring couple who had been dating for awhile. And I know six months doesn’t seem like a super long time in the realm of dating, but think back to when you were in college and your hormones were on overdrive. I remember back then just being exclusive with someone for longer than a month was a BIG DEAL. So, to us as 21 and 22 year olds, six months did seem like an effing long ass time to be in a serious relationship with someone.
Anywho, I don’t know, I guess maintaining that feeling of newness in relationships is something that has always stuck with me as being of primary importance. Because my first relationship, after about three years of dating, did start to feel stagnant. I felt like we had fallen into the brother/sister trap, and the spark was effectively gone--at least on my end. But thankfully, I haven’t experienced that in any of the relationships since; and I’d like to think part of that is due to my vigilance concerning keeping things feeling fresh and new. And constantly changing my look/vibe ;p
Sorry, that was random. Just felt like getting that out for some reason.
Ok, I’m going to save the second random tangent for after the “meat “of the post. That one is actually my favorite of all the tangents I’m going to share. Probably because it’s the most relevant to how I’m feeling about my love life right now...
To be honest, there were initially 4 or 5 random tangents but I decided that the other 3 were just too dark and not necessary right now. We’re all stressed out, confused, angry, scared, and feeling helpless. Given that I decided to use my pre-med education and experience and go to law school instead of medical school (a choice I still very much regret to this day), I figure the best way for me to help right now is to do my best to distract, lift spirits, and inspire. And to rant about the way certain people are handling this or to bemoan the career choices I’ve made that have landed me in a position of being able to do very little to help or contribute to what’s going on in ways that I deem meaningful would just not be helpful. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, at least concerning the latter issue, I had always planned on becoming a doctor and I wanted to either be a surgeon or specialize in infectious diseases. I did field research in Kenya for a summer, and both gathered data and treated people there; and then I used the data I collected for my thesis on malaria. Because I was the first people who ever went to those bush clinics and compiled all their infectious disease data, some NGO’s used my work to provide malaria testing kits and much needed medicine and supplies to that area.
I really loved doing the work I did there. Helping people one on one was the most satisfying, fulfilling act I’ve ever done, and I loved following in my father’s footsteps. My dad is an anesthesiologist now, but he used to work in emergency pediatrics; and my whole life whenever there has been an emergency—car accident, heart attack on a plane, etc.—he has always been the first to jump up and help save a life. I got to experience doing work like that when I lived in Kenya, and to this day, it’s the time of my life I’m the most proud of and it was also the most transformational for me in indescribably positive ways.
For a set of reasons I’m not going to go into right now, I mistakenly threw away the career in medicine I had always wanted to go to law school. I have regretted that decision for years, but never more than now. I wish I could do more, and I wish more than anything that I could help. But I can’t. And that is such a soul-crushing realization.
People ask me all the time if I would ever go back and go to medical school. Technically I could, I completed all of the qualifications. I’d have to take the MCAT again, but after the bar exam, the MCAT doesn’t seem like a huge barrier to entry. The thing is, if I had all the time and money in the world, I would. But, at this point it just doesn’t seem that feasible. I don’t want to waste more time and money on an ego goal, when I’m perfectly suited the way I am to empire-build. And at this point, I feel like that’s the best option for me.
I remember this one conversation I had with my dad when I was newly back from Kenya. I was 20 and feeling so incensed to return to Africa and do more medical work. I remember telling my dad that I was thinking about becoming a general surgeon or ob/gyn or infectious disease specialist, because I thought that would be what they would need the most in those parts of the world. I was asking him about Doctors Without Borders and similar programs; and I also informed him that I might not ever get married or have a family because it would be dangerous where I would be working, and I wouldn’t want to subject a husband or children to that kind of lifestyle. You see, it was really dangerous where I lived in Kenya. You had to be vigilant basically every second of the day. One of our interns had to go home early because she couldn’t handle it (in fact, there was a rumor she had been attacked, but I don’t know for sure because she left so abruptly and we never got to ask her). And I knew it wasn’t the kind of life that most people would want. By the way, I have written extensively on my time in Kenya, and it’s being worked into a different novel so yes, I’ll be telling those stories eventually. To this day, those are my greatest stories ever. Actually, if we’re close, just ask me about them the next time we hang out. I’ll be more than happy to share as they’re my favorite memories to relive.
So I loved that kind of lifestyle. Since I was a little kid, I wanted to be an explorer like Indiana Jones, and I felt like for the first time, I was putting those dreams to the test. I loved being disconnected from everything--no phones, no social media, no internet, no electricity, no running water--ok, the no running water part was kind of hard, but we made it work. I loved the danger and primality of life there. We’d be brushing our teeth for bed and have to sprint back to our tents because lions were stalking us. You were more alive and attuned to every single second both because you had to be and because you wanted to be. The earth was this red orange clay that would fly up around you in dust storms and cake every inch of your body. The sky was so blue and the clouds seemed so close that you could reach up and touch them. There were miracles happening in the landscape around you every second of the day, and you would only catch them if you were paying attention. Danger lurked around every turn but if you were brave and vigilant enough, you would be prepared. And I was doing good work—I was having a direct positive impact on people. And I was learning so much and felt like I was truly living in a way I had never experienced before. I often have commented that I left my heart in Kenya, and I still feel that way.
I was made for that life, and there is still a part of me that dreams about going back to medical school, buying a ranch out in the western central highlands, and working as a doctor there for the rest of my days.
But, my dad told me during this conversation something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Torri, all of that sounds great. You can make whatever decisions you want for your life—your mom and I will support you. And I think it’s very admirable you want to dedicate your life to helping people. But I have to tell you, even though it’s a difficult life and you’re getting your hands dirty and putting in all the hard work, sometimes you can effectuate more change from afar than you can on a one-to-one basis. Like, for example, you could be the doctor in the field treating someone for an infectious disease, and you could maybe treat several people every day OR you could have an incredibly successful career as a doctor here—or another profession—and you could make enough that you could donate money to charities that would pay for the work of 10 or 100 of those doctors. You might not be the one doing the actual labor in the field, but the positive effects you’d be responsible for would be realized on a much larger scale. Does that make sense?”
And, as much as I hated to admit it, it did make sense. I went to a school whose alumni fund projects that promote scientific achievement, medical work, technological advancements, and much more all around the world. While a lot of our alumni do the work themselves, a huge number have other means of employment and use their profits to fund the work. And even my idealistic 20 year old self had to admit that the effects of both acts were equally important.
So, at this point in my life, it makes more sense to be the kind of person who builds up an empire and then can fund the good work of other people; and I’m ok with that. I’m resigned to it. And, I’d like to think that the books I’ll end up publishing one day will also be a kind of pick-me-up escape/inspiration for the populace, so maybe I can have a more personal effect in that way at least.
But I’d be lying to say it doesn’t bug me from time to time that I didn’t follow through with my original dreams, and that I don’t currently have a career where I am having a positive impact on humanity every single day. And it especially has been tormenting me right now when I could otherwise be helping out in a time of great need for the entire planet.
And I guess that might help explain why I’m not currently practicing law and why I waited a few years before taking the bar exam. I was never sure I wanted to be an attorney. In fact, I had been set on being a doctor since about age 13 when I bought my first book on infectious diseases. I know this might sound weirdly coincidental given everything going on right now, but I originally saw myself being the one who tracked the source of the most deadly infectious diseases and coming up with their cures—that was my fantasy career as a middle schooler. I wanted to be the one in the caves of the Congo tracking down the source and then later in the lab, figuring out the solution. Later I considered other routes in the medical industry, but it never changed from that industry. In fact, I was so passionate about becoming a doctor, that in high school, I scored such high grades in my honors Anatomy/Physiology class that my teacher told me I could not show up for the final and would still end up with the highest grade in the class. I thought she was joking, so of course I showed up for the final. And when I sat down, she said, “What are you doing here? I told you you didn’t have to take this test. You can get a 0 and it won’t affect your grade.” I took it anyway and aced it, but I just threw myself into that course in particular because that was where my heart was. And then later in college, I specialized in infectious disease research and I realized my dream of doing that work in Africa. I also tailored my education when I returned around medical and economic development in sub-saharan Africa because I always intended to go back to the region as a doctor and implement wide-scale change.
I chose law school not really for myself but for other people in my life, and I wish I hadn’t. Right before my second year, I sat down with my parents and I told them law wasn’t for me and I wanted to drop out and try to go after one of the publishing or entertainment writing internships I had been offered after college OR I wanted to take the MCAT and go to medical school. But my dad urged me to give it one more semester, and I did. Of course, I got an academic award in one of my law classes that semester, so my dad and I agreed I should stay. I got to be honest though, I think it would have been better if I had just dropped out and pursued one of my true passions.
And, I’m just kind of bringing this up because I know a lot of my law school classmates don’t understand why I’m not practicing law. And it’s just, unlike most of them who knew since they were young they wanted to be an attorney, I have never actually deep down wanted to be an attorney. And nothing against them for wanting that, it’s just how they feel about being an attorney, well, that’s how I always felt about being a doctor, writer, and entrepreneur (the last of which I’m not going to go into the story of how I got into that, but I did around my senior year of college and it always stuck). And I think IP law works for me because it combines elements of all three of those industries, so I can find ways to be fascinated by it and passionate about it; and if I ever go back to practicing law, I think I could be happy with that kind of work because it’s adjacent to what I really love. But law’s never going to be the thing I live to do, and I’m ok with that. We all have decisions we regret. And it’s not a bad thing to be a lawyer at the end of the day, it’s just not my number one choice and it never really was.
Ok, so sorry, I guess I did go into a depressing tangent a bit. But now back to the story and I promise I’ll end it on a fun one.
Ok, now back to it:
So, I couldn’t help but feel judged, found wanting, and rejected when those three people I considered close started pulling away around May. And their level of distance just seemed to increase month by month. This was also coming on the heels of me losing another one of my best friends due to his just pulling away and disappearing out of the blue around October of 2019, so… I was already a little sensitive and anxious about this very issue.
I felt really helpless, because I had long since learned that if people want out our your life, you just have to let them go. And if they come back, they come back. And that’s kind of the way I’m programmed anyway. I’m not big on manipulating others to get my way, because if someone is doing something because they’re being somehow cajoled or incentivized to do so, then they probably didn’t want to do it in the first place. And I don’t need that kind of inauthenticity in my inner circle. I’ve been burned too many times by people who never really cared about me to risk keeping people close who aren’t true friends just for the sake of optics or numbers.
But… on the other hand, I’ve also learned in the past few years from having talks with both ex-relationships and ex-friends who have come back to explain why they disappeared--and ask for forgiveness in some cases--that in some of these circumstances, I could have and perhaps should have reached out as opposed to just letting them go. First of all, they explained that their leaving had nothing to do with me personally, it was honestly a “them” issue. And, part of why I’m hesitant to chase after people who are pulling away is because I just assume that it’s because they don’t want my company; so why would I go after them if the reason they’re leaving is because they want less of me in their life. So learning that it had nothing to with me and I was taking it personally when I shouldn’t be was a revelation. Second, a lot of them have said that they wished I had reached out more, even when they were pushing me away, because when I had done that previously and they finally caved and told me what they were actually going through, they felt like I was one of the only people who cared enough about them to fight for their friendship and sincerely check up on them. And I realized i was having a huge disconnect with a lot of my friends and relationships because I thought my fighting for them would push them away when really they needed to feel like someone cared enough to fight for them.
So with these two conflicting ideas and three of my friends pulling away… this conundrum had my anxiety through the freaking roof. Not only was I worried about the possibility of losing them, but also I was faced with this decision where I just didn’t know what the right answer was… Should I just let them go because it really was me they were trying to get away from? And maybe if I let them go they’d realize I wasn’t that bad and come back eventually? Or was there some magic thing I could reach out and say to fix not only our friendship but whatever it was they were struggling with?
Was I doing what I always do where I minimize my own importance in the lives of the people I care about and in so doing, distance myself before they can reject me (when it’s very possible they weren’t trying to reject me and in fact would have been relieved to know that I really cared)?
Because deep down I convince myself they couldn’t possibly care about me, so why bother them by fighting to keep them in my life? I guess on some level, I’m not convinced that people who are not related to me by blood would choose to keep me in their lives. And this is another conundrum. I really really like myself. Like, I love my own personal brand of weird. It’s never difficult being alone with myself, I’m rarely bored, and usually I’m quite content and entertained and generally very fulfilled by my own existence (except on the rare occasion my demons decide to have a little Monster Ball of their own). But I’ve been told from a young age by friends and family alike that I am an oddball. And, even though those people say it warmly and from a loving perspective, the fact that so many people like to tell me how different I am--constantly-- and remind me that I don’t quite fit in with everyone else; well that point has stuck in my mind. Especially when I keep losing friends and relationships with no explanation seemingly overnight. I deeply love myself, but maybe it’s impossible for anyone else to truly love my special brand of strange.
People like to say you have to love yourself before you can accept the love of another person. And that is true, but it’s almost more complicated than that. Because I do love myself—maybe too much sometimes. I’m hard on myself, but I still adore myself. And yet that doesn’t mean I think others will feel the same way. Again, I always feel like the bright shiny object. People love me when they first meet me and for a while afterward. I usually get put up on some kind of pedestal, in fact, which as flattering as that can be, is ultimately awkward, isolating, and annoying. But once I’ve been in their life for awhile and they finally glimpse what’s under the hood, at first they get stuck deep in, but then eventually they just disappear. I have my own theory concerning the whole pedestal/perfectionism effect, but I’ll get to that in a little bit. Anyway…
And you know what really sucks? When you are so confused over how to salvage or save a friendship/relationship and because of the other person’s complete lack of communication, you have no way of knowing if they would even care to do the same with you. And the insecure part of you goes, well they seem to be leaving, so clearly they don’t care… But I know that’s not true, because even now a few of these relationships have mended or are in the process of mending. And, I have to be honest, the two that I kind of just let go, well those seem to be on the faster track to getting back to normal. But the one I kept trying with? I don’t know, it just seems like it the same old BS over and over again with him.
But anyway, point is, feeling like I was about to lose these people combined with all this deeper work I was doing as a result of leveling up was also a trigger into this spiral period.
But here’s where it gets tricky… I can’t just stop doing this work (and by “this work” I mean clearing all the next level emotional baggage I’ve unearthed by leveling up). In fact, this work is clearly very necessary for me to do. I’ve already continued to do this work with my friends, in that I’ve tried to just be more easy going about their going’s and comings and not take it personally or let it affect how I feel about myself or my self worth when it comes to how others view me; and so far, that's worked out great. Usually, the more I let someone go when they pull away, the faster and more resoundingly they come back. And that’s awesome. Honestly, it’s way less work for me to do.
Of course there are some friendships where they haven’t come back yet, and those weigh heavy on my heart. And this is kind of my white flag to all my former friends--or for one more-than-friend-- out there—just because we haven’t spoken for awhile, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about you or miss having you in my life.
Even if you were the one who pulled away or ghosted… I’m still here and I still care. My feelings are definitely hurt, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t forgive you for the sake of our friendship. I know right now is kind of a crazy time, but I’d still welcome a call or text from you; and I’d definitely be down to grab a drink after everything is over. I don’t have a lot of friends I’ve fallen out with who I would never consider being friends with again. So… if you’re wondering about me, I’m probably wondering about you. But… if you were the one who left or if you forced my hand, then I’m probably not going to do the reaching out because I feel like you made your position very clear concerning whether you want to keep me in your life. But that doesn’t mean if you reached out now I wouldn’t welcome you back with open arms.
So… to be honest, the friend thing is a little easier to navigate than the other side. But there’s another part to this equation where things get really tricky. Part of my leveling up has meant I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I have built quite large walls around myself especially in the love department. These walls are so high in fact that I feel like in some of the more-than-friends relationships I’ve had since my breakup with my fiancé, I honestly can’t tell if I’m the one pushing these people away or if they’re pushing me away. I think part of why I lead with my weirdness now is because it just keeps the wall around me higher. Because I’m really scared of getting hurt again. I’m honestly terrified to get really close to anyone again.
The last time I was broken (my ex, Dario) I almost didn’t recover from it. It took me a good year and half to even start getting back on my feet. It took me out in almost every arena of my life. I mean, I had a major glow-up on the outside, but I was wrecked inside. And, the bottom line is not only can my heart not take a major beating like that again (not on top of everything else it’s already gone through) but also, I can’t afford to get taken out like that again. I have worked too hard to recover and I have too many irons in the fire right now. I have too much of my life going exactly the way I’ve always wanted it to go, and I’m so close to achieving the next level of personal and career success I’ve dreamt of since I was a kid. I can’t afford for some guy to swoop in and sweep me off my feet only to betray me or leave me out of the blue and break my damn heart to the point where I lose everything I’ve spent the last four years building. I refuse to do that to myself or to allow someone else to do that to me.
But then again, there has been one person in particular with whom I don’t see that happening with. There is someone out there with whom I share such a strong, intense, inexplicable bond that I almost can’t afford NOT to give things a shot with him. I feel like the bond is so rare it’s an equal kind of loss to be had if I keep operating from a place of distance and fear.
But when it comes to a falling-in-love kind of relationship, the fear, insecurity, and trust issues concerning abandonment and betrayal is just on a whole different level. And, I’m worried I’ve been sabotaging myself because of that.
Sure, for a long time it was super easy to bury all this stuff down so I could keep achieving my dreams, but I’m hitting a point where I have to accept that if I want to heal these wounds, I have to do some work—a very specific, scary, and painful kind of work—before I get into a relationship. At the very least, I have to be honest with myself about these still-open wounds and the feelings I’m having about wanting to let someone in and how that scares the shit out of me. And I’m going to have to have more transparency with myself and the person I want to trust if I’m going to get through the muck and out to the other side. Because unfortunately the muck is not just going to go away on its own. It’s going to take both my effort as a high-functioning single person and a joint effort in my next relationship to get through it all. And… that’s an equally scary realization because it’s hard for me to be vulnerable even with myself let alone with others. Just the thought of sharing with someone I have romantic feelings for these vulnerabilities makes me cringe because my assumption is it’s all too messy for them to deal with and they’ll just want to leave for someone with less “baggage”.
So… I build walls and I keep people out because I’ve already played out that next level of opening up and being vulnerable again in my head and I’m not sure I can do it.
Except… I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to believe that I’m stronger than that. I want to believe that I’m not going to backslide, and I want to believe there is someone out there that I can trust with these wounds, just like I would want them to trust me with their wounds.
And this is why this is a difficult subject to write about because I’m still really confused about how I feel concerning these topics and I go back and forth every day, and it’s also something I know I can only confront and resolve to a certain extent at the time being and the rest I’m just going to have to have faith that in the right situation with the right person, I’ll be able to tackle the rest.
I really wanted to do all the work on my own. I really wanted to believe that given enough time and enough success and self-love that I could just heal myself. But I know now that kind of thinking is an oversimplification and over-optimistic view of the process. Because, you can’t relearn to trust people when it’s just you and you’ve had to adapt to not trust or rely on other people and only really count on yourself.
When you’re on your own, it’s really just a matter of do I trust myself? And, of course I trust myself. But do I trust others? That’s not an issue I can sort through without having the other end that would back it up. Without having empirical evidence that I can actually trust someone, it would be foolish to just blindly put my faith in others after what I experienced. I’d be asking to get hurt again. But also, I can’t continue to preemptively shut people out and just assume they’re all untrustworthy as a way to avoid heartache.
Yet another conundrum. I have to actually let someone in to learn how to trust again, but I haven’t learned how to trust again so how am I going to feel comfortable letting someone in? I guess this is going to require a whole heck of a lot more faith than I originally imagined.
And, I also have to accept the fact that I want seemingly conflicting things in a relationship, and maybe that’s ok. Maybe I don’t have to know exactly what I want to have the perfect relationship. Maybe I don’t have to fix all my ex- relationships in my mind and see exactly what went wrong and do the same for the other person to ensure we have an absolutely fail safe plan so it doesn’t go wrong between the two of us (like it did in our previous relationships). Maybe we can’t figure that shit out until we actually give it a shot together. And maybe it’s ok if it’s not all black and white, right and wrong. Maybe with the right person, the shades of grey become less cloudy/troublesome and easier to navigate. Maybe with the right person, I’ll have the ideal partner to figure this shit out with.
Because this is my fear you guys. I had what most people would consider to be the perfect relationship; and compared to a lot of the married couples I know now, it was an exceptionally good one. The problem was, it wasn’t good enough for us; or at least, it wasn’t exactly what we needed.
And part of the devastation after that particular breakup was in wondering how I could possibly create a more perfect relationship than the one I had before (you know, one that would be perfect and last); and I felt so defeated and hopeless because I didn’t see how that could be possible. It was hard to poke holes in the last one because other than the breakup, everything else was amazing. I think I understand now that the reason we broke up was because of how good the relationship was, because it was impeding our growth in other areas. It’s not that we needed to be in an unhappy relationship, it was just that it wasn’t the right timing for us to be in such a good relationship. We both needed something to light a fire under our butts to get us to the next level of achievement in our lives and we couldn’t do that being so happy in our relationship because it was dulling our aspirations.
But, unlike my other breakups where I could look back and do an autopsy and find where the infection was and know what to look for in my next partner to not have that same problem, I couldn’t do that with this relationship. So, I was really at a loss for how on earth I was going to create something better and more perfect and something that would last with some one else.
Except now there is someone that I can see creating that with. And it’s not because he’s more perfect than the last guy, but it’s just that we happen to fit each other better. And I think we both have the understanding that we have to keep ourselves honest and focused in our careers/passion projects, because that’s integral to keeping us happy and all-around fulfilled. So I think with him, I wouldn’t make the same mistake of letting either of us get too content in the relationship and not pursue our dreams to our fullest ability.
And you know what? Maybe I don’t end up with the guy I feel this way about, but maybe if I start doing the work now—honestly giving it a voice and not just burying it deep down—maybe if I meet someone like him one day, I’ll be ready to really give it a try then.
And, before I get into this demon-exorcising exercise, I just want to mention that one of things I’ve been trying to work on—really really trying—is not always assuming the worse out of my interactions with people and in situations. Let me explain what I mean.
I am very positive about almost everything except the people I really care about, both romantic and otherwise. And, I want to stop doing that. I realized the other day that when guys I don’t like text me or call me or talk to me, it’s very easy for me to recognize when and how they’re flirting with me. But put a guy in their place who I actually have feelings for, and he says the exact same thing, my head immediately goes to rationalize how he couldn’t have possibly meant what he said in a way that conveyed that he cares about me. And, for a girl who generally feels very confident and comfortable with herself (when her demons aren’t having a little BBQ together), that’s a super strange thought. I know on a logical level that the men I like are great matches for me and would be lucky to have me and vice versa. But for some reason when we interact, I am putting negative spins on everything.
So there is obviously some part of my consciousness that doesn’t believe I’m worthy of the love and affection of the people I have love and affection for (see the bit above about how weird I am). So… I’m definitely experiencing a lot of cognitive dissonance in this area. But since there is a part of myself that is deeply empowered, content and confident in myself, I’m been trying to tap into that part to overcome this weird dissonant, negative voice. You know, the traits or quirks or experiences that make me feel extra bad ass. The self-affirming beliefs or proof that I have to feel amazing not only in my own eyes but in the eyes of others. And, every time I find my mind going somewhere negative in regards to someone I care about, I try to stop and figure out why I’m doing that, and then I focus on reworking my conception of the situation into a positive takeaway.
And this happens all the time. Like, the fast few weeks, I’ve been low-key working on mending one of those broken “friendships”. And I’m over here trying to manifest this reconnection, and the next day, the person will do exactly what I wanted them to do and then some. But somehow, after initially feeling good about what happened, I’ll spin it in my head. I’ll start to narrate what happened with a negative voice and reverse rationalize that just because they did was I was hoping they would doesn’t mean they don’t dislike me.
And that’s fucking crap. So in those moments, I’m consciously stepping in to remind myself to shut the fuck up and be happy for the blessing. I remind myself that the person did what I wanted them to do out of affinity not rejection—because the second option just doesn’t make sense. It’s kind of an Occam’s Razor scenario. Like, if I have to jump through so many mental hoops to come up with an explanation that satisfies this sick urge I have to convince myself that people don’t like me when the simplest explanation for their action is that they do like me, well, that’s not a very sound or logical manner of thinking. So next time someone I really care about but I’m not sure how they feel about me says or does something positive, I’m going to do my best to interpret it as positive and not overthink it (like a jackass).
And, listen, I’m no where near perfect with this habit, but I’m getting a little better day by day. Just like I trained myself to believe I can accomplish any career goal, I’m retraining my mind/heart in this arena as well. I’m already seeing results, so I hope if I keep doing this, I will retrain the way I interpret communication which will in turn affect the way I communicate back with the people I care about the most. And, for that one person who I know has experienced this difficulty with me for over a year now (maybe two), I’m fucking sorry. I really care about you, which I know you know by now, but I also know how much I pushed you away slash lashed out and said things I didn’t mean, and I’m sorry about that. I wish I could go back and change it and not handle things like an insecure idiot.
So.. this next part is going to be kind of weird, but I feel like I need to get it out.
And before you read it, I just want to say one thing, for everyone in a relationship, married, engaged or just dating, I want you to step out of your all-knowing, I’m in a relationship so I don’t struggle with these issues mindset and take a step back and really think. Because almost everything I’m about to address right now is something that was a problem in a previous relationship that I either didn’t recognize or didn’t accept at that point in time, and it wasn’t until I was outside of the relationship that I was brave or clear-sighted enough to say fuck, this is not ideal for me, and this needs to be changed.
Because this is one of my biggest fears of getting into another relationship, and all of you who are in relationships and think you are immune to this stuff now is just proof that my fear is a reality. When I’m in a relationship, especially a really good one, I start to lose my grip on the truth of my experiences. I start to lose my grip on what I really want for myself—in all categories. I start to make so many concessions for the relationship—slowly, but they add up over time—that by the time we breakup I don’t even recognize myself anymore.
And, I’m not saying you shouldn’t compromise in your relationship. You obviously have to to a certain degree. But, if you’re going to be a truly successful and fulfilled person AND have a happy relationship that lasts, you need to have some fucking great introspection and you need to be able to be brutally honest with yourself. You can’t hide your true feelings/wants/desires in the fact that you’re married and/or have kids and just let everything else crumble because you have the two main things that the world/society/your social circle validates you for. Because, at the end of the day, most relationships and the majority of marriages end. It’s a sad but true statistic. And if you gave up everything or most of the things that were important to you for the two validators of kids and marriage—and then your marriage dissolves… what are you left with? You have your kids, of course, but what else do you have to build a truly strong and fulfilled life for them and for you? And if you previously got the bulk of your self worth from your marriage and your nuclear family, what are you going to be left with when that’s gone?
So, if you’re in a relationship but you’re not going to read the next part with any sort of introspection for your own life—let me just stop you here. This post is done for you now. Thanks for reading. Catch ya later when I post the ghost stories.
But, regardless of relationship status, if you’re ready to deep dive with me and with yourself and be really brutally honest and at least start to ask yourself some difficult questions with the hope that afterward you and your relationship (or future relationship) will be better for it, well then, let’s go…
As I said, there is someone I have in mind who I think I could have an even more successful relationship with that my previous ones. I think we have this crazy bond, and a very strong, genuine friendship. I think for the first time in a very, very long time, I know what unconditional love feels like. And that’s kind of scary, because I don’t like to believe in unconditional love--at least, not in romantic relationships--because my experience with it hasn’t been so great in the past. So, take this as me just stating the emotion, but not exactly agreeing with it.
I think we would understand each other in a way that neither of us has experienced before. When we first met, I thought we were kind of opposites. And on the surface we are. But the more I’ve grown to know him, I actually think we are kind of creepily alike, and from what I’ve gathered, we’ve experienced a lot of the same events—both good and bad—in our previous relationships. And I only mention this because it’s due to all of our commonalities and shared though separate experiences that lead me to believe that maybe we could figure out something that would work for us.
We’re both fiercely independent and too hard on ourselves. We need our alone time and space. We’re not just weirdos, but we’re creative weirdos; and I think that lends to an understanding of each other that I’ve always found missing in my previous relationships. I think in many ways we live very parallel similar lives. We seem to have walked the same footsteps—just separately and perhaps at different times--through the same places and experiences. And these facts have not been lost on me. The duality of our existences weighs heavy on my mind and heart because of all of the implications there—both desired and otherwise. But there are certain fears I have… and I’m not sure yet whether these are very real concerns to have or if these are issues we could easily navigate. And I’m scared to find out.
One of my fears revolves around the pressure to be perfect, as I mentioned previously. I feel that in the past my partners have always placed me on a pedestal. And I never represented that I was perfect nor have I ever asked them to be perfect in return. But inevitably, I fall off that pedestal in their eyes, and I feel like that always inspires vitriol on their parts and it’s super fucking painful. I don’t know if this is just a male or human trait or if there is something about me or my personality that inspires this cycle in my partners. I just know in the past I’ve gotten shit from them for being too perfect—i.e., better than them at something that tugs at their insecurity or always being accused of being on the precipice of leaving them for someone “on my own level”—but I’ve also gotten shit for not living up to some perfect ideal in their eyes. And either way, I just get handed out a lot of spite that I don’t think I deserve as well as pressure to meet ridiculous expectations that are impossible for anyone to achieve. And, I feel like I never get communication or feedback about these things until my partner is already at their breaking point or, even worse, they lash out at me with a comment they know will hurt but it’s about something they never brought up in even a kind way to just discuss before. I wish people would see me as a real person and not an idea of something they want to possess or embody. And I wish people would communicate with me more when I’m not meeting one of their expectations. I’m not a mind reader. And I’m also far, far, far from perfect. So… if that’s why someone falls for me in the beginning, then they’re operating under a false delusion; and I’d just rather not engage in that relationship at all.
I face this problem with friends as well, but it’s usually the hardest when it comes from relationships. And, I’m not sure what the solution to this issue is, but it’s definitely a fear of mine. Is the next relationship going to be yet another one where I’m expected to be some perfect version of myself that doesn’t exist? I don’t know.
This harkens back to my discussion in the third part of this post about people projecting on their loved ones the goals and dreams they truly have for themselves. To be honest, I don’t think the problem was that I wasn’t perfect enough. I think just as women can with men, men often project ideals on women that they wish they could embody but it’s too difficult for them to do so, so they try to find that perfect angel/devil combination of a partner who can do it for them. And men and women would both do well to learn that they got to do the work for themselves. It’s just too much to ask from a partner to read your mind and make you wildest dreams and fantasies come true, especially when you don’t even know what they are and/or can’t verbalize them and/or are willing to play zero role in making them come true for yourself.
I think men and women develop these very unhealthy fantasies about their partners from a young age that just get more ingrained over time due to societal constructs, and it’s really not constructive at the end of the day, and moreover, just point blank toxic for anyone involved. Be real with yourself. Be the hero in your own story and let your partner be the hero in theirs, and then join your powers together to build one friggin’ awesome empire. Don’t expect or settle for someone else to save you and put you on the throne next to them as nothing more than a decorative piece and conversely, don’t expect someone to be the perfect mix of guiding light/mother figure/and sexual fantasy who’s going to somehow simultaneously guide you to your destiny and enable you to fulfill it, make you feel like a real man, and validate your masculinity to others. We gotta figure all those things out for ourselves at the end of the day; otherwise you’re living in a fairy tale, and trust me, those are pure fiction.
To be continued…
Ok, light-hearted tangent time again. I’ll finish this post with Part 5 that I will actually be putting up tomorrow because it’s already written. I’m just trying to make each of these posts about the same length for the sake of not exceeding my readers’ attention span. Warning: Shit gets heavy in Part 5, but I will also have the light-hearted tangents as bookends.
So… recently I started watching the show New Girl again, because, well, I think I just wanted to watch something familiar and light-hearted that would make me laugh; and the button for The Office was starting to smoke from being clicked so much, so I decided to give it a rest.
And there’s this one New Girl episode called “Quick Hardening Caulk” and I remember it was one of my favorites when I first saw it years ago, but I don’t think I related to it quite the way I do now.
So, on this show, one of the storylines concerns the sexual tension between two of the main characters, Jess and Nick, who start out as roommates and then become friends, but as time goes on, it becomes more and more evident that they have serious romantic feelings for each other. And even though they’re both aware of how they feel for the other one before they end up discussing it with each other, they kind of both convince themselves that it’s just a superficial crush and/or the other one wouldn’t be interested anyway. And in this way, they are able to minimize their own feelings so as to avoid unnecessary drama in their apartment and friend group because they all live together.
But in this particular episode, Nick starts changing, and mostly in the ways that negate Jess’s reasons for telling herself she can’t like him. And it’s like every little or big thing he does this episode just makes it more difficult for her to hide the fact that she is seriously attracted to him/crushing on him. You should just watch the episode if this isn’t making sense (it’s on Netflix, Season 2, Episode 19), but not only does this particular episode move forward the romantic storyline between these two characters, it also is hilarious when the audience is let into Jess’s mind and lady parts to see what things—sometimes typical, sometimes ridiculous—she finds panty-dropping about her “friend”.
So… the reason I’m mentioning this is because upon the rewatch I’m realizing that now I can totally relate to Jess’s dilemma, because I also have a “friend” with whom I share a similar dynamic. And I think it’s a shared dynamic like the one in the show, but I’m not really positive.
But anyway, this friend of mine is someone I found incredibly physically attractive when I first met him, but I had my eye on someone else at the time and also, not that I didn’t think he was attracted to me when we first met—because I definitely did get that impression—but now that I live in LA, most of the connections I make with guys I meet kind of fizzle out very quickly after they realize that I don’t do random hookups so I’m not going to just go home with them. And, to be honest, I kind of figured he would be the same deal. And I don’t really mind because typically the kind of guys that end up being my boyfriends make it incredibly apparent from night one their deep level of interest regardless of whether anything is going to happen or not happen, so I just kind of feel like if they’re not into it at that level, then it’s fine if I don’t hear from them after our initial meeting.
But, this one actually did stay in touch, and over time we’ve become fairly decent friends. But… I feel like the more time goes on, the more I can’t hide from myself how attracted to him I am. And, it started off with just little things in the beginning, like the more I found out about his taste in books and music, and all the things we have in common which usually for me I’ve never had in common with the men I date, and not only didn’t have in common, but they’re things my exes have found really strange about me. So the fact that he and I have these shared interests and I can pretty honestly discuss 99% of topics with him definitely made me reevaluate the category I had put him in. Because again, he’s smoking hot. But, like Nick and Jess, we also have mutual friends, so for the sake of avoiding drama, I always tried to think of reasons why I should keep our friendship at arm’s length.
But every time I see him in person or every time we talk or he posts something on social media, it’s like he knows all my little triggers that would make me more and more attracted to him. And they’re weird things, too. So weird in fact, that I have low key said flirtatious things to him about them (like Jess does to Nick in this episode) just kind of unable to help myself because I’m so increasingly attracted to him every time he does one of these super random things, but they’re such off the wall things that he thinks I’m just giving him a hard time or he does not get what I’m implying (much like Nick with Jessica in this episode).
And, in the episode, Jess is getting increasingly frustrated with herself and with Nick because she hates that she can’t control the reaction her lady parts are having to the random things he’s doing and also with Nick for doing all the things that happen to be the perfect combination to turn her on/make her fall for him. And I feel the same way about my friend. Like, every time I see him wear something that most girls wouldn’t look at twice but for me that’s my kryptonite, I’m like oh for fuck’s sake, why? Like the last time I saw him, holy shit, he was dressed and styled like literally my dream guy. And I already think he’s hot, even when he’s dressed down and his hair’s a fucking mess and he’s got bags under his eyes—like he’s already pretty irresistible. But the last time I saw him, I might as well have been an awkward middle schooler looking at the most popular guy in school because he literally made me weak in the knees.
And recently he’s been posting three kinds of content on social media that are my absolute fucking kryptonite. And it’s crazy because I know there is part of him that feels insecure about what he’s posting, but I swear to god he knows that I find him so sexy when he does these specific things and he’s killing me every time he posts one of them because I’m trying so hard to keep him in the “friends” category, and not make things messy or complicated or risk getting rejected and ruining our friendship. But I honestly don’t know at this point.
So… anyway, that’s it. Basically I could totally feel and relate to Jess’s frustration and reactions in that episode because that’s exactly how I feel about my “friend”. And I have a lot of guy friends, and I usually never change the categorization I have for my male friends; but I don’t know, this one has decidedly gotten under my skin--for awhile now. I think he knows it, too. And, I really do think of him as a good friend, which I think makes things even harder because as much as it seems like it would make sense for me to want to date someone I’m attracted to on these multiple levels, I’m also scared that if we fuck it up, I’d lose the friendship. Also… I’m not sure how he feels about me. So… whatever.
Just go watch the episode and have a laugh. Also, btw, Nick Miller is one of my favorite characters created EVER. Obviously, Schmidt is the funniest character, but Nick is more my kind of humor and like the voice in my head sometimes. I just love him. Ok, part 5 will be up tomorrow. See ya then!
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