“Couldn’t we just be casual?” He said to me, as we lay next to each other, our bodies pressed together. Well fuck, I thought to myself, here it is. We had arrived at the inevitable ‘talk.’ The talk that usually starts with, “where is this going?” and can only end in a positive place if the two people having it are on the exact same page.
“I thought we were being casual,” I said to him, yet, at the same time I knew this wasn’t true. I looked back on the date we had just returned from: dinner, followed by a bus ride to the bowling alley; complete with $1 beers and endless amounts of laughter. No, it had taken a turn from casual, but that was how dating was supposed to work, right? You started off casual and saw where things went from there. I thought we had been doing things right. For the first time in my life we were actually taking the ‘proper’ steps. Yet, here we were, at the conversation that would lead us to the beginning of the end.
“I mean you’re leaving,” he said to me, his deep brown eyes pressing into mine, “I just don’t want to get too attached.”
It was hard to believe him. I had heard the word so many times before: casual. Casual, to me, was synonymous with dirt bags and one night stands. Casual was on-par with ‘friends with benefits’ and flings that hardly ever worked. Casual was the word that you used when you liked how each other looked naked but you didn’t like much more than that. No, I didn’t know how to be casual – casual was too close to heartbreak.
“But we could still see each other,” he said, “I didn’t mean I don’t want to hang out with you, I do want to hang out with you, I just don’t want to get into anything serious right now.”
“I know myself too well,” I told him. “I was fine with taking things slowly, one-step at a time, but I can’t be with you if I know there is no future … even if the future is a short one.” He wiped the tears away from my cheeks, he was still holding me tight, comforting me. "You should go,” I finally said to him.
Well, I thought dismally to myself, as I closed the door behind him, another one bites the dust.
I cried myself to sleep that night. Feeling the pain of losing someone who I was so excited about, while my mind bombarded me with gnawing questions about my own self worth. When I woke up the next morning my sadness hadn’t abated. I was almost surprised by this. I was used to getting attached to guys, only to have them run when things got too serious. But this time something was different. He wasn’t running because he was a dirtbag – somewhere, somewhere deep down I knew that was true – he was running because he didn’t want to get hurt. He didn’t want to get attached when it was inevitable that the bonds we would form would become severed — a feeling I was all too familiar with.
Two years ago I met my first boyfriend, just months before I left to travel the world. Leaving him was one of the hardest things I had ever done. So with only four months to go before setting off to study abroad in New Zealand why in the world would I want to enter into a new relationship? Why would I want to subject myself to the same fate all over again? The same pain. But things were different this time. I was sure they were. I had learned from my mistakes. I knew how to do it this time. I knew how to leave someone I loved without ruining the relationship. I knew how to do it right. But just because I felt like I could do it without getting hurt didn’t mean he could.
And so I sat with my sadness. I accepted my fate. I would be alone, and consequently lonely, until I left for New Zealand. My despair followed me throughout the rest of the week. It clung to me during school and dragged along behind me during work. Why was I so sad? I thought. He’s just a guy. Just another guy.
But he wasn’t just another guy. He was a good guy, a nice guy. A guy who I connected with, and who seemed to be genuinely interested in me — a rare find in a sea of half-hearted lovers. I didn’t want things to be over, and yet, I was the one who had ultimately ended it. That was the thought that stuck with me: I was the one who ended it. Sure, he had said he didn’t want to get too serious, but I was the one who said we couldn’t even hang out.
For a long time I have believed that if you want your life to be a certain way then you are the only person capable of making it so. Your choices, your actions, your thoughts are the things that dictate your life, no one else’s. And sure, other people can impact your life, but you are the one who has to decide how to deal with what life throws at you. As I thought about that, and as I thought about how sad I was about not being able to hang out this guy, simply because I had told him I didn’t think I could handle being ‘casual’ about it, I realized I may have made a mistake.
I texted him a few days later. I told him I had been wrong. That I liked hanging out with him and I thought it would be dumb for us not to do that. My heart was pounding in my chest, but mere seconds later he responded and told me that he agreed. Just like that, my sadness disappeared.
In the end it turned out neither of us were very good at being casual. Despite our most genuine efforts neither of us could stop from falling in love with each other. As we began to spend more time together we began to fall deeper. I guess sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you planned it.
Every once in a while I think back to the day I sent him the text message. The day I realized that I was wrong, and that I did, indeed, want to be with him. I took a chance that day. A chance on the theory that life really is what you make of it.
So yes, here I am again, set to leave the country and leave a man I love. But do I have regrets? Hell no. Because even though leaving is hard, at least I had the opportunity to fall in love. And love ... love is never something to regret.
Life is what you make it. You can be scared about change, you can shy away from the ’what if’s?’ and you can try to hold on tight, for the fear of letting go. Or you can try to change the things in life that ail you. You can ask for what you want and you can change your mind when you feel as if you were wrong. Sure, maybe things won’t always work out the way you planned, but how will you ever know, unless you try.