Free Your Mind and the Rest Will Follow

That's not just an En Vogue lyric. It's a way of life. I fell in love for the first (and probably only) time when I was 8 years old. It was a classic “boy next door” situation, and even though I was so young, I knew right away that this person would change my entire life. I was like a female Cory Matthews just waiting for my Topanga to figure it out, too.

Over the next few years, as I grew older, my feelings for my “boy best friend” never wavered. As a typical male, he wouldn’t admit that the feeling was mutual until years later. After that, our teenage hormones took over, but distance and our young age were major factors in keeping us apart. Since social media wasn’t even invented yet, we fell out of touch, but in the back of my mind I had no doubt that we’d link up again.

It wasn’t until after I graduated college and went through a pretty traumatic breakup that we reconnected (AIM, I will be forever grateful to you). Coincidentally, he had ended a long-term relationship himself not too much earlier, so we bonded over that. After hundreds of hours of phone conversation (RIP phone calls), days turned into weeks, turned into months, and before long we found ourselves in a full-on long distance relationship, despite my protests that it may ruin our friendship. If that ain’t some foreshadowing, y’all...

I took the risk though, and had never felt happier, more complete, or filled with purpose in my entire life.

We talked about moving in together, marriage, kids, the whole enchilada. I had found love with my best friend and other half, a feeling that had been lying dormant within me until I knew the timing was right.

As he used to say, “The stars finally aligned for us."

Not surprisingly, the face-to-face visits became harder to maintain, the forced separations even harder. I became insecure in the relationship for a variety of reasons, mostly internal and a few major external. He was becoming increasingly frustrated with my frustration, and naturally began pulling away. Our demise was inevitable.

I’ll spare you the specific, incredibly dramatic details, but when that day came, to say I was destroyed is a grave understatement. You might think that a relationship under those circumstances could never be sustainable, that maybe it was just a rebound. I was so young, emotionally fragile, and linked my worth to being a girlfriend. He felt the unbearable weight of responsibility for me, was (in my opinion) not fully recovered from his previous relationship, and wanted space. I was devastated over the loss of the relationship, but most of all I knew I had lost my best friend--something that would never be resurrected.

Less than a year later, I found myself in another relationship. Even though this one had lasted three years, I never allowed myself to become fully invested. Subconsciously, I picked a man who was extremely emotionally unavailable because that’s what felt safe to me. If I never had to be vulnerable with another human, then how could they possibly damage me to the extent that my last relationship had?

That second relationship ended in 2012, and I haven’t had a “real boyfriend” since. It’s blatantly obvious this detrimental way of thinking has infiltrated every romantic involvement I’ve found myself tangled in for a handful of years. If my first love--who had known me as a child--could be capable of breaking my trust and hurting me so completely; how could I ever possibly put myself out there for a seemingly complete stranger?

Recently, I had a three-hour phone conversation with a close friend about how this way of thinking has really affected me long-term. I pointed out that it was like a piece of me was still walking around outside of my body and that I needed to reclaim it or I could never fully give myself to another person. I’m not purposefully trying to block every good thing that comes my way, but it’s a lot easier said than done!

Even though I eventually wound up moving to the same state as that first love, I have not seen him since the the last time he dropped me off at the airport, which happened to be 9 years ago, last week.

That’s 9 years that I have allowed someone walk around with a piece of me, whether they know it or not. He is engaged to be married soon, and although I don’t actively love this person anymore, I will always care about his happiness and wish him nothing but a lifetime filled with it.

We are still in touch with one another, exchanging birthday wishes every year or inboxing brief casual exchanges about current events. There is an unspoken understanding that things will never really be the same between us, despite our humorous claims to be “friends forever." I have been at peace with that fact for a long time, but it has always been difficult for me to talk about that time in my life.

I suppose that is why I have avoided writing about all of this out for months (maybe even years) but now that I have, maybe finally I will be free.