Just keep swimming
I'm standing in front of a room full of wide-eyed 14 year old students ready for their first lesson of the day. I wonder if they can tell that I am one "are you ok?" away from bursting out into tears. I don't know what I'm doing here, I have nothing planned, I feel like I am in the stereotypical nightmare standing naked in front of a crowd. I take a deep breathe and attempt to push my chaotic feelings aside and get back to them at a more appropriate time. I want to make a run for the door, but I don't. "Okay class, today I want you to write 3 sentences about what makes you happy and then read them aloud to your neighbor." My voice quivers on the word happy as the irony of this assignment unleashes the flood of unhappy emotions that are bursting to reenter my mind. The kids stare at me with blank eyes. You understand right??? Wrong. I have to give an example. Fuck. What makes me happy? I can hardly remember at this point. "My cat Duchess makes me happy." I manage to crank out a generic sentence and plop behind my desk as they begin to work. I miss my cat.
Less than 24 hours ago my heart was hit like a car going 90 headfirst into a brick wall, and I haven't even had a second to process the emotional tornado ripping its way through my head. Less than 24 hours before that I could have written a novel on what makes me happy; the way he brushes the hair from my face, the way he adores my bold mind and take charge attitude, the way he makes me feel like we could have a shot at forever. These sentiments didn't seem so crazy to me 4 days ago as they do now I write them. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, finding the love of your life while traveling the world didn't seem like such a wild and impossible dream. But unfortunately, the world isn't a kind place for those who view it through rose tinted glasses. Especially when the dreamy glow wears off and reality bitch slaps you across the face.
How do you go from feeling like you are falling in love lust to feeling like you are falling off a skyscraper with no parachute in just 4 days? Let me rewind a bit and attempt to fill in the missing pieces. It's around my second week in Thailand, a few teachers and myself decide to explore some of the surrounding towns in my area. We settled on Kachanburi and I quickly took to the internet to find a cute little hostel to book for our stay. Upon arrival we see a few people hanging around the outside grounds, including a cute couple cozy in a hammock on the porch. I notice them, but it is a fellow teacher of mine who strikes up a conversation with them. We exchange some words, have a conversation with them and I don't think much more of it. A few days later I receive a message from the guy asking me about advice on how to become an English teacher here. I am a little excited because I found him pretty attractive and wanted to get to know him but I didn't bother because he was clearly taken as it seemed to me. Long story short, he was not. He informed me he was just traveling with the girl for a bit and that nothing serious was going on between them, she was just a friend who he got along with. I chose to believe this to be true. I put his resume forward to my school and deep down exciting feelings were brewing. We continued to chat for the next few weeks and our similarities and chemistry became apparent. We spoke of our interests, our future hopes and dreams of family and settling in another country, and our shared sense of humor was palpable. His visa was soon expiring and he had to make a quick trip out of country and when he came back we decided he could stay with me for awhile until his next trip...and who knows. We finally decided on taking the trip together, picked a place, and the plan was set. We were all a go for a 4 day trip in Laos. I was full to the brim with excitement and nerves and hopeful for what could be. I was also a bit hesitant about his so called casual situation with this girl and if it could be a potential obstacle. I voiced my concerns and once again he assured me that it was nothing to worry about. I took a leap of faith and just went with it. No expectations but a heart full of hope.
The next couple of days were magical. Our connection was better than I imagined, it was like I was meeting a little piece of myself. It almost seemed too good to be true. Foreshadowing for the near future I suppose. It soon came out that the girl he was traveling with for a month before me had headed back to London to have an abortion. He had met her traveling in Vietnam and within a couple of weeks she found out she was pregnant but decided to keep traveling with him and head back at the end of the month to "take care of it." He stuck with her even though the baby was not his (he claimed so at least) and spoke of their arguments and up and down relationship and her emotional turbulence and complicated past. He assured me that he had not been in love with her and that again it was nothing to worry about. Again, I chose to give him the benefit of the doubt and see how things progressed. Why would he want to be with someone like that? I thought he must be telling the truth. He seemed to be honest and I had no reason to think otherwise at the time (wishful thinking). Our connection continued to grow, our chemistry was intense. I opened up and spoke of my past hurts and my growth over the years and of my hopes and dreams for the future. He seemed to be on the same page as me. He spoke of similar hopes and dreams, and shared some personal details of his life with me as well. We slept together that night and even though it was moving fast, everything just felt right. I was comfortable and I felt as if I had known him for years. Our good times continued and a possible future together didn't seem so crazy. I was willing to give it a shot. From his words and actions, it seemed as if he could feel the same way as I did.
2 days of pure bliss. Then Saturday came. Nothing had happened, no fights, nothing notable, but he seemed a bit distant. I did not feel the same closeness that I had felt just a day before. Maybe he was tired, maybe he needed space. I asked if anything was wrong, of course he assured me nothing was. Later that night he asked for a bit of time alone to call his mom and catch up, I respected this, no problem. I occupied myself downstairs at the bar and mingled with a few other people staying at our hostel. An hour goes by, he doesn't come down. 2 hours....I start to feel a worried feeling in the pit of my stomach. All too familiar. "Are you alive?" I message him. He sees and doesn't reply. I decide to check in to make sure everything is alright...even though I know it clearly is not. The look on his face said it all. He abruptly ended his conversation on the phone and struggled for words to say. The pit of my stomach felt sick and my palms were already sweating. He missed her. Of course he did. They had traveled together for a month and I was naive enough to think that this girl who was apparently in love with him wasn't anything to worry about. I wanted to believe that. But deep down I knew the truth. I swallowed the lump in my throat and attempted to not be phased by the news. He suggested we watch a movie. I made it through the first two minutes before I had to excuse myself to go bawl my eyes out in the hallway. I told him I was going on a walk, I did not want to let him see me cry. I was so hurt, all my hopes were dashed. My hopeless romantic dream was no longer a possible reality. I had so many feelings whizzing through my mind, a belly full of whiskey, and a heavy heart. I let it out, sucked it up and vented to some very lovely travelers who were kind enough to console me and attempt to make me feel better. My favorite sentiment of the night: "fuck the cunt, you're too good for him." Never had words rung more true to me. I stayed out late and drank away my feelings, ate a sandwich and went back to the hostel and passed the eff out. Too much to process.
The next morning we had to rise before the break of dawn for a hot air balloon ride we had planned and paid for the day before when things were still a dream. The weather was dark and the clouds were drizzling; the thrashing pain of hangover dulled the pain of my aching heart. I could not think of any place I'd less rather be than in a romantic hot air balloon with a guy who shat on my heart just a few hours before. The sight of him made me cringe. I was obviously more angry than I let myself realize. Thankfully the hot air balloon got cancelled due to weather and we made our way back to the airport. At this point it was clear that after we got back to Bangkok we would be going our separate ways. The van to the airport was cramped and we were both tired and worn out. I conceded and cuddled with him the whole 3 hour ride back. He held me close. Caressed my face. Rubbed my back in a way that could only feel like a loving touch. My heart ached, but I soaked in the last bit of comfort before it was no longer. He told me we should take things slow, we should take a few days to think about things and he needed to sort out his feelings for this girl. He also admitted to me that he was never seriously interested in teaching in Thailand, he just wanted to talk to me. I felt even more deceived. I felt I had been played. I felt lead on and emotionally manipulated. I told him I was not okay with that scenario, that it is all or nothing. He is in it or he isn't, I am no longer playing games. He could not give me a clear answer. I told him to just be with the other girl then, that I was out. He did not disagree. His reaction answered any doubts I may have had about us working out. It was clearly over.
I don't know if it will be a few days, a few weeks, maybe months or possibly years until he sorts his shit out and realizes that he fucked up. One day he will realize that a good thing, a real thing, was standing right in front of him, and he chose to leave it. He said he wanted the real deal, but it was apparent by his actions that he was not ready for anything serious (despite him saying otherwise). I laid my heart on the table. I let him know how I was feeling, that I thought that just maybe we might have a shot at a future together, that maybe he was the one. He told me it made no sense for me to say such things after only knowing someone a few days. Ouch. That stung. Reality set crashed in. Maybe he was right, clearly I misjudged him. A million thoughts raced through my head. Maybe he really did miss that girl...maybe he just wasn't interested in anything serious....maybe he did have feelings for me but was scared of the possibility of real love....and maybe none of these possibilities even mattered.
Yes, I got hurt. But it wasn't a complete loss. I found out I am stronger than I ever imagined possible in the past. Six months ago I would have made excuses for him. More recently than that I would have blamed myself for things going south...for being too intense, for being too vulnerable and getting attached too quickly. I would have retraced all my steps to see where things went wrong and spend days wondering how I could have fixed it. I would have waited around for him to figure out his feelings and I would have continued to see him while he sorted out his completely fucked up situation. I would have helped him through it and in the end I probably would be beating myself up when it inevitably ended. But that girl is not me anymore. That girl grew up. Now I am a woman who knows herself, a woman who values herself and realizes her worth. I am a confident woman who knows exactly what she has to offer and will not lower her standards but keep them high and wait for the person who makes the effort to reach them. Instead of being ashamed of my feelings, instead of questioning if it is crazy to be falling for someone after only a few days, instead of blaming myself, I am so proud of myself. I am proud of myself for being strong enough to walk away. For being strong enough and wise enough to leave when I am not wanted. For being so sure of myself that I realize it is truly his loss, and not mine. This obviously was not the makings of love. Perhaps it had the potential to be, I had hoped so at least. But that's the thing about love, it takes two people. Two people who want to make it work and who put in the effort to let the initial chemistry and attraction grow into something real and worthwhile. It takes honesty. It takes vulnerability. I felt completely alone, and my emotions felt belittled. I knew that this wasn't real. It wasn't meant to be. That realization wasn't fun.
I'm not so crazy as to think that I was in love with him, that is impossible after such a short amount of time. I was rather in love with the idea of him. I have a habit of being in love with the idea of love, and when the person comes along to fit the mold I am quick to think it could be the real deal. But you don't fall in love with the idea of someone, you fall in love with the person. I now know that it is not him who I cried over. It is not him who hurt my heart. Yes, what he did to me was fucked up and wrong. But that's his karma. I jumped in with both feet and ignored all the red flags. My desire to see what I wanted to see in him outweighed the reality of the situation. My hope got the best of me and when that hope was lost it felt like a dream of mine had died along with it.
Despite the adversity I have faced with men, I will not let my failures make my heart hard and cold. I choose to learn from my mistakes and to grow from them and with each heart ache I get a little bit stronger. On this journey of mine I will face many challenges and I welcome them all with open arms. They are only opportunities for me to grow. I am learning more and more about myself as time goes on. I always knew I was a strong person, but until this past year I never realized how truly strong I am and I love myself for it. I truly do. For once I can say that I love myself unconditionally and really truly mean it. I know who I am, flaws and all and I love the shit out of that crazy emotional beautiful soul of a person. She is brave, she is full of life and fire, and most of all she is full to the brim with love and all she wants to do is to share all that love with everyone she meets. She may wear her heart on her sleeve, but she knows the right person will come along one day and will appreciate it. He will be strong enough to handle all of the woman that she is, unafraid, and he won't let her go. I may be a lot to handle, but hey, at least I am unapologetically myself at all times. That's got to count for something!
So I took a leap of faith and I fell. But at least I was brave enough to take the leap. To truly live you have to take risks, and I am so glad that I have the will to keep taking them. I will always get back up, and I will always be moving forward.
For those of you who took the time to read this very personal experience of mine, I thank you. You now have a little piece of my heart put down in words. It is my deepest hope that by being so transparent and vulnerable that I can inspire others to do the same. To maybe recognize themselves in my experience and to feel good knowing that they are not alone. Believe me, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you feel like no one else in the world cares, just know that I do.
Also, THANK YOU SO MUCH to my friends who have taken the time to listen and who have shown their support and shared their own experiences with me. You are so appreciated and I am so thankful for the kind words you have shared and the hope you have restored in my heart.
Just remember, there will be times when life gets you down but just keep swimming. <3