One of the defining features of the college experience is that it teaches you things the hard way. Since the first of such lessons, I have learned there are different friends for different situations. When I’m having yet another late-night crisis, I text one friend. When I want to complain about school, I text another. Family business is reserved for the people who have known me the longest. But there is only one friend that I go to with absolutely everything: the Notes app.
Scrolling through my entries, I see a timeline marked by two different kinds of moments: those of discovery and those of pain. From my teens to early adulthood, I’ve poured out my deepest thoughts, desires, insecurities and texts I would never send. Two a.m. is prime time for crying and throwing up words such as:
It’s like a switch has been flipped, one that’s turned on a constant, under-the-surface pain that I don’t think will go away anytime soon. I feel fragile, always on the edge of tears, broken in places I might not even be aware of yet.
One of the first times I experienced cutting someone off, I did not know what to do with my feelings, which were more piercing than anything I had ever felt before. Each day felt like an eternity for weeks after telling him I would no longer be speaking to him. When he’d always been the first person who’d know about something mildly exciting or inconvenient that had happened, the reality that he could no longer be at the receiving end of my random calls was a slap in the face. I had been hurt in a way that outweighed all of the reasons I felt the relationship might be worth fighting for.
I feel suffocated by the desire to run back, to push down the damage he caused for the sake of returning to that feeling of comfort he provided just in his presence. I wish he never made me feel so worthless as much as he made me feel like the center of the world.
Missing someone is a feeling that is impossible to fully describe. Getting used to being with a person and then suddenly not having them around births a loneliness so palpable it can embody a physical ache. How do I express the emptiness of the nights spent listening to “Parking Lot” by Genevieve Stokes on repeat while pitifully munching on mini Trader Joe’s Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies? I felt like I was in a constant battle between what I knew in my head was best for me and what my heart screamed at me to do, which was to tell him I had made a mistake, that I wanted him back in my life, that I still cared. I felt tortured by my own thoughts, wondering whether he also lay awake at night wishing he had fought harder to keep me. I would replay the good times we spent together — when being close to him brought me a special kind of contentment that felt impossible to find anywhere else.
But then would come the reminder of why I came to the decision to end that relationship. Perhaps it’s pride that sustained my will, but when I came back to the reasons for the end, I reaffirmed the promise I made to myself to not text him — no matter how much I wanted to. I assured myself of my strength and that every time I resisted the temptation to reach out, I was getting stronger. And when I felt myself slipping into anger toward him, or embarrassment about my own actions, or shame about my past, I chose to reframe it all as opportunities for growth.
I do not wish that anyone was never part of my life because, through each person, I have learned so much. I have learned that I deserve to be treated with respect and that it is not at all unreasonable to expect reciprocation of things I pour out. I have learned what it looks like to be a good friend. I have learned that I am capable of loving hard, sometimes without knowing how or when to stop. There is something so beautiful about pain felt for or about someone. The quote by Marvel’s wise Vision, “What is grief if not love persevering?” rings amusingly true.
I am glad for every time I did not send the “I miss you” text. Choosing not to say something that every fiber of my being feels will never be any less difficult. But I have found I need to trust myself to make decisions that often require putting my emotions to the side. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. I truly believe that in holding back, I have saved myself from a lot more hurt. Above all, I have learned that it is possible to forgive from a distance and have found peace in recognizing the humanity of flawed connection.
The nice thing about coming of age is that the tape is still rolling. There’s room for improvement, and chaos is expected. It won’t be perfect the first time around. I am a work in progress.
Take three: I miss you. It is a good place to be in.