“It’s better to be single, than to be with someone not worthy of your love.”
Wise advice from my mother. And being an asshole magnet, she ought to know. I looked down on girls who needed to always be in a relationship. I’d roll my eyes and scoff, thankful that I would never be like that.
Throughout high school my number one priority was getting out of Utah and back to California for university – so I worked and studied, studied and worked. Dating is not a thing in Utah, so thankfully I didn’t have that as a distraction.
My best friend wrote the Senior play for our final high school production. I played a quirky character who stood up and shouted, “Look at me, I’m a weird girl. No one wants to date a weird girl like me!” I laughed and laughed because I knew I’d be starting at USC soon and that’s when I’d go out on all the dates.
But I didn’t. Number of dates I had throughout my entire college career – zero. None. I was a weird girl! (Also, jr and sr year I was coming to terms with my sexuality, but that’s a whole other blog post).
“You just have to put yourself out there.” Not as helpful advice from my mother.
“But I do!” I’d exclaim. “I’m OUT THERE all the damn time!”
Of course, looking back, I really wasn’t. Desperate not to turn into an asshole magnet like my mother before me, I repelled anyone and everyone. I was desperately afraid of intimacy. I also had depression (which I’ve talked about in the past). And the thing about depression is that it feeds off loneliness. It wants you to be alone.
Well I’m just independent, I would argue. I don’t have time for another person. Relationships are hard work. But really, I was afraid. Afraid of being hurt. Afraid of showing someone all of my many flaws. Afraid that if they saw me entirely, they’d run for the hills.
Enter OKCupid. I moved to London for my masters and came to the realization that I actually didn’t want to be Perpetually Single Ashley anymore. I finally admitted (out loud to my best friend, the same one who wrote that lovely weird line for me) that I was ready to really put myself “out there.” I was 24, had barely been on a handful of dates, made enough stupidly drunk one night stands, never been in a relationship and, thus, had never been in love. So I read I blog about the data on OKCupid and nerded out over all the questions.
At the end of the profile it says “Message me if…” And knowing I wanted a nerd (and definitely not anyone in the arts) I put, “You know who Carl Sagan is.”
And that’s how I met Fin. I wasn’t sure about him at first until we were midway through eating and he made a Sarah Palin joke. After that, I was smitten. He was so nice and lovely, funny and smart. I didn’t know men could be that gentle and sweet. I thought I was going to break his heart.
But I didn’t. Two weeks later he asked, “soooo, boyfriend girlfriend?” I jokingly hemmed and hawed, saying yes. Though a part of me was terrified. He hadn’t seen me depressed or have an anxiety attack by this point. He hadn’t seen my deeply rooted insecurities, or my anger, or my bouts of uncontrollable crying.
Thankfully he wasn’t fazed by any of this.
I remember the first time I wanted to say “I love you.” But I thought it was too soon and I just couldn’t bring myself to say it. I also knew that he was waiting for me to say it first, because he didn’t want to scare me off and he knew that this whole being with another person thing was new to me. I remember thinking, “I’ll say it by my birthday.”
My birthday came and went and I still didn’t say those words. It was getting ridiculous because I knew how Fin felt. I’m not an idiot, I have two degrees in drama and have made it my life’s work to figure out why people act the way they do. I know love eyes when I see them! He’d even catch himself and say, “I’m… crazy about you.” And I’m like, duh I know, I can see your face.
Then, a childhood friend of mine died. It hit me much harder than I expected. We hadn’t been that close in years but our friendship was at that age when you’re really forged into who you’re going to become. We were silly and didn’t care how goofy people thought we were. In fact, we loved that. That sort of bond, really never goes away. I was going to write on his facebook wall to tell him I was thinking of him and loved him but decided to hold off until his birthday the next week. But he didn’t see his birthday, he died the next day. I was devastated. I’m not the type to have regrets, but I regret with all my heart not saying I love you.
As all this was happening I kept thinking about Fin. Why, why was I so afraid to say, “I love you”? It was two days after Jerry’s funeral that I finally had enough of my foolishness. I thought I was going to have an anxiety attack and eventually just blurted it out. Well, more like whispered it. He took a dramatic pause because he was trying to think of a joke but couldn’t think of anything fast enough and then realized that there’s been a bit of delay and that I was literally holding my breath so he finally, after what seemed like five minutes but was only three seconds, said, “I love you too.”
I was simultaneously elated and annoyed with myself. It was so easy. Why on earth did it take me so long? Why did it take someone dying for me to sort myself out?
There’s been no looking back since then. I’m glad that I waited till I found someone who was worth it. I thought that I would be too difficult to love. That no one would want to deal with my anxiety and depression and insecurity. But guess what? It was telling myself that I wasn’t worthy of love that fueled my anxiety, depression and insecurity. Through love they have nearly melted away entirely.
My mother never had a love like that. She looked for love in all the wrong places. That’s why, when she discovered she was pregnant with me, she decided to go it alone. Finally, she had someone to love, and who would love her back. She poured all her love into me, which gave me the strength to go on and follow my passion. And now, I have someone to share that passion with. I’m so thankful.
Love, as I’ve come to understand it, is not static. It evolves with us. It comes in many shapes and sizes and can compel us to be better, to do better, to love better.by