Back in December, I decided that enough was enough. I had spent so much time in a holding pattern with the important parts of my life… waiting for key events to launch me back into the state of mind I enjoyed most. I knew it wasn’t the best approach I could take, but I was smoking so much weed that I lacked the motivation to break that routine. Until I started thinking more about Max.
Max was an ex-girlfriend from a few years ago. We broke up because she was consumed with the idea of leaving a city she had never left and having a chance to explore a world she had never seen. I’m glad I didn’t try to hold her back from that.
Last year, my whole world came crashing down and I was fortunate enough to have the time and space to reflect on all that had led up to that moment. For me to understand all that had happened, I needed to be able to see through the noise. The noise of the outside world, the noise of those who knew me, and even the noise of what I would tell myself. To truly understand all that had happened, I had to prioritize the truth above all else. What I found, opened my eyes in a way they had never been opened.
It was through that experience, that I learned to see Max in a much different light. I thought I had always respected and appreciated her… but I’m not so sure anymore. At least not in the way it mattered. Back then, it was about what she meant to me. Now it has much less to do with me, and much more to do with having a deeper understanding of who she was, and just being in awe of it.
One of the most important things I had learned about myself last year was that I needed to stop trying to force things into reality. In many ways, it feels like I’ve spent most of my life swimming against the current. When things got easy, I’d find ways to make them hard. Many of my life’s accomplishments have been defined by fighting for every inch. I think there’s a time and a place to fight for what you love, but I have no interest in living a life defined by conflict. Nor do I have any interest in living a life defined by milestones, or accomplishments, or any other tangible metric. I realized I wanted to live my life honestly, fearlessly, and with an open mind… and let the universe handle the rest. And that’s when I couldn’t get Max out of my mind. She lived by those virtues more so than anyone I’ve ever known. In some sense, she had become my north star.
I couldn’t help but ask myself, what if we had another shot? The first thing that came to mind was that I didn’t deserve it. It was nice that I had gained a deeper appreciation for who she was, but I’d be embarrassed to reintroduce her to the rest of me. Enough was enough.
I decided that even if it didn’t end up being her, she had set the bar. For me to be with someone like her, I needed to be… better. So I stopped smoking weed. Started training twice a day, 6 days a week. Started reading a lot more. Started writing a lot more. I was still in a holding pattern with my career, but I was determined to break that holding pattern for everything else. It felt awesome. So I decided to send her a note. It was a YouTube video, on Christmas day, apologizing for my mid-steps and thanking her for all that she had inspired.
I didn’t send it expecting a response, but I knew it was likely. It arrived about a month later and it left me with mixed emotions. She was surprised, but happy to hear from me. She said some kind things and then asked if I was up for a call, hoping we could have a real conversation. I responded later that day saying I would be happy to make the time. Then radio silence.
A week later, I separated my shoulder playing basketball. The pain was pretty bad for the first week, enough to keep me from sleeping. So back to cannabis I went. Still nothing from Max.
A week after that, Facebook reminded me that it was an old fling’s birthday. We’ll call her Mia. I sent her a cake emoji, she sent me a cheers emoji, and we started texting for a bit. We were both big into superhero movies so I asked if she wanted to go see Black Panther. She was all for it. Neither of us had been on a date in a year so we figured maybe this was what we both needed. There was certainly a part of me that thought if I was going on a real date with a real girl, it would be easier to understand that Max probably wasn’t a real option. Or maybe I was just hedging my bets on what was looking more and more like a disinterested Max.
Then Mia flaked out and went radio silent. It’s why we stopped dating the first time, so I was tempted to write her off again. Instead, I told her no hard feelings, that I hoped she was ok, and that if she ever wanted to let me in, I was curious to know why she was like this from time to time. She apologized, said she wasn’t trying to be flaky but it was a combination of being really busy and a little awkward around me. I asked her what she thought I should do. She asked why I wanted to reconnect, so I told her. She was into it, said we should probably catch up, and conceded with a smile that this was the original plan.
At this point I still hadn’t heard from Max, and I think my first reaction was being annoyed. But I’m better than that. Even if it had been a month, I knew she was likely busy, and I needed to be ok with not being a priority. But I couldn’t help but reach out, so I asked what was on her mind.
She responded shortly after, saying that she was dealing with a few things and then offered up a rather disheartening email. Knowing that she still cared about me and always being honest, she told me what she really thought about the video I had sent her. In the video, I told her that I was on a new path, and that she was the only one who I knew who had the courage and ability to walk that path beside me and not behind me. I was alluding to a path defined by the journey, not the destination. A path defined by a compass of honesty, fearlessness, and open-mindedness, not milestones like income or assets. It was a path I thought she was already on. She took it as me thinking of her as an accessory to a path which I was taking. It was frustrating to be misunderstood like that. But I had to appreciate that her idea of who I was, was largely influenced by the person I was when we dated. And maybe I was a bigger ass than I realized.
Truth is, as frustrating as that email was, it let me know that she was still exactly who I hoped she was. She was brutally honest. Talked about how what she wanted in a partner was a true equal. Said that she could still see growth in me and was really happy for how far I had come. She also apologized for taking so long to reply, but said it was a tough email to write because of how much she cared for me. She wrapped up by saying that she was about to spend the next 10 days in Sri Lanka with some free time if I wanted to chat.
A couple more emails went back and forth and things were positive. I could tell that she was trying to balance a few different thoughts and emotions, on top of all that she was dealing with in her in life. If I were to guess what those thoughts and emotions were, I’d guess a lingering sense of disappointment from letting her down in our relationship, a healthy skepticism of where this was all coming from, and a genuine interest in my well-being. She gave me her new number and suggested we chat on whatsapp. So I did and we did.
Within the first few messages, I told her that I still wanted to respond to her last email. She was still making assumptions based on who I was, and I was so eager to show her who I had become. She welcomed the email, but didn’t respond to it. What is it with people and radio silence? Is it a girl thing? A dating thing? A me thing? Am I still unreasonable today? These are the kinds of things that drive me a little nutty, but I choose to react sensibly. I took a night off cannabis earlier this week and went into full insomnia mode. I couldn’t help but think of the situation. I thought that perhaps it was unfair of me to put this on her at a time in her life where she had other things which were more important to focus on. All I wanted was for her to understand what had happened to me and appreciate what it meant to the hypothetical ‘us’. Beyond that, I had no expectations. But just because that was important to me, doesn’t mean it had to be important to her. So I grabbed my phone and decided to send her a message that would basically say no hard feelings, I know you have a lot going on, and if you ever feel compelled, here’s a link to my blog. The hope was that when she was ready, she’d see the journey I took, and see the steps that I’ve taken to arrive at who I am today. She’s also see my ENTJ Love Story which is one of my life’s most honest moments, and all about her. Instead I accidentally hit the call button.
I hit the hang-up button like I was button mashing a Mario Party game but to no avail. The call never went through, but she noticed and asked what’s up? I was a little tongue-tied. It was difficult to express myself in short text messages, when she was still making so many assumptions about who I am, based on who I was. We texted until about 4am, but most of that was me deleting and rewriting messages, desperate not to be misunderstood.
She told me that her stance on us was that she wasn’t in the right mindset to be thinking about it since she didn’t have a clue which city she’d be living in once she graduated. I told her it might be an interesting conversation to have, but not one that I was ready for either. Truth is, I still have more ground that I need to cover before I would consider myself ready to be in that caliber of a relationship. What I did want to know is that if the path that I was on was aligned with hers.
When we broke up, we each recognized that we had things that we needed to work on. And if we did, we could come back to each other and our relationship would be that much stronger. At the time, I didn’t realize how much of that work was mine to be had, nor did I realize that it would end up being me that would be more compatible to who she was, and not her who would become more compatible to who I was. But I didn’t know for sure, because all I had to work with was my memory of who she was.
She said it was tough to talk about because she would think about how we were before and it was like she was talking to a whole new person. I breathed a sigh of relief… she was finally seeing what I was trying to show her. Then she told me that one of our biggest issues was how dominant I was. No one had ever described me as dominant in a relationship before, but it was easy to understand why. I’m happy she said it. She went on to say that I would push my point of view rather aggressively, and wasn’t the best at taking the time to reflect on my stance. She was right. But then she said that it seemed like I was doing that now… and my heart sank.
I conceded that I had issues. Give me a woman who follows my lead and I get bored. Give me a woman who challenges me and I compete to win. Her emails reminded me of these issues, but they also reminded me of how far I had come. I told her I hoped she’d have a chance to get to know this person, because she played a very real role in where I am now. She said that she was happy, but was concerned that it didn’t happen until years later. I responded by saying that I wasn’t in the right state of mind to learn these things when we dated. I was consumed with becoming what I thought the world expected of me, not taking the time to figure out who I really was and what I had to offer to the world. She said she was proud, and it sounded like I was on the right track.
And that was it. We have no future plans to talk. I have no interest in taking up any more of her time. I don’t think she’s all that interested in putting thought into this either… but I know I’ve planted a seed. What I wanted most was to know if any of what I thought or felt was real. But once I did, I cared too much to do nothing, and knew better than to chase after her. So I planted a seed. I haven’t a clue what happens next. I’d be lying if there wasn’t a part of me thinking about booking a ticket to her grad ceremony but I’m not sure if it’ll be a sign of stalking, support, or a grand gesture of romance. Especially since my intentions are probably a combination of all three. But then the pragmatic side of me says there’s at least a 50/50 chance that it goes horribly wrong. But then the romantic says 50/50 are great odds when you’re talking about something this meaningful.
All I know is that having a chance to reconnect with her and put this out there has left me with a sense of peace. The rest of my life still feels like the eye of the storm, but at least here, I’ve made progress.