High school passed with a few crushes rolling by like tumbleweeds in the barren desert that was my love life. Two years of college produced little more than a friendship my freshman year that was almost something more until I realized I didn’t want it to develop beyond that, and meeting a couple of guys I would have considered had they not already been taken. Women outnumbered the men at my school, which made the odds worse. So I studied and socialized and worked hard, with a gut feeling that I wasn’t going to meet my future husband at college. Or even that anyone would catch my interest. I was right and I was wrong.
I saw him first perform in an improv show my junior year. He was cute and absolutely hilarious, but not cocky about it, and I was immediately attracted to his warmth and liveliness. I’ll call him George.
Some time later that fall, my roommate (whom I’ll call Lara) brought George back to the apartment and introduced us. They invited me to hangout with them. This turned into the three of us together quite often that semester.
My time out of class was mostly divided between hanging out with Lara and George or hanging out with my two best friends – the guy I turned down my freshman year (I’ll call him Gamer) and Reader. In the midst of this very busy semester I was blindsided when Reader announced one day that she and Gamer were dating… as in not just going on dates but actual boyfriend and girlfriend. It totally threw me. After the somewhat short conversation I skipped my next class and walked the campus to try to wrap my head around it. These were my two best friends, the people I considered closest to me in the whole world at the time, and suddenly they were dating!? How had I not known? How had I not seen it? Were we not the close trio that I thought? And then came the shameful thought of, how could he choose her over me? Even though I knew I had no right to that thought since I had passed him up. He really was over me. And then the realization that Reader! Awkward, abrasive READER had a boyfriend before me!
After a few hours I was able to accept it and get over myself, but felt a sense of loss. Things wouldn’t be the same anymore. Their dating had changed things.
And in this I was definitely correct.
Reader was a very selfish person. In many ways she was a bully. And I am naturally a peacemaker, and at that time in my life I was one to a fault. So having a differing opinion from her was something I tended to avoid unless it meant enough to me to be willing to argue with her. She almost never lost an argument.
Part of what had made me realize that I didn’t want to be with Gamer was that he put the people he cared for on pedestals and saw them, not as they were, but as glorified versions that he made them out to be. His love was extremely blind, which scared me because I wanted him to see me for who I was, not as a paragon of something I could never live up to. What was scarier was that his brand of devotion gave me way too much power, and I knew I would take the lead in the relationship and could steer him however I wanted. This was not the kind of relationship I was after, and not the kind of love I wanted.
Add the two together and throw me in the mix and our trio quickly became all about Reader. Gamer would never back me up on anything now that she was in ownership of his unwavering devotion. We did only what she wanted, catered to her every desire, and I lost my voice even more. I didn’t know how bad it was until I got out of those friendships, how much I was loosing myself to cowardice. Looking back I don’t wonder that my college years were the worst of my life so far.
And so I lost my place in the trio of my best friends and became a third-wheel. A lesser party. I watched his need to give and give devoured by her insatiable selfish taking and felt so unseen.
So I spent more time with Lara and George, who weren’t solely wrapped up in each other but welcomed me. I saw that George liked her. It was obvious. But when I asked her about it she annoyingly denied it, stating that they were just friends. The more time I spent around him the more I liked him. He had such a great sense of humor and not at the expense of others. Nor was it to gain attention for himself. He simply loved to make people laugh, enjoyed bringing a smile to their faces. He was interested in their lives and an active listener. His mere presence brought me joy.
I asked Lara if she was interested in him.
“If you are please tell me, because I’m starting to have feelings for him and if you like him I want to reel them back because he likes you and I don’t want to get in the way.”
“We’re just friends. I really don’t think he likes me.”
“He definitely likes you, but that’s beside the point. Do you like him? Please just tell me and I’ll take care of my feelings. I won’t be mad at you at all. I just need to know.”
“No, I don’t think of him that way.”
“Ok, well if that changes please just let me know and I will be fine, I promise.”
“Ok, I will.”
I’m not one to compete. I don’t play games. I’m honest. And I valued her friendship and her feelings too much to compete with her over a guy. If she liked him then I wanted them to be together. George and I were very unlikely due to his crush on Lara, I knew that. And what’s more, I wasn’t blind to his flaws and would have to seriously pause if he did ask me out. I never expected him to, anyway. And lastly, he was graduating that semester and moving far away to Chicago so there wasn’t much point anyway.
Yet my feelings did grow and I stopped fighting them.
In the years previous, I’d started wondering if it was even possible for me to fall in love. I think it was mostly because I had friends who fell in and out of love constantly, and also (now understanding myself better than I did then), I think I was suffering mild depression during my college years.
My feelings for George showed me that my heart still beat and it could love. My love for George wasn’t like the crushes I’d had before. Infatuation fueled by my overly romanticized imagination. I didn’t care that he and I had no future together. I just wanted what was best for him. I wanted him to find peace with his faith and see himself as God saw him. I wanted him to go after his dreams and succeed and I wanted him to keep laughing and making people smile. I wanted him to have joy and for his life to be full, whether I was in it or not.
And I think I would have been fine if things had continued this way, but things didn’t. Hope intervened.
People dogmatize hope. Scripture places it amongst love and faith in importance and I believe that.
I also know that hope can be one of the most painful things in existence.
(To be continued…)