As much as I hate to admit it…Tay Swift is kind of my guilty pleasure. And as stupid as I think the “Bad Blood” music video is…her simple lyrics…they hold a lot of truth.
We were kids…and I’ve always been a bit naive. Dating apps were pretty sketchy back then and were definitely frowned upon by the parents of sixteen year-olds in two different cities. I’m not sure what it was anymore. Puppy love? True love? That one great love? Who the hell knows at this point. But at sixteen, he was the love of my life and The Boy From Milwaukee quickly became one of my closest friends.
I didn’t know it then and I don’t think I wish I would have known…but we were doomed from the start.
We talked, IM’d, snapchatted, Skyped…whatever the technology of the day would allow us to do for almost six years before we finally met face-to-face. While I regret lying to my then-boyfriend about what I was doing and who I was meeting that night, I don’t regret a moment I spent with The Boy From Milwaukee.
We spent hours meandering around his city, talking about everything, like we always did. Only this time, there wasn’t a phone and a few hundred miles between us. He was right next to me. Holding my hand. I may only be a few years older now…but looking back at the girl holding hands with The Boy From Milwaukee…she was just a girl.
The years that followed were such a blur. We couldn’t resist each other – and eventually, we decided to be in a “relationship.” I feel obligated to use quotes because we never really dated like normal couples did. We met for the first time only a few days before he left for Basic Training…and while a long distance relationship between Milwaukee and Chicago would have been totally do-able, his service with the army made it complicated. We’d spend a week together on his leave and then we’d be apart for months at a time. And those months apart…were unbearably tense.
We’d be perfect. Our communication would be on point. We’d talk. We’d laugh. We’d be supportive of each other. Everything was great…and then all hell would break loose, for no real reason. There would be radio-silence or we’d be at each other’s throats. We’d break up and only one of us would really know why. And then, like some cheesy romcom, something would remind us of the other and we’d “talk out our issues,” and everything would go back to the faux-perfect it was before. At least for a moment or two.
Colin*, if you’re reading this, I suppose you could still be my greatest love. Maybe, you always will be…and you know what? I’m okay with that. But you were right – timing is everything and it was never right with us, no matter how badly we tried to force it – and the timing never will be right. We were doomed from the start. It’s no wonder our relationship was toxic. After all, we never really did fix our problems.
…Both with our relationship and with ourselves.
Our relationship had been on and off for about two years. We had met each others’ families. We were planning on getting married, however impulsive that may have been. We loved each other, that was all that mattered, right? But that second year we were “together”…well, even though we’d technically been engaged for a hot minute, I don’t know that we were ever truly “together.” I think it’s just that it took us that entire year to come to terms with what would never happen. We never really stood a chance, anyway, and that wasn’t an easy fact for me to accept. I may still have a bit of PTSD surrounding certain areas of relationships…but I’ll get over that.
You know that old adage about hindsight being 20/20? It could not be more true here.
Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder…if we both had been at the same spot in life, not even physical location but more importantly our mental/emotional state, would it have worked? When we first got together, we were both complete basket cases. Naturally, that’s just not conducive for a healthy relationship. I know that now. But towards the end of our run, I had (mostly) recovered from my issues. While I’d love to say that he got past some of his issues, I don’t know that that Boy From Milwaukee ever really conquered his demons enough to become the Man From Milwaukee that I needed. That put us at such different places in life, making a complicated relationship far more ridiculous.
We pulled each other back and forth until he finally ended it. For good. We tried in vain to stay friends but there was just too much baggage to bare.
He ghosted me. I guess it was the only way. While I guess I was a bit traumatized – it literally happened overnight and without so much as a goodbye – I have to agree at this point that it was really the only way to move on. I would have liked some input…or at least a courtesy “goodbye,” after all we’d been through at that point. But I suppose that was far too difficult for him. And he’d already moved on, anyways. Ghosting me was just the final step.
And you know what else? Even when I was a hot mess, I still had a better head on my shoulders than he did. I never really understood why he was at the spot he was at in life, as smart and talented as he was. And at the end of our run, when things were really starting to come together for me…part of me wonders if a part of him didn’t resent me.
Colin*, you could be an amazing human being. You’ve always had big dreams and amazing visions…if only you could find it within yourself to execute them. For your sake, and your sons…I really hope you find that motivation.
As for me, I know not only what I want but what I need. There are so many guys who love the idea of a strong, fearless, and independent woman but when push comes to shove, they’d prefer to come home to a Stepford Wife. I may be a bit damaged and I’m far from fearless, but I am fiercely independent and I’m pretty damn strong. I would rather face my PTSD head-on than run away and surrender, letting him get the best of me. Because of what I’ve been through, not just with boys but with life, I know that that I can get through anything. I’m going somewhere. No one and no man will ever destroy me.
That’s where I’m headed in the long run, I suppose. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this, and not to sound completely self-absorbed, but I’ve learned that I have to be my priority. Not my relationships. I think “self-love” is the yoga/therapy version of this but I like to think of it as being The Bad Ass Bitch Who Knows What She Wants. Whatever happens with my “love life” in the future happens but I’m not fretting about it. I’m focusing on myself and I’m working harder every day to build my empire.
I’m not sure where The Boy From Milwaukee will end up and I’m not even sure that I’ll keep tabs on him long enough to figure it out. After all, this isn’t his story, it’s mine.
If you love like that, blood runs cold…
– Taylor Swift