On the struggle between self-preservation and unhealthy desires, and dating while “woke”.
Last year, I learned that personal happiness makes me cringe.
I have a complicated relationship with positive attention. I crave it to a perverse degree (I once told a teacher that I didn’t respond to his teaching style because he didn’t praise me enough. What kind of person does that? Oh, whatever, it was true!) and yet even the hint of any kind of praise makes me so uncomfortable that I will spend the entirety of any such encounters undercutting admiration.
I met a boy who made me happy. In the midst of new feats of high, there was always a part of me asking “Why am I so uncomfortable?”, “Why don’t I trust this?” It turns out that I had reason to be so suspicious. But for a time, there was no indication that my worries may be valid – I was just being paranoid.
In the aftermath of nearly losing myself entirely in another person, I have two questions for myself:
Why Don’t I Believe I Deserve Good Things?
Why Do I Make So Many Unhealthy choices?
“HM,” I PONDERED. “MAYBE I DON’T LIKE MYSELF.”
One day in February or May of last year, I was hanging out with my friends and two boys I didn’t know. I noticed him because he looked hard.
Not that kind of hard you dirty fucks! He seemed to have a tough exterior. People like that make me nervous. So I keep an eye on them.
He was very attractive to me. (When we’d relive this moment together, I never admitted that I was taken with him from the very start. He still thinks I just thought he was a dick.)
When he and his friend left, he paused at the door, looked me quizzically and said, “Have you been here this whole time? I didn’t even notice you.”
Honestly, fuck my life!
At the time, I just figured I had encountered a good looking asshole. I forgot about it. Then he got in touch and next thing I know, I’m completely in love.
I was happy. As much my neuroses would allow for, anyway. I just couldn’t savour it. Too good to be true, said my instincts. But for all the wrong reasons. I guess I had a little more work to do with my self-esteem before entering a serious relationship.
I’ve learned in the months since knowing him that I’m very far from reaching the self-actualization stage of self-love. And one of the first things I had to work on was letting go of the belief that for some phantom reason, I was undeserving of happiness. Because happiness shouldn’t be something that keeps you on your toes, constantly believing you’re in the midst of a cosmic bait-and-switch.
I want to be the kind of person who embraces good things instead of constantly waiting for the pin to drop.
HE WASN’T THE PERSON I THOUGHT HE WAS AND NEITHER WAS I
I don’t respond well to bullshit. I guess it’s a temperament thing.
I never responded well to being disappointed in him. Sometimes I was cruel in my self-preservation but I always did what I knew was the right move. But a little time would pass and the weight of my decisions – decisions that I knew deep in my soul were right – felt insurmountable. So I found myself in an increasingly deteriorating cycle of toxicity.
We were poison. You could practically smell the fumes on us. I had many chances to cut away from him. I took almost all of them but none of them stuck. It became a song and dance. What started as an unlikely but totally likely love story turned into a revolving door of pain and emotional distress. And guess who was the more distressed party?
The worst part of this whole cycle was being perfectly aware that I was letting my harmful desire to continue being with him (despite the fact that he was not very good to me) supersede what I knew to be healthy choices.
I spent my late teens and very early adulthood preparing myself not to be taken advantage of. Heck, I have lived experience that prepared me. There was never a red flag that I wasn’t aware of. I was so acutely cognizant of his alarming qualities. And I always took action. But why did I always come back? Why did I always do the thing that felt good instead of what felt right?
Does it all come back to my self-image? Is it because I didn’t believe I deserved good things that I kept going back to something bad?
I know I didn’t leave him because I suddenly realized I was a goddess. I sort of had an epiphany about changing and trying to be my best self. The impulse was strong enough that I realized (after some mental kicking and actions to suggest the contrary) that my best self would never happen if I was at his side.
It was painful. It still stings. But what doesn’t sting is this overwhelming sense of relief I have. So it took me longer than it should have but I was finally able to let go of a person whose presence in my life (and mine in his) would have led to lasting emotional decay.
Long story short: While I wish I hadn’t let myself get trapped in something so destructive, I am thankful to have learned this: No heaven is worth losing yourself over.
And when it comes down to choosing between you and another person, choose yourself.
…If I’m losing a piece of me, maybe I don’t want heaven