Twenty Three

The semester was coming to a close. Although we were talking less, Dylan and I still hadn’t broken up. As my plan to “let it fall off” crumbled, I began to panic. I had meant to do something about it, I really had … but when we talked it was just so much fun. And I still didn’t want to hurt him. (Clearly, breaking up now that we’d been together for 2 years rather than 18 months would be much easier on the poor guy. Maybe I should have just married him, had a few kids and waited to see if he burned out on me then …)

I wanted to be done but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Even at the time I realized how flakey this was but I couldn’t seem to summon the courage. I tried many, many times but then he’d make me laugh, or say something sweet … and … well, I’d already broken up with one guy. How much more could be expected of me?!

Ultimately, it was only when backed into a corner that I summoned the will to break it off. Dylan announced that he had decided to come spend our two year anniversary with me in Hawaii. It was now or never. I chose now.

In the end, it was worse than I had imagined. But it was done and I was more certain than ever about my choice. I knew with an undefinable certainty that nothing desirable lay down that road. We wanted different things. The thought of settling down in the same old town, surrounded by everything familiar felt like death to me. Before I left for college, I had come to loathe the simple act of driving down the little dirt road that led to Dylan’s house. I had memorized every fence post, pebble and waving knapweed on that path … and I hated them all. I craved the vast, unknown wilderness of life.

After the breakup, I was flooded with a sense of relief that I hadn’t felt in years. I was tired of lying and deceit. I’d been living as two separate individuals for far too long. I was fragmented. Two-timing Dylan was just the most recent development in that saga. My outsides did not match my insides and it was beginning to show. I was breaking apart at the seams. This was one step closer to reunification.

I was down to only one romantic interest. Inside I was still a hotbed of contradictory beliefs and emotions but at least my outsides looked right. Maybe that would be enough for now.

But, as time passed, having one romantic entanglement presented new dilemmas with heightened consequences. Several years older than I, Gavin was really the first “man” I’d ever dated. He was self-contained. His ideas and opinions were his own, formed from his own experiences. Like a magnet embedded in the depth of my abdomen, his confidence drew me in. It was a heady experience.

But was it real? And how could I know? Like any human, Gavin came with his own bag of complex and contradictory motivations and behaviors. So confident was he that I often caught myself forfeiting my own opinion simply because it was easier. It was so luxuriously easy to just turn everything off and go with the flow. What if I just gave in entirely and awoke decades down the road with little memory of how I’d arrived?

I wanted to be strong but in quieter moments I wondered if the male-dominated, marriage-oriented environment around me had begun to take its toll. Was it making me feel things that I never would have felt otherwise? Or were my emotions authentic? The answer seemed an indecipherable cobweb of unknowns.

I vowed not to do anything rash. I promised myself that I wouldn’t jump into anything without thinking it through. What I didn’t know was that I would soon proceed to dive face first into something completely different altogether.

This is the latest installment in my story. If you haven’t yet read the previous entries, click here to start at the beginning. Then continue to read each post in numerical order.

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