Maybe Falling in Love

When I was sixteen I fell in love with the idea of a boy. We met at a resort on the island of Hawaii as the sun was setting painting everything orange. He was playing ukulele on a bench with his shaggy hair tucked in a beanie. He called out as I walked by, I stopped to talk. We ended up walking around the resort and staring up at the stars for a lot longer than I realized before we parted ways. We hugged and exchanged email addresses. And that was it. That was all it took for me to fall. Well, sort of.

At sixteen I was an independent woman. I had not yet had a relationship and was convinced that I would never find anyone that I'd be able to put up with for the rest of my life [Marriage = death to my soul]. I was very particular and had very particular goals and I wasn't going to let anyone get in the way of that. Especially not a boy who would most likely drive me crazy within a month or who would join the chorus of voices around me telling me my dreams were crazy and stupid. No thanks, I'll stay single forever thank you very much.

Then I met him and he had the same crazy and stupid dreams I did. He listened to my teenage dreams and didn't respond with an ounce of incredulity or laugh. He made me feel like I wasn't crazy for wanting what I did. I read through our letters again recently and realized what it was that made me "fall" for him: he was the first person I ever truly poured my heart out to and who did the same. It's kind of like in the Perks of Being a Wallflower where Charlie pours his heart into letters to a stranger, only the stranger actually writes back with the goings on of their own heart. There's less risk there. I knew I had found a kindred spirit, one who wouldn't judge me or make me feel small, that telling him the things that were in my heart was a safe bet.

We started to exchange letters at a time in my life when I felt I needed to be heard. Everyone I hung around at school and work seemed to listen to each other, but tune me out. I was the odd duck, the square peg. Then I randomly met D on a family vacation and we connected more in a few hours than I had with anyone before. My sixteen year old self needed to be heard by someone, I needed validation that I wasn't a freak, that my dreams were totally attainable. In my teenage hormone addled mind I mistook that acceptance with open arms for being in love. I thought I was in love until I fell ass over elbows for my husband about a year later.

D and I ended up writing to each other on and off for years before we ever saw each other face to face again, this time in Vancouver. My husband and I were in the middle of our 18 month college break up at the time and I had a small hope that the connection I had with D would turn into something more and my happily ever after would finally arrive (our break up was wicked hard). When we met again the friendship chemistry was all that was there and it was somewhat of a relief. We picked up right where we left off, great friends who only happened to meet up once every few years. Easy breezy.

Over time I realized I was never in love with D (though I love him dearly), just in love with the idea of him or maybe just the idea of love itself. I think we were both in the same boat there. But I am so grateful for the unconventional friendship we've forged over the past 12 years. Our relationship helped me navigate some of the tumult of the teen years successfully. We still meet up every few years to grab a bite to eat when passing through each other's states and share our lives. We are in two very different places in our lives and spend our time together admiring those differences and sharing our pride in each others accomplishments.

It's funny to look back on your life and remember how intensely you felt something that turned out to be something else. Or how certain people played a key role in getting you through tough times (even if those tough times were teen angst). Or how your perspective on a situation may have skewed your reality. I've changed so much these last 12 years but at the same time I am still the same girl at heart. I may no longer want to be an ethnologist in the South Pacific who writes an eye opening book that brings the world closer together, but I do still want to write a book that will help bring people together. And own a farm. The other thing I realized? I really miss writing letters.

Sunset on Wreck Beach in Vancouver. I have no idea what happened to the few drunken pictures I had  of D and I. May be better that those were lost. Oh, and ask me about the drunken night in the Canadian ER with an Inuit wood carver some time. Sigh, college idiocy.

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