Thursday, 8 June 2017

My First Real Relationship




I had a debate about whether I should write this, but I've decided to write it after all. It had been such a significant period of my growing up, of me turning from a kid to who I am now. Given its prominent presence, whether I can precisely see it or not, it indeed was something that shaped me, gave me my values, and planted my thoughts, for the better or worse.

I met him when I was 15, little did I know then we would start something which lasted nearly a decade. After we ended, I refrained from reminiscing about our past. On the surface, I moved on quickly. I didn't let myself soak in sorrow any more than a couple of days. And if memories emerged, I selectively thought of the darker ones - of our fights, heartbreaks, the lies, the bitter truths, the frustration, the hopelessness. These made me angry,  yet better. I started to see other men. And before I decided to completely let go of the last "what if we can still get back together", before I could really invest my feelings into someone else, I asked if we could meet up.

What a choice of location, we met up in an underground parking lot. I forgot how the weather was like that day, but the cement walls and ceiling and floor were all so grey. "I can feel myself slipping away from you", I said, "I'm going to let us go if there really is nothing to hold me back".

It's extremely difficult for me to give up something I truly care for, knowing there's more I can do. But with us, I knew we both exhausted all that we had trying. There was no shame in giving up. We really really tried.

So we parted ways in that parking lot. I drove out, the grey walls closed behind me,  my eyes were dry.

Then I started a new chapter. Tried to be as independent as I could from the 10 years of accumulated habits - use of words, schedule, and way of life. To my surprise, somewhere along the way of my new found dating freedom, I managed to fall head over heels with someone. I had no wall, zero defense, and poured my heart out like it was the first time.

I had no fear falling in love again. But to be completely honest, I had a phase in the beginning of my new relationship finding myself difficult to find meaning in commitment. I wasn't being emotional and I was happy, yet I found all relationships a pointless investment - the feelings and time you put in can easily vanish like none has ever happened.

So I was in a serious relationship, but from time to time, questioned the point of it all. My mind never really wandered back to my past. But there were the times, when my relationship hurt me, made me vulnerable to a familiar pain of loss, I uncontrollably thought of the past, and I would cry just a little. Those were the only moments I was not sure for whom or what I cried for.

I got over him a lot quicker than getting over the 10 years of my time. There were of course occasions when I missed the past, but I was confident that I wasn't missing him as a person, but missed what we had. That was when I could finally remember some of the happier memories we shared without getting bitter.

There were a lot more happier moments, of course. But given the length of our relationship, the quantity of them that I can remember now is scarce. Quite unfortunate, but maybe also a blessing.

We started dating in high school, I remember he would always drive to my school from Burnaby during lunch and we would go eat at a bubble tea cafe. I was fat, with lots of pimples, and had braces back then. #personalitywins

I got into an American college in the East Coast at the end of senior year. I contemplated if I should break up with him due to the long distance and unpredictable future. He convinced me not to, and so we began our long distance relationship for the next 7 years ( I stayed in the States for graduate school after).

I'm not sure if it's fair to say that we dated for 10 years, because throughout the entire stretch, we broke up numerous times - too many times that it became a toxic temporary solution to our problems. It became stupid. I guess we were too young and it was the first real relationship for the both of us. We knew nothing about love, but thought we knew it all. I didn't know what I wanted and I wanted too many things. I was also very selfish and seldom put him as my priority. But to him, I was everything. He was not close to his family, despite being the only child. He wasn't a very sociable person and hence only had a few close-knit friends. This lack of social intimacy made me a majority part of his life, but at the same time, made him self-centered. These contradicting elements, and more, stirred up mistakes after mistakes that we both tried hard to fix without fixing the core.

Regardless, he treated me very well. And we were very happy together, for the most part. During my time away in the East Coast, he came to surprise me with flowers underneath my dorm window. That was a big gesture for a couple our age. He pulled off many "big gestures". I remember he lit up a section of a shoreline with lights that spelled out "I Love You Angela", and surprised me by bringing me there blind-folded. I went to Los Angeles for my birthday one year without him, but he showed up in the club before the clock stroke 12. He hugged me from behind with a big bouquet of flower while I was on the dance floor...and many more that I can no longer recall.

Long distance was never a problem for us. In fact, it helped strengthen our relationship in ways a regular relationship might not be able to achieve. Instead of physically going to restaurants and dates (but bury our heads in our mobiles), we spent a huge amount of undivided attention on each other, chatting on the phone. Communication has always been my priority focus in a relationship, and we sure lacked none of that. We talked so much everyday, hours and hours and hours. I would hang up, and he would call back not too long after, and said he misses me again. That was one thing I loved about us. We talked a lot. He was not a talkative person with others, but he talked so much with me. And we had endless topics at any given time.

It was hard for him to visit me at school because of the lack of transportation / things to do / place to stay around my college. So we planned a trip together to Vegas. Vegas, because it was the cheapest ticket we could find and we stayed at the Excalibur. He was poor back then - a full time student with a part time job. But he saved up and paid for my tickets and our stay. It was my first time travelling with a boyfriend, or someone other than my parents even. I remember we went to a club one night, and I experienced my first hang over the next day. We both thought I was sick.

We broke up for the first time when I moved to Japan during my junior year. That was because of my irrationally traditional/paranoid Chinese mother, who forced us to break up fearing I might get pregnant (although I was having a long distance relationship). She did everything she could to break us, including making a trip to Japan to lecture me in person. It was a very very difficult and painful time for me trying to hold on to both sides. It was ridiculous that I obeyed for no other reason but to be filial.

So we broke up. We stopped contacting since then. After Japan, I came back to Vancouver without him knowing. We ran into each other randomly on the second day. Call it serendipity. My first reaction was to drive away, but he saw me and we made eye contact. He stopped me and asked to have a talk. We couldn't help but found our way back to each other again. We started a secretive relationship fearing my mom might find out through her international-spy-level ways. Things were easier when I was away, but it was extremely stressful keeping that relationship from my mother when I return home from school.  And other issues emerged among us. We became unstable and went in and out of the relationship countless times - sometimes serious, most of the time silly. It became a pattern. I asked to break up, he would try everything to get me back, we got back, something happened, I asked to break up , he got me back , etc. The relationship felt unreal by then. In retrospect, I'm no longer sure if breaking up was a habit, or staying together.

We continued the pattern until I moved to California, where he wanted to apply to a school close to mine so we could try things with each other again. During that phase, he visited me a few times. He was still poor, haha, but of course, it was never my concern. I knew his potential, so I knew he would outgrow his financial state one day, which he successfully has now. But he was poor, and gas was cheaper back then, so he actually drove to visit me every time, 12 to 15 hours each way. He always started driving at night, so I felt like he was only one sleep away for me, he knew I liked that. He never complained, and was always always so so happy to see me...

...until his plan to move to California failed to happen, and I was tired of being repetitively getting disappointed by him and his many many many lies, and got very frustrated and lost faith in his passive attitude towards his goals. My plan was to permanently stay in California at that time, so our short-lived "let's try again" didn't work out.

Immediately before graduation, due to some working visa issues and a couple decent job offers back home, I made the decision to move back to Vancouver. This decision has also permanently closed all doors and windows for us, ironically. So I came back, and we naturally started seeing each other again, thinking now the distance is gone, we are certainly on our path to marriage. This thought did not last as we realized, having the majority of our relationship being long distance, we couldn't bear to be with each other in the same city. We couldn't get used to seeing each other on a regular basis, even though that was what we dreamed of before. He started to frustrate me with more things than I ever imagined. He wanted to settle but he was obviously not ready and I lost patience with his growth. Then there were fights after fights after fights to a point that there was nothing left but bitterness, stress, and burden between us. We became dreadful of each interaction until we stopped seeing each other. It was so bitter at the end. And we completely broke it off in that parking lot, with cement walls and ceiling and floor.

So there, seems like a long long blog post, but imagine that was one third of my life only in a couple paragraphs.It is bitter sweet, how this person, whom I grew up with, spent the majority of my life with, shared every success and each defeat with, is no longer a part of my journey. I wish him the best, and I know he wishes the same for me.

He has finally started dating, too. Although the girl he's dating copies my Instagram captions, word to word, punctuation to punctuation, on her IG. That's not creepy at all. I wish them well.

To end this "no happily ever after" story with a happier note. I am absolutely content with the man I am with now. This does not discount the fact that I did love with all I had in the past. But each relationship comes with a different type of love. I was young, emotions were more intense, my surroundings and mind were simpler, I had less, so the person I was with seemed more.

But now I have grown and learned, it is easier to identify a man that can help me progress into a better version of myself, and vice versa. It is easier to identify a relationship that is healthy. It is hence easier to open up my entire capacity to love, and this feels stronger and more certain than ever.

3 comments:

  1. What a great, insightful post!

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  2. That was a very good and personal write up. I have gone through this myself with the type of relationship you had.

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Thank you :)