Two years ago, it was a grey and bleak Monday in February. The weekend had left me hungry for more sleep and weather had me craving the warmth of my own bed.
As the evening neared, my nerves started to twitch. I had a date with a guy I’d been steadily chatting with for about a month. Our chats had been enjoyable enough. He was witty, and seemed genuinely interested in learning about me instead of sticking with banal surface conversation, or even worse, sending inappropriate photos. But with each passing minute, I started to break out into a cold sweat. What if he was totally different, in person? What if *I* was totally different, in person? I quickly began stalking my own social media pages, scrupulously reviewing all my photos, trying to gauge how much they really looked like me in real life. I couldn’t tell.
I felt an overwhelm thinking about all the other dates I had recently been on. The pregnant pauses, awkward silences, stale kisses, and often unrequited amorous feelings afterward. What were the chances that this would work out? He seemed cute and funny, but then I started listing all the things I didn’t see in him or potentially wouldn’t like. Did I really want to let another guy down? It’s so painfully awkward. The odds of me actually liking the guy were in inversely correlated to how high my emotional walls were- which is meant to say the odds were low. The outlook was not good. Not with him, not with anyone, really. All of this led to one final and obvious conclusion: cancel. Cancel the night of inevitable awkwardness and go home to your over sized pjs, cup of tea and How I Met Your Mother reruns.
I was in the middle of concocting some plausible excuse, when the coworker who sits across from me asked what I was doing after work. Before I could answer, another coworker emphatically answered for me: She has a date!” I rolled my eyes and shrugged it off, nonchalantly mumbling something about canceling. My coworkers shot over to my cubicle and harangued me about following through. One said I needed to go for the free meal. The other said it would be an asshole move to cancel this late. I texted my best guy friend to consult, and he wrote back: maybe it’s time to put some doors in those walls- you can always shut them later if you don’t like it.
They had a point and so the next few hours found me wrestling with my closet for suitable outfit options while my best friend sat on my bed offering me wine and encouragement.
At 7 pm sharp, he arrived and we went to dinner. And as it turns out, I was totally right. It was terribly awkward and he was not quite as I had imagined him. He was bigger than expected, bald, and had a slight stutter. But at the same time, as I peeled off my black sweater dress later that night before slipping into bed, I realized that I had fun. We had laughed. A lot. And something about his genuine demeanor and kind eyes made me decide to not write him off just yet.
This unsure feeling would live with me for another few months. But so would the tiny voice in the back of my mind that whispered “Don’t let go yet.” And so I didn’t, even though we continued to navigate a sea of awkwardness and communication obstacles. Until, one day, it wasn’t so awkward anymore. Instead, all of a sudden, I felt at ease in his presence and our conversation flowed freely. We talked every single day and I never grew tired of it. One Friday in the late spring, I realized that I had a little bounce in my step as the anticipation of spending another weekend together grew with each tick of the clock toward 5 pm. And another day, some months later, I found myself saying the words “I Love You” while lounging in bed, shrouded in the lazy Sunday morning sunlight. And meant it. And he did too.
It’s been two years since I almost canceled that date, and those two years have changed me as a person. I thought I had myself and my life entirely figured out. I was happy and my life was lacking for nothing. I knew my heart was closed off but I was OK with that darkness in my life because it was safe.
I was more wrong than I could have ever imagined. This boy with the kind eyes and beautiful, caring, heart has made me want to be a better person so I can be half as compassionate of a human being as he is. He has restored my faith in love, and made me feel more accepted, just as I am, than anyone ever has before. He looks at me with the same overwhelming love and adoration first thing in the morning as he does when I’m dressed up for a night out. He lets me cry and makes me laugh even when I am in my most rancid of moods. He reminds me to be kind to myself. He reminds me of the good that is still in this world. And he reminds me that keeping my heart open is well worth the risk.
Our story is not flowery and romantic or even out of the ordinary. It was not love at first sight or a sure bet from the start. No, ours has been a slow and steady kind of love. But slow and steady, wins the race.
“It’s the heart in you
I know it in my bones
That made me change direction when I thought better off alone…”