I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
It was rainy Saturday night in Chicago. I drove slowly down Clark Street doing my best to avoid the zombie horde of drunks from stumbling into my car. I pulled down a side street and in front of her apartment, put on my flashers, and waited. She hopped in my car and immediately I smelled the drinks on her breath, but she was cordial enough and greeted me and we began to drive. She was nice and asked me questions about my night but was also loud and abrasive. Like, the kind of person who probably gets shushed in a movie theater all the time because she doesn’t understand the sonic obnoxiousness of her own voice. There is no way that tons of people have told her over the years to take it down a notch but she is the kind of person who never really cared if she annoyed anyone so she just grew into a loud adult.
We drove down Lake Shore Drive and headed south and she talked about a couple of the men she was dating and how she had to make a note in her phone to apologize to a guy she had recently offended while she was wasted. Apparently, she didn’t remember what she did to him until the next day when she woke up to a handful of texts from her friends telling her she should apologize to this guy. I never asked what she did but I did ask why she had to put a note in her phone. She said that she was already too drunk tonight and she would forget by tomorrow.
I understand not giving a shit. I understand shirking responsibilities and being completely self-centered, which is basically how a good chunk of people out there spend their 20’s. But it seems like a life time ago and it’s something I simply can’t identify with anymore. And it’s not so much that I can’t identify, it’s that I don’t even remember how it felt when I could. But that is most people that I come in contact with. I just can’t identify. And it’s not that they’re not good people, they just see life differently and through different colored glasses. Some are a little behind in their emotional evolution, some don’t realize, and some realize and just don’t care that they’re loud in a theater and ruining it for everyone. And no matter how much you hate it, most people will never understand you or your life. The good ones will at least try to, but you know just as well as I do that no one knows your struggles and insecurities. And if they don’t truly understand those things then how could the ever fully understand you.
At some point in the conversation she asked what I did for a living. I gave her the quick 10 second version and she said, “Oh, you like writing about relationships? So what, does that make you some kind of expert?”
I said, “Absolutely not. I only know what has worked for me.”
She gently slurred out, “So then give me some relationship advice.”
Usually I would have been more than happy to expound on her circumstances but she just had to make a note in her phone to apologize to someone so I doubt my words would have been little more than sounds to fill dead air only to be forgotten as soon as they were heard. But I humored her and said, “Well I don’t know enough about you to tell you much of anything useful.”
“I don’t know your hopes and fears. I don’t know your depth of compassion and selflessness, and I don’t know what would truly make you happy.”
She looked at me confused and said, “Oh, you’re just saying that because you don’t know what to say.”
I said, “Again, I don’t know you well enough to give you any kind of responsible advice, but what I can tell you is that we should all invest in our partner’s happiness just as much as our own. Because only when we are truly in love with someone, their happiness becomes our happiness.”
From what I could tell she digested the words, shrugged her shoulders, said goodbye, and walked out of the car towards her friend’s condo.
I sat and waited until she walked through the door of the building and thought about how I could never love someone like her. But then again, she could probably never love someone like me. And that’s fine. I would think I deserve someone better and vice versa. But in the end, it’s all just perception and ultimately, we are people who should be judged based upon what we put back into this world. Point is, she couldn’t identify with me and that’s fine. I couldn’t give her any advice she would hear because I don’t know her way of life or her line of thinking. And I’m sure she wants to be happy and feel loved like most of us but is she ready for it? Does she expect it? And more importantly, has she earned it? I don’t know. All I know is that you should always be skeptical of people who tell you how to behave because you have no idea if they have their shit together as well.
I don’t know you. I don’t know your hopes and fears and insecurities. I don’t know what behavior comes easy to you and what words are difficult for you to say. I don’t know who has hurt you in the past and why you are so protective of your heart. I would never pretend to know because that is arrogant at best, and presumptuous and disrespectful to your journey. All I know is what has worked for me.
You will meet all kinds of people in your travels and you will make assumptions about their character because that is what we are trained to do since birth. But never tell someone that you “know what they’re going through” because you don’t. We can only attempt to empathize and be supportive. We can tell our story and what worked for us, and hope they can take something away from out struggle but with each person you meet – with each person you date, you do not understand their struggle. But someday, maybe tomorrow, maybe in the distant future, you will come across someone who makes you feel like they understand the struggle. Like their struggle is your struggle. Like they get why you’re scared and timid and frozen. And you will know this when they warm your insides within the first 10 minutes of a conversation. And while they might not know the names of your school yard bullies or how terrified you are of falling in love again only to be cast aside when someone better comes along – they will make you feel like you share a secret. And when you feel that – well, that is the beginning of falling in love.