Hump Day Crush: Half the Story

Nearly 15 years ago, right at the end of my first year of college, I met this wonderful girl.

We met at a very outdoorsy community service project my service group was working on. She was a friend of a friend and had spent most of the day trudging through the underbrush on the other side of the project site. It as right at the end of the day that I actually met her. Immediately, I was smitten.

That summer, I spent a whole lot of time hoping that she’d still be around when school started back up.

Sure enough, she was. Even better, she was living right down the hall from me.

Relatively quickly, we got to be pretty good friends.

We’d spend hours just sitting in her room talking. Every night we’d be there until she was just ready to doze off. And every night, as I left we would hug and smile and wish each other well.

I, of course, became even more smitten.

Then one night, in a rare flash of want overcoming sensibility, I kissed her after that last hug of the evening.

Without a doubt, she was a bit surprised.

I went to bed thinking things were OK.

The next day, and for about a year afterward, I would know differently.

A lot changed after that opportunistic meeting of lips. At first, she just became a little distant, more guarded around me. Then, as she moved off floor (for other reasons), she became a lot distant. For months she would barely acknowledge my existence. Not responding to e-mails or attempts to chat in public places.

Losing her like that was compounded by the collapse of my academic career and being frozen out by another friend of mine (who I also had quite the crush on, of course).

That was kind of a bad bit of time for me. What weighed on my most, though, was not knowing the “why” of it all.

I only had half the story. In and of itself, that’s not a problem. The problem came up when I tried to figure out the other half with nothing except that kiss to go on.

My mind spiraled into myriad things–she hated me, I disgusted her, somehow that kiss had been a breach of an unspoken platonic guarantee, it had destroyed the friendship and hurt her more than I ever wanted to.

All of it, I surmised, was my own fault.

Perhaps just as bad would have been if I had managed to be detached and blind enough to be able to say that none of it was my fault.

Very rarely do any of us have the full story. Our minds fill in the blanks as best they can, drawing on our fears and hopes. Filling in the blanks, however, does not mean we’ve guessed right or that we’re even close to the reality. More often than not, in retrospect, those wild imaginings make no more sense than your average Mad Libs story.

That’s something we all forget easily in the joy or pain of the moment.

Reality goes on with or without us being aware of it. Better to try to hold on and follow it than be rudely awakened by it later on down the road.

Eventually, about a year after that kiss, after a lot of dust had settled and many other things had changed, I caught up with her and we actually talked a little about what had gone on. Her side of the story wasn’t at all what I had expected it to be. No, I hadn’t offended her or scared her off. My (not completely unwelcome) advance had come hot on the heels of her life getting more complicated as she began to fall for people and other people began to announce their desire for her. So she pulled back and made hard choices.

None of that was my fault. It was the reality of the situation. And, up until that moment, there would have been no way for me to know that.

Communication is the linchpin of any relationship–romantic or otherwise. It’s the only way all involved can get the whole picture, the only way they can know more than half (or less) of the story.

If we remember that, it can help us keep those wild imaginings in their place. If we remember that, it can help us not get lost in the clouds or the abyss, so we can see more clearly and choose more wisely.

A few more years down the line, in a random conversation with some other friends about “the good old days” of that second year at college, I discovered that there was even more to the story than even she had told me. Not anything vitally important, mind you, but extra bits of context that made it easier to understand her confusion and need to pull away.

Just an extra added reminder that even when you think you’ve got the whole story, you probably still don’t.

Reality just keeps moving on, with or without you…

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