I was caught off guard when I met my love through the internet. No, not a dating website. We met by the odd chance that he stumbled onto a piece I wrote. A very personal essay I wrote during my senior year in college.
At the time I wrote this essay I felt two things: the painful urge to tell an important story, and that crawling, frightening feeling of insecurity. I opened up big time in this piece. The essay talked about financial problems, family struggles, and of course it was going to have my name on it.
I remember showing the essay to my boyfriend at the time and his opinion that no one would care to read it. I couldn’t understand that response. I remember thinking that people like the truth. And this was the bare boned, raw, personal truth that I felt I had to tell. It was my story. So I sent it to the magazine, and to both our surprises I won the essay competition.
The insecurity I felt at the time was caught from my significant other. Insecurity is a rash that spreads over you, if you let it, drawing an examination of everything you are, you aren’t, or you quite possibly never could be. The more you look the more it spreads, and you find yourself covered in scattered wants, losing any firm understanding of who you are. You are unable to form the words from such dispersed shapes, fragments of a self. Instead you want to scrape it all off of you, to scrape at your own skin.
I needed a breakup to shed this insecurity. Knowing that I was not fulfilled, that I felt unsupported, I began to feel slight changes in the heart. The plates begin to shift. I sensed the movement, the distance I wanted to wedge between us, the distances that were already there. I felt a silence, a sorrow reverberating, the slow unwinding before the final, final break.
I wanted to believe that truth was seeing the ground around me. Though it shifted, I could see an opportunity for a different story.
Always carry an open mind.
A few years later, I finished graduate school, started fumbling my way into the working world, and my way into the admiring reader’s path. He was so drawn to the essay that he googled my name and contacted me. We were both living back home in the Detroit area (we had also both gone away to the same school). We met in public at a mutual place. After that we slowly formed a friendship.
He tells me now that I had a very sexy phone voice. I confess that I assumed he had once been in some type of fraternity. That he was just another entrepreneur making some cool sounding thing for quick cash. That his voice implied attraction, conquering.
Then I pause to apologize, because of course my initial judgment was a guard. It is far from true. I learn this at our first encounter. He was more than polite, kind, and always listening intently, as if he couldn’t get enough of the real-life phone voice and the person behind the sound.
Now we both discuss how our long, long previous relationships were not fulfilling. How we may possibly find that fulfillment together. But we take ourselves slowly, comfortably. We work on building our understanding, and following our crazy, idealistic dreams despite the noise.
Always follow your gut feeling.
Looking back, I now realize how important this one essay was in my life. The publication was a reminder to follow my passion, at a time when I was graduating college and considering all of those big next steps. It guided me to keep writing. I never thought I would win that contest. Sometimes you have to follow your gut feeling and let go of fear. You have to know when to ignore a loved one, and when it’s time for separation.
Always surround yourself with support.
Would he have found me without that one published story? I believe I met my love because I kept writing. I now realize how important it is to remain open and supportive for everyone. In work, with friends, with family, you need support in order to grow. We are so connected that sometimes showing the smallest amount of faith can influence someone’s life. You could help them tell their story, make new friends, find their new love too.
I had to follow whatever it is was that called me forward. In life you can’t go back, you can only move forward.
Though sometimes we can only find love by learning and appreciating all that has passed. By learning how to tell our stories.
Everything I’ve learned in this story about finding love in the digital age, well it appears to really be about finding oneself.