Nothing destroys self-worth, self-acceptance and self-love faster than denying what you feel. Without feelings, you would not know where you are in life. Nor would you know what areas you need to work on. Honor your feelings. Allow yourself to feel them. ~Iyanla Vanzant
When I first met you, I was amazed. You are beautiful, I can say this without hesitation. I saw the way they all looked at you. The way they rushed to offer you unsolicited favors, the way they desperately grasped for your attention, for your warm gaze to rest on them. But when I spoke to you, I couldn’t help marveling “Who is this person?” You were driven, you were dedicated, you were smart, you motivated, you were curious, you were strong, you were independent, you admitted your weaknesses and you sought to improve them. You had all the strengths that I wanted to possess myself, all these incredible qualities encapsulated in one person. You were too good to be true.
Sometimes I wonder if the universe brought me to you, that your purpose in my life was to teach me something about myself. I remember when I saw you, you flashed me a wide smile, brimming with the confidence and social courage I could never imagine possessing myself. Maybe unconsciously, I knew I was attracted to you even then because girlish shyness hindered me from smiling back. Because when that kid in the front started sitting in my seat, I grasped at the opportunity to sit at the empty desk next to you. A left-handed desk. I am not left-handed.
You were the one who spoke to me first. When we started talking, it just felt so natural. We had some inherent similarities. We shared some of the same goals, the same fears, the same insecurities. Somehow, I knew, in the back of my mind, that you would never feel as strongly as I did. But when you told me you thought I was cool, and that we had a lot in common, that I made you feel inspiration and confidence, I felt a new kind of light happiness, something no words would be able to adequately describe. I hadn’t felt that way in an over a year. You made me happy beyond words, simply by your words of affirmation.
I also lived in constant fear around you. What if you discovered that my feelings were stronger than those of an average friendship? What if the intensity of my caring for you freaked you out, drove you away, leaving me to never experience that light feeling again? I held on, somehow hoping that our friendship was sustainable. I don’t know if you noticed how I listened to you. I hung onto your every word. I tried to assure you that your fears about your inadequacy were utterly false. Every time you vented to me, comparing yourself to others, I held myself back. I wanted to tell you that I didn’t understand how you could compare yourself to them when you were the only one I saw. You were the most beautiful, most ambitious, most self-aware person I had ever met. But I suppressed those feelings because I was ashamed of feeling them, when I knew that you would never return them, and that they had the potential to drive you away from my life.
I laughed when she suggested that the reason I woke up for his lectures at eight in the morning was that I was in love with him. I loved his brilliance, his knowledge, his helpfulness, his patience. I loved the lessons he taught me. I respected him. I respected you, too, but I loved you and only you. I laughed when she said that, staring at the floor and ignoring the fire on the surface of my cheeks. I pretended it was him. I wonder how you would react if you knew it was never for him, it was always for you. Sometimes I wonder if you knew all along, if you knowingly strung me along in a cruel little game, knowing that you only had eyes for others. Maybe you were the one who had eyes for him. But even if so, I cannot blame you. For, assuming that you knew, I am as guilty as you, for I wore my feelings for him openly on the mask that concealed my feelings you, without concern for the fact that he might interpret them as real. It didn’t even occur to me.
It would be so easy for me to hate you. For the pain I felt, for the shock when you abruptly stopped talking to me, for the confusion I felt when you tried to pop back into my life as if nothing had ever happened. The anger I felt when you said “I love you” so casually when those three words meant so much to me. For a while, I almost convinced myself that I hated you. But I know I could never hate you, even if I tried.
Today, almost a year later, I still feel some shame for how I felt. Catching a brief glimpse of him sent me back down that road I have blocked in my mind, for my own sanity, so that I could focus on working towards the relatively lofty academic goals that we shared. But it was easier this time. I spoke up to my support group about it in confidence. One of the facilitators told me something I hadn’t considered before.
“You loved this person, and it might help to honor that allowing yourself to have feelings for this person taught you about yourself. And so even though your feelings weren’t reciprocated, it was the process of feeling that has taken you out of your shell.” And it’s true. I am no longer in denial, and I have you to thank for that.
I loved you. And maybe a part of me still does. I respect that you don’t feel the same way.
I can’t explain the physical relief I feel, admitting that I loved you, remembering the parts of your personality that I admire and love so much, the parts that inspire me, rather than the pain. It is like letting go of the breath I’ve been holding for a year, like resurfacing from the water after trying not to drown. I know that admitting this to myself will help me move on from you.
I admire you and respect you greatly. I have been allowing myself to smile at others, the way I never could at you. I have been channeling the confidence, independence, strength, and grace with which you carry yourself when interacting with others. You have changed me, for the better, in ways that you could never imagine. I am rooting for you. I hope that you find all the success in the world, and I will celebrate when you get there. But more importantly, I hope you find peace with yourself, and maybe even with someone else, someone you truly desire.
You told me that you were grateful to have met me. And I am incredibly grateful to have met you. You showed me that I could still feel, and you have given me the brightest hope. Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.