As twenty-somethings, we have all have had our fair share of half-written, tear-stained and unsent letters. From the letter to your best friend in 6th grade to your first college boyfriend to your condescending coworker, and everyone in-between, we’ve got them all. Some of the letters may be hidden underneath our beds at our parents house, others are drafts in AOL e-mail accounts, and the rest (and most) are never to be seen again. There’s a reason that we don’t send these letters to their intended recipient – maybe it’s pride or fear; maybe the circumstances change, or maybe you do. Whatever the reason, there are valuable lessons to be learned in all of those letters that you’ll never send.
This column will be a series of the letters that I’ll never send – in hopes that they’ll help other twenty-somethings get back in touch with the emotions we quickly forget about when we tear the paper up, or turn the computer off…
Dear Broken Boyfriend, I Had To Save Myself First
You waited until I fell in love with you to show me that you were falling apart. You told me that I made you the happiest you’d been in years, before you ever told me that the sadness would always outweigh the happiness. You showed me your scars, but you never mentioned that you still had open, bleeding wounds.
But as soon as you knew you had me and there was no turning back, you put it all on me. It was six years ago, but I remember it perfectly. It was a warm October night and I was sitting on my bed, anxiously waiting for you to come over. I was sick of doing “somethings” with all of the strangers around me – you were the first person I was able to do nothing with. But your footsteps sounded a little different outside my door, and your eyes didn’t meet mine as you opened the door.
In one night, the person I thought I knew – a guy who was a little bit off center, but still so full of life- disappeared in front of my eyes. In one night, I had taken on the responsibility of three lives: my own, yours, and the life or our relationship. When you left that night, I immediately opened up my journal. It was the first thing I wrote about you, as I didn’t have any time to write in it when I was with you:
“What do I do when loving someone will definitely hurt me, but possibly save them?”
I kept re-tracing the question marks, as if one more pen stroke would help me answer the question. When the answer didn’t come, I shut the journal abruptly, and didn’t open it again for two more months.
I had decided that I had to fix you and sacrifice my own happiness. I thought that anything else would just be selfish of me. It didn’t matter that I was 18 and had hardly had the time to make any new friends during my first semester at college. All that mattered was that you were broken, and it was my job to fix you because that’s what good girlfriends do. So that’s what I set out to do.
But I quickly realized that I was so hung up on trying to find myself and save you at the same time, that I ended up losing myself all together. The day I decided I had to stop talking to you all together, was the day that you had told me the nicest things anyone had ever said in my whole life.
“You’re the closest thing I found in a long time that understands me and doesn’t try and analyze me. If I ever find a girl I hope she’s half the person you are, and even THAT is aiming for the stars. I barely even know you, but you’re my closest version of perfect that I will ever find. I would die without you. “
It was beautiful, but I had nothing to say. It scared me. I didn’t want you to tell me that you would die without me, because I knew that part of you could really mean it. I knew in this moment that I didn’t love you and I knew that you didn’t love me. That’s how I knew I’d never fix you.
So at that moment, right after I heard you say those beautiful words, I went back into my room, opened up the journal again and wrote, underneath my large tear-stained letters…
Now it’s been six years since we’ve spoken, and I want you to know how hard it was for me to silence the guilt I felt after ending things. I had a heavy hurt for months – there were many nights I wanted to knock on your door to make sure you were still there and you hadn’t done many of the stupid things you threatened that you would do.
But I was young, and I didn’t know myself. I couldn’t have fixed you; I didn’t know how to. I tried to end things before it got too deep, before our feelings got too overwhelming, and I hope you recognize that. You had to find happiness in yourself, and I really hope you have.