This is a love story. And it’s not. We met at work, I had been with the company three months when he joined. The first time I saw him, I was startled. His presence evoked a visceral reaction from me, I felt like all the breath had been knocked out of me and the small voice of my heart said, “oh”. He scared me, I had spent the last seven years of my life shying away from men and any possibility of having a serious relationship to pour everything I had into my career. I recognized immediately here was someone that could disrupt all that. We spent the next eight months circling one another, having very little direct contact. I learned that he had a girlfriend and that he was engaged. We never spoke directly and despite my being an extremely friendly, social person at work, I never reached out to him. He made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t like it. Soon, we had our company anniversary party. And after several hours of celebrating, I found myself standing next to him. Having had more than my share of beers and cocktails, I started a conversation with him. We sat down and for the next two hours, spoke only to one another ignoring the party and crowd of coworkers around us. We talked of love, and how he wasn’t in it. We spoke of our careers and our passion for creativity and beauty. He complimented me, I complimented him and he asked why I was still single. He showed me a burn on his hand that I touched while he told he how it had happened. I had a cut on my hand, which I shared with him as well. It came out that we had secretly held crushes on one another the last eight months, and in that moment, I knew somehow that life had just changed. An awkward fear came over me and I excused myself to leave. A few days later he broke his engagement and we went to dinner. He told me that he had waited his entire life to feel about someone the way he did about me. That he had loved me from the first moment that he saw me and had avoided me because of his situation. That what he felt for me was epic. I said that we were lucky, that we were blessed to have found one another. Because how many people in their lives get to live out their fairy tales? I believed we were meant to be together. But things didn’t last. They were awkward. He thought I was perfect when I’m not. I had many things going on my life. He had difficult things happening in his. I acted out as he withdrew. And after a couple particularly bad scenes I was at fault for, it was over. I wanted to explain, but he walked away too quickly for me to catch up. He didn’t want to see me. Or talk to me. He couldn’t. I wrote him emails, I gave him space, but he cut me off. All without ever talking to me face to face. I finally told him that I couldn’t believe I ever believed him. That he was bullshit, that I couldn’t believe after the things he said he would walk away without at least talking. I apologized, I humbled myself, I cared more about being right and wanted to prove that. But he wouldn’t budge. He told me he had disengaged and that I had disappointed him too much. I was heartbroken. And I hated myself. I blamed myself. I couldn’t forgive myself. So I tried. I fought, I begged, I pleaded. And meanwhile, I hurt myself. Because I didn’t know what else to do. I could not bear my day to day. I was desperate to crawl outside my own skin. I felt like I was suffocating. I had lost myself. In my desire for him, in my hatred for myself. I couldn’t feel who I was at all anymore. I went away to an island paradise for the holidays by myself. And my first two days and nights alone, all I could do was cry and sleep. But then slowly, I began to heal. I surfed in the early mornings, I walked along the beach in the afternoons, and shot the sunset every night reminding myself that there are things far bigger in this world than myself, my petty problems and my broken heart. I made new friends and talked about the world and everything beautiful in it. I forgave myself, and remembered that I didn’t need him to be happy. That I deserved more than what he had offered, and that life would always move forward. I remembered how to breathe again. And when I came back from my sojourn, I decided to change my life. For me. For the things that I wanted. I crafted a five month plan that involved quitting my current job and leaving the city I lived in to focus on writing and my peace of mind. I started putting things in motion, and the minute I did, he surfaced. He wanted to have dinner, he wanted to talk. He told me that he was sorry, that he should have been a better man. That he had never stopped missing me or caring for me. That he wanted to try again. I forgave him, because that was all I ever asked of him. How could I deny him the very thing I had wanted from him? So we started seeing one another again. And I was happy. But then, as I continued to move forward with my plans, he began disengaging again. He explained that he wasn’t keen to have a long distance relationship, that there were things in his life that he needed to work on before he could be with someone else. That he wished me all the best in the world, that I was everything he looked for, but that the timing wasn’t right for him. And once again I fought, once again I tried. I couldn’t understand why he bothered to come back to leave again. I had rational reasons why we shouldn’t walk away from one another, I had emotional reasons. I was angry, I was sad, I tried to be understanding and gracious, but he wouldn’t budge. And slowly I realized, that none of this mattered anymore. Because I knew that this would happen. Because the first time he told me things I believed, I was wrong. Could I really be surprised that this happened again? How many more times would I believe what I wanted to believe instead of believing what was real and right in front of me? When would I stop compromising what I deserved for what I wanted? When would I realize that being right, didn’t matter if the other person didn’t care? If you love someone, you stay by them. There is no such things as a wrong time or a mistake that is too great. Love is just love. Any excuse to walk away from love offered is just that: an excuse to explain you can’t and don’t feel the same way back towards the person that’s offering their love to you. So this time, I’ll let him walk away. And this time, I’m walking away for good. And this time, I’m truly looking towards the future and accepting that this chapter of my life, whatever it was, is over. I want to welcome what’s to come with a completely light and open heart because now I realize I’m finally letting go of what’s false in my life to let in what will be true. I finally realize that the most important person I could ever love, is myself. And part of loving myself is recognizing that I deserve someone who doesn’t just say that they love me, but actually really does. And to give that person the chance, I’ll weed out those who would fake it. Because we choose the lives we live and I choose truth and joy. I choose love. I guess this is a love story. Just a different kind of love.