I was young but I knew exactly what I wanted. This cute boy I had grown up with. I had a massive crush on him and I analyzed the signs until it seemed he liked me too. I lived a sheltered life, so at the hint of romance, I heard wedding bells.
We grew up and our paths diverged. He made an effort to see me only a handful of times, just enough to keep me pledged to him forever. Why not just tell him of my adoration? You ask. A legitimate question. I was at that young, blissful age where everything must be complicated, so of course, I could not just tell him and take whatever consequences came! Silly you.
I started a new job. My first. Sitting across from me was a handsome guy in a Captain America shirt. He made me laugh. But despite my glaringly single state, I might as well have been married, so committed to what I wanted was I, in my own mind.
As co-workers, finding our way in a new place, we became friends, seeking out a slightly more familiar face in the crowd. On our second meeting, you gave me your phone number.
I didn’t call. Or text. I had a crappy, pre-paid phone and I didn’t want to give you the wrong impression. I was not available.
You didn’t give up on me. Our interactions were limited to snatches of conversations in the hallway, waves (both hello and goodbye), and me scanning your lunch selections to tell you the total. You were charming and an incredible friend. Easy to talk to (which is remarkable for me who finds no ease in talking).
Several other co-workers asked me out. I turned them all down. Some more gracefully than others. I only heard from the man of my affections a handful of times. He never made a move. But still I persisted.
You asked me out. This time, as obviously as possible. I stumbled around but managed to refuse you completely. It crushed me. I cried that night when I was alone. But we had no future. I and the guy I adored; we had a future. We were so alike in our convictions. We grew up together. We were in love. My patience now was only the makings of a romantic story to tell our kids. You and I; we were co-workers who shared a laugh once in a while.
You did not reject me or ignore me, although I had brutally hurt you, even more than I knew.
We started writing notes. Well you started it. As a teambuilding effort, we were supposed to write notes about how awesome our co-workers were and put them up on a board. You wrote me one. I responded. Soon they escalated into made up tales of each other’s heroic deeds in retail and drawings of stick figures. You wrote that I was the most amazing woman you’d ever met and that my beauty was a universal truth. I laughed it off and drew us working together. You with big ears and me with a giant bun of hair on my head.
I would stand in front of the cash register and stare down the aisle at you, poking around in the bananas. You moved some shifts so we could work together. We walked to our cars together and spent several long nights in the freezing cold, talking about work and other randomness. You were the best friend I’d ever had.
You asked me out again. This time written on a note, asking me if we could have our late night conversations in the restaurant across the street instead of in the dark parking lot in the cold. Your number printed along the bottom. Just let me know you say. Either way, it doesn’t matter.
I wanted to. Very much. I was unknowingly falling for you, hiding behind your friendship. I could not even explain why I wanted to so badly.
The guy I loved showed up at work that night, with my family in tow. We talked for a bit. Then he left. I still wanted to see you. But the conviction wavered.
I decided I must meet with you and be honest. Tell you that we were friends and nothing more. Could never be. That I had an imaginary boyfriend.
I called you. You told me how you convinced your co-workers that Nascar drivers were robots. We set up a meeting the next day. We spent several hours over pancakes, until the owner ran us out. I laughed and enjoyed myself more than I ever had. You made me happy, just by the sound of your voice and the stories you told. At the last minute, I told you.
Your face fell and we both grew silent and distant. Then we both pretended it didn’t happen. We met again for lunch. And began communicating regularly. Texting each other funny stories about work and life. Slowly, I was falling under your spell.
A turning point came. A massive decision. I had no idea what to choose. The boy I had grown up loving or the man who was my best friend? The entire weight of my future rested on this hinge. I delayed it as long as I could.
You did not wait. You told me you loved me. The breaking point was suddenly in front of me. You told me you understood and that I should be with the guy I loved. I owed you nothing. You only needed to know my choice.
Suddenly, I pictured my life without you. I imagined it even at the best, with you still my friend, no hint of your flirting or charming complements. My heart began to race and panic rose in my chest. In that moment, I knew with certainty I could not be without you. I loved you. I loved how you loved me. You were my soulmate, as much as I had pretended otherwise. I whispered I loved you too.
We have been happy ever since.
So you are saying “What is this point of this romantic drivel? What does this have to do with regrets?”
Well…I could say I regret clinging to someone who did not return my feelings as strongly as I did. But at the same time, I believe the depth of my love for you was born in that uncertainty. It allowed me to fall into love without any pretense or any effort. Just pure attraction of the mind and the heart.
I could say I regret falling in love with you but that is absurd. I regret nothing. It was the greatest choice in my life. I have never been so happy. This story is the explanation of my Greatest Choice and the struggle it took to accept the right answer.
I did it my way until a handsome (albeit bald) man crept under my skin and would not leave. I made up my mind and he taught me to listen to my heart. He showed me that I could pick the wrong person and yet still have a do-over. Still find my soul mate.
My biggest regret in life? I guess it must be that today I opened a bag of Hershey’s kisses wrapped in three colors of tin foil, so that I have to eat three at a time. One of each color. Unwisely feeding my chocolate addiction.
Because life is too big and complex to suffer with real regrets. The horrible choices made are the ones that make you into a greater person or open a window to a future you didn’t even know you wanted.
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