My freshman year of college I was in an excruciatingly long and stupid relationship. Of course I didn’t believe so at the time; I wore the rose-tinted glasses that everyone inevitably tries on. It was first a dreamy and Hallmark movie script-like story that told of two childhood friends who reconnected on their first night at college in the middle of Red Square. It then quickly became like something out of an agonizing teen drama, where the viewer has the urge to reach through the screen and shake the character’s shoulders until they realize their idiocy. By the end, I was left feeling embarrassed, regretful, angry and unlovable.
It took months for me to finally come to terms with the time that I had spent in such a sickening relationship — to not want to vomit at the thought of my only in-person college experience being one full of half-assed apologies and manipulation. There are still times when I catch myself in a destructive spiral over how easily I let myself be controlled by something other than my own will.
This mistrust I had in myself came with me when I met someone new. It followed me on the first dog walk that we took and dinner that we shared. It hung over me like a heavy cloud, as a constant and pessimistic reminder that everyone is secretly malicious and that my instincts are a liability. It prevented me from recognizing the openness and understanding he had when I shared the negative thoughts I’d been having about my body as genuine care, and instead as the expected bare minimum.
That’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently — the bare minimum. This term sat in my mind after I thought I’d lost a solid understanding of how I hoped to be treated by another person. I thought that in order to maintain a healthy relationship and protect myself from another emotional catastrophe, I needed to completely reconsider what I expect from others and doubt their honest intentions.
This was an incredibly flawed and cynical way of looking at human relationships that stopped me from initially seeing that this new person is one of the best humans I’ll ever have the privilege of having in my life. It was a dramatic reaction to the bruised ego I had after realizing that my judgments and decisions in the last year and a half had been wrong. I can no longer allow myself to constantly assess what I believe is the “bare minimum” and instead learn to simply cherish when people show me and others love and kindness.
I am now more content than I have ever been while holding hands with another person. It’s a rare wholeness that I could never have imagined feeling a year ago. Some fears and hesitancies inevitably and occasionally like to resurface. But after sifting through the mess, I have undoubtedly regained a new sense of trust in myself — one that lets me rest easy with my head on their shoulder.