Everyone likes to think their love life is like a movie. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, events transpire and regardless of good or bad, they end up #happilyeverafter. Sadly the reality of it all doesn't always pan out that way, at least in my case. As much as I would like my story to have that typical #romcom, fairytale ending, my story with my ex, Emma (fake name so let's pretend her last name is Watson) really parallels that of the film #500DaysofSummer.
I have always lived my life as a hopeless romantic much like Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). I have been conditioned for what is now decades in the thoughts of "love at first sight" and "one true love" with inspirations like #Doug, #BoyMeetsWorld, #PrincessBride and #Disney movies. I always thought that the underdog, the nerd, the wildcard kid could get the girl at the end of the day if given the right circumstances, like it was all pre-determined by a higher force. And with everything Emma and I went through, I wasn't entirely wrong.
I met Emma the first day of my junior year of high school back in 2006. She was a freshman and we happened to have an elective together, Theater Arts. From the first time I met her, I had a feeling that I wanted to get to know her better. Quiet, a little shy, really sweet and had the nicest smile that made a rejection feel less hurtful. And I should know, she rejected me a few times before she gave me a chance. She turned me down for the winter formal later that year. When I asked if we could switch partners in a play we were in so that it looked better height wise (I was shorter than the girl I walked on stage with while she was shorter than me), she again said no. But all that changed one day on a Theater Arts trip to see "Legally Blonde: The Musical."
I was asking everyone around me to let me borrow their iPod so I could get the "big number" out of my head. I'm not sure what it was about that day that she took pity on me. Maybe it was that "higher power" I mentioned earlier. Maybe it was just because I was a pest asking everyone and she just wanted to shut me up. Or maybe she understood how annoying the song was and felt bad that I had to hear others on the bus singing it on the way home. Whatever the reason was, our lives changed forever. We listened to her music the entire bus ride home and had silly conversations about her song ADD. When we got back, I asked her for her number so we can exchange music and such and it was history ever since.
From that day on, we talked everyday. We would text after school, I stole another kid's seat in our class so I could sit next to her, all the while falling for her. We talked about everything and anything, conversations of which can barely recall but all important at the time for each one made me just grow more and more fond of her. It wasn't long, maybe a month later, when I realized my feelings for her were reciprocated. But despite how we felt about each other, we had a few roadblocks to get past.
With her strict parents, we had to talk and meet in secret. I used to run a mile and a half down the road to a small park so we could spend time together, which is also where we had our first kiss. We had some mutual friends who would help us meet up in secret. It felt very much like "Romeo and Juliet" and it only got worse when her parents found out about our secret relationship. Needless to say they were not too happy to hear their oldest daughter was sneaking around with an older guy.
The entire summer between junior and senior year, Emma was on lock down by her parents. No phone, no internet, basically cutting off all means of communication for the entire summer. But this was my first love and there was no way the "Romeo" in me would let me lose her. We managed to sneak small messages to each other via MySpace (yeah.... that long ago my gentle reader) or Facebook and had the great idea of writing in a journal to each other which we would exchange on the first day of school.
The first day back felt like one of those scenes in a movie where a guy runs frantically to find the girl before it's too late. I was racing to find her before the first bell and when I saw her smile again, my world got a whole lot brighter. The rest of the year was blur despite still having a communication block from each other. We would walk to every class together (somehow all of our classes were right next door to each other), were together at lunch and after school, were both part of the drama club which meant more time after school. Over time, her parents slowly warmed up to the idea and we would spend every Friday night together at my house, watching a movie and enjoying each others company.
Unfortunately, our time in the Honeymoon phase of the relationship had to come to an end, especially when I left for college.
The Rough Times
The first few years of college were not kind to our relationship. I actually tried to end things twice in the first semester in #FOMO my college experience only to retract those thoughts a week or two later. After some good and bad times, we broke up the summer before my sophomore year of college. We still talked almost every day, saw each other on the weekends from time to time when I would come home but things were never the same, and for good reason because she was actually seeing someone in her grade. Throughout my second year of college, it was just a rollercoaster ride of heartache and joy. But I couldn't let her go.
Despite not being together, I was livid, hurt and concerned for a few reasons. This was my first love, first long term girlfriend, first everything and to see her with another guy threw me in a rage. But also, I knew this guy was not exactly the most trustworthy guy in the world so that didn't exactly instill confidence that she would be okay. Nevertheless, I had to let the relationship run its course (not like I had much of a choice) and sure enough, the slime ball ended things after flirting with another girl.
After a few more awkward months, Emma and I were almost back to normal. However, life got in the way once again as she went off to college. She said she didn't want to miss out on anything by being in a relationship. As much as it pained me to be so close and yet so far, I couldn't blame her for having those thoughts considering I pulled the same card not too long ago. I tried my best to stay in her life despite the distance and random moments of no communication. By the end of her freshman year, she seemed to warm up to the idea of a relationship. After the whole summer of being in that confusing limbo of "kinda-sorta-not really," we began dating exclusively again by the start of my senior year.
The Beginning of the End
After what seemed like an amazing year, things started to take a turn for the worse... again. I graduated college and started working at an overnight job where I was working 60+ hour weeks. On the rare occasion I could visit Emma in school, it would be a crap shoot if we would have an amazing weekend or if my fatigue would get the better me and cause friction. When we weren't physically together, our communication began to take a hit. Between my job and her school work, on campus job and club activities, we might get 15 minutes to talk if we were lucky. And even when we did talk, there was a decent chance it turned into a mini fight. We would tend to argue over the same issues like me having to take off of work to fit her schedule or the lack of energy I had because of all the hours I've been putting in.
Over the next year, it seemed like we were just in a never ending cycle. Weeks of minimal conversations, one weekend to see each other, then back to the beginning. Besides the random moments of affection that made us feel like we were at the start of our relationship, there was no change. The occasional arguments seemed to occur more frequently as time went on. Our weekends at her college began to blend and become repetitive in nature with neither one of us coming up with another idea to change the monotony. Something just seemed off.
The last night I saw Emma rough to say the least. Coming off of multiple double shifts, I was exhausted driving down an hour and a half to her school. We ordered food as usual, hung around till the food came and in that time, I fell asleep. I woke up to Emma holding a pizza in her hands, dazed and confused not realizing I passed out on her bed. We ate, walked over to one of her college lounges where they had a bingo night, in which we left halfway through after I started dozing off again. We got back to her dorm and I again fell asleep. I woke up to see her watching a movie with a sad/angry look on her face. I fell back asleep to wake up again to her getting comfortable for the night. Besides the days of the parental communication boycott, this was the least amount of talking we ever had.
The next morning, that feeling of something being off reared its head again and we decided to end the relationship. What made things worse was for the reason behind it all. The feelings were there but the timing was off. Our lives were a bit too hectic to commit all the energy we would want to each other and the frustration killed it. We said after a year or so, if we wanted to, we could try to pick things up again. In the course of the next month or two, we had three conversations: one of her trying to get back together to which I rejected and two drunk dials from me in moments of vulnerability to which neither of them were answered or returned.
How Everything Has Changed
After that, communication all but stopped. I removed her from my social media accounts so that I didn't have to see her anymore. Some of the stuff I loved I started to hate because it reminded me of Emma. Despite needing that time off, it was still painful to remember what I had given up. Part of me missed what we had and hoped things would go back to how they were before. That same part always thought that eventually one of us would cave and try and rekindle that old spark but that surely was not the case.
I haven't seen Emma since our break up in 2013 and it took us almost three years just to have a conversation again. We have spoken a couple of times after I sent her links to random pages of movie facts and such that reminded me of her. Our conversations would be somewhat brief but pleasant. No animosity or pent up feelings from either side (at least to my knowledge). It has been months since our last chat and I don't anticipate any new conversations unless I send the first message. But that's not to say it is a bad thing.
As I wrote this whole thing out, trying to describe my relationship with Emma without saying everything, I was thinking: "What's the point to all this? What is the big truth to learn from it all?" And I think I can sum it up in two thoughts...
500 Days of Summer is one of my favorite movies, and maybe it is because the movie resonates with me on a deeper level. I honestly feel like the ups and downs that Tom goes through in the movie reflects what I went through with Emma. The euphoria of a new relationship, the excitement of discovering who the other person, ignoring the cracks in the relationship, having things fall apart and having to reflect on it all. I suppose this is my form of reflecting on what was and what lies ahead. It wasn't long after our final break up that I started exploring and doing things on my own. Attending conventions, traveling to other cities, writing for this site for the past two years or so. I think all of it came in part to needing a distraction and just things happening for a reason. Tom focuses his mind on his passion in architecture and revitalizes his life by finding a new career. I'm still working on the "finding myself" stage, but it all comes with time. After all, I'm not in a movie.
We all can internalize the events and themes of films into our own lives, but we should all remember that life is not scripted. That is not to say that "happily ever after" is unobtainable and believing in such is silly. The hopeless romantic in me still exists and I still believe that at the right place and right time I will meet the right girl. Rather, we should keep in mind that many other possibilities can happen as well. For as many times we have seen that cliche, romantic ending, there are other movies like 500 Days of Summer, The Graduate, and Forrest Gump that can flip the script and reflect other likelihoods that may not be as happy as we hope. So in any venture you have whether it involves love, occupation, personal or what have you, enjoy the experience for what it is: an experience to learn and grow from regardless of the outcome. We have certain expectations of how certain things should happen and how they should end. And if reality does not meet those expectations, then maybe another reality is waiting around the corner.
Emma was a major part of my life and I would not trade that for anything. I learned a lot in the six years we were together and even more so in the time since we broke up. As of right now, it all seems for the best, each of us living out our lives with just the memories of each other. I can't speak for her, but I can't help but reminisce of some moments we shared. Maybe someday I'll see her again on some random park bench, laugh about the old days and walk away knowing I have something even better waiting for me in the future.