Dating Series: Falling in love
In my last post in this series, I wrote about my only relationship with a Bengali and Muslim man. I wrote about my experiences with having an identity crisis. And I will keep talking about that in these posts because this crisis has defined my dating life. Never have I met a man that I was attracted and not thought: can I really let this go anywhere? Will it be worth it? What will my parents think? And often the answers were different depending on the guy. Just recently, I met a guy in my workplace who I am attracted to. He seemed to be attracted to me too (or maybe that's just wishful thinking). We had a few things in common so when I realized it was more than just a physical attraction those questions popped into my head. I've answered them by saying I'm not ready to let this go anywhere. But in the meantime staying friends is never a bad idea...right? But the main story of this post isn't about him. It's about the relationship I had three months after the two-year relationship I ended. Three months barely seemed like enough time to get over a breakup, at least for me. But this was it. This was going to be the guy I fell in love with. No more just sticking with a relationship because I felt I had to.
I'm not sure when exactly I fell in love with him. We were friends for a while even when I was still in my last relationship. When I met him it didn't even phase me that I could ever develop feelings for him. After all, I was in a relationship. But we became good friends. Our personalities complimented each other's very well and we often had meaningful discussions about life. And I loved these discussions. I love having these discussions with anyone, but at the time I was pretty sure I loved having them with him the most. And when my previous relationship was officially over I was drawn to him like a magnet. It wasn't a rebound. I knew this right away. It might sound cheesy but I honestly felt like he was the one. Whatever that means. I mean do soulmates really exist? That's a whole other topic that I would love to write about in another post. Let's continue this story.
I often wondered: how could I relate to someone who wasn't from the same country as my parents? Who technically isn't even from the same country as me? It was because he had the same identity crisis. And I'm sure his experience with this crisis is different from mine. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, while he was born and raised in Myanmar and immigrated to the states with his parents at the age of ten. And despite this difference, our identity crisis glued us together. We had a lot of other things that glued us together but I think this was the main thing. We both knew what it felt like to be confused about where we belong after spending time in two different worlds. We both had parents that wouldn't accept us as their daughter or son in law.
The feeling I had from being with him was very interesting. I remember being so happy. True happiness. But at the same time feeling distraught because I felt it was wrong. For the first time in a relationship, I felt guilty. My parents told me not to do this and I'm doing it anyway. But this time, not because I want a time pass that would eventually expire. And not just because I was attracted to this man and had feelings for him. I had fallen in love with him. To feel this kind of happiness but still feel a lingering sadness almost felt like the closest I'll ever get when it came to being in a fulfilling relationship.
Perhaps he came into my life at a good time. I was halfway through my first engineering degree, and he was too, which is yet another thing we had in common. I was constantly figuring out ways to combat my anxiety and depression that stemmed from the pressures of being an engineering student. He was there for me, taking care of me when I couldn't take care of myself.
In their own way, my parents also took care of me when I couldn't handle my anxiety. While I was grateful to have so much help from people I love, whenever my parents helped me I felt even more guilty about dating someone that I wasn't allowed to. And once again I felt trapped. There was no way out.
It dawned on me that I'll have to choose one day which aspect of happiness was more important. Having my family close to me, or being with this man for the rest of my life. I couldn't have both. And then another thought dawned on me. When was the last time I did something all by myself? When was the last time I didn't need any kind of emotional support from someone? I couldn't remember. Was it in high school when I was a dancer who had to constantly hustle all her responsibilities so that she can be a performer, a good student, and a good daughter? That seemed like a whole lifetime ago. And I guess it was.
I was so emotionally dependent on my parents and my boyfriend that I forgot what it was like to depend on myself. And I was scared. So scared that I'd never find myself again. My parents have always told me that if I married someone they didn't approve of that I'd be banned from their lives. My boyfriend never gave me any conditions, but he never gave me any guarantees about being with me forever either. And how could he? We were only together for a year. And while I do still believe we fell in love, I just couldn't think that far ahead. Maybe he couldn't either. And somehow yet again I found myself not ready for commitment. I had to end that relationship too. Not because I was choosing my parents. I was choosing myself. I had to find myself again. I had to prove to myself that I could truly be happy on my own. That I didn't need to depend on a man I loved or my parents.
And as if right now I really believe that I could be. Living on my own and doing mostly everything on my own has shown me that. But it took me a lot of different mistakes to finally realize that. That being independent is good but being a little dependent isn't wrong. Human beings are meant to depend on each other one way or another.
I remember going back and forth on my feelings for this man. We had a very unhealthy on and off open-relationship after we were officially broken up. And eventually, he let me go. I remember being angry about it for a little while. But when the anger wore off it was sadness. And when the sadness wore off it eventually turned into contentedness. You see, when I realized I could be happy on my own without a man or depending on my parents I realized that just because I could be happy without these things, it doesn't mean that's what I have to want. I want to be in a fulfilling relationship someday. And I want my parents to be accepting of it. And perhaps I'll get only one, neither, or both. I guess what I'm saying is it's ok to want certain things and not get them. I am not saying we shouldn't strive for things we truly want. But when you want something and it's not within your control to get it, it's okay. I can’t force my parents to keep me in their lives if they feel I did something wrong. And I certainly can’t help who I will fall in love with. It's okay because I'll continue to be okay. I can continue to be happy. But it took a lot of mistakes to get here. In the next post, I'll tell you the story of the main mistake that got me to this conclusion.