I’m trying to stop letting people happen to me. Instead, I just want to happen.
When I was fifteen, I believed in magic. I dreamed of walking through forests where the sunlight shone golden through the leaves on the trees, of glancing next to me and seeing love in the face of some long-haired dreamy guy who made me feel alive. I wanted to be the manic pixie dream girl and also fall in love with a manic pixie dream boy. I think I’d watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Garden State a few too many times. To me, it just seemed like my destiny was love found in a partner, someone who would validate my naive understanding of love: that it was an obsession and dependence elevated into something beautiful, an intertwining of two people in a way that makes them seem only like one.
I wanted to be fixed by finding another person, so I started letting people happen to me.
There was the boy who looked at me from across the grassy amphitheater in high school. He painted a portrait of me and sang “We’ve Got Everything” by Modest Mouse once in his backyard while I danced and believed we had everything. I felt like Penny Lane and convinced myself I was the one happening to him. I smoked my first joint with him in the back of his best friend’s car. I still believed love would fix everything.
There was the boy who snuck out of his house at two AM to ride his bike to my house to kiss me. He made me mix CDs with handwritten letters attached. He told me “I love you” and cried and it felt like my life was a young adult novel so I chalked it all up to having an experience and let it happen to me.
There was the one who said he planned to marry me. We took walks in the springtime and named our future kids. He cheated on me. For the first time in a relationship I felt alive. I realized I was alone and wondered how happiness by myself could be sustainable. I didn’t understand anything.
There was the one who was my best friend’s boyfriend’s older friend. We met three years before. He was the first thing I ever lied about. He took me to his house and showed me all his favorite things: books, music, movies, tv. He wrote songs in his soundproofed bedroom that sounded like sunlight if sunlight had a sound. We drank wine at night while sitting on the tennis courts of his apartment’s complex. Buzzed, I believed in love. We met up years later and he sang me “My Coco” by Stellastarr* and we fell onto his kitchen floor and fell asleep with the light coming through the window warming us. When we woke up we shared my first menthol cigarette and talked about how young and dumb we used to be. I was eighteen. I didn’t know anything, but I thought I did.
Then there were others. Boys I thought were the elusive cures to my own life or some kind of identity I could take on: me, but with him. I wanted love to fix me so badly, I wanted to keep believing in the magic, I wanted to have some special movie moment that changed my life and allowed me to finally love myself, too.
It’s not that I don’t believe in love or magic anymore. I do, a lot actually.
But I waited for years and years and years for a love that would change me: you know, like help me stop hating myself and inspire me to be some version of me that could only exist then. I let people happen to me and excused it away with heart eyes and “going with the flow” bullshit lines.
I was trapped in a cycle of sad boys. You know the kind. Some people call them fuck boys but to me they’ve always been kind of sad. Guys who know exactly what to say to make you excuse never answered texts and dishonesty and bad decisions. Guys who happen to you and not with you.
What happened next was different. There wasn’t another boy. I was finally alone again and older — not totally sans naïveté but at least a little wiser than before.
I needed to break my bad habit of letting other people happen to me and instead just be. Me, alone. An unfamiliar concept, terrifying actually, but necessary.
When I entered 2015, I decided to live with the guiding question, “are you scared to get happy?” A question that seems obviously answered with no, because happiness should be, like, something everyone inherently wants. But the seemingly simple nature of being happy is often clouded by dreams and expectations and other people and fear. It’s fucking SCARY to be alone and go after exactly what you want.
Now, I feel good about being alone. It’s hard to break bad habits — I’m not cured by any means. But being by myself has led me to a place of love from within. No one can invalidate your identity when you’re sure of it regardless of any outside influence. Denying me love doesn’t erase the love I have for myself.
It’s scary, sure. It means I have to do it all alone, you know? I’m out there. I’m having fun. I’m the girl who asks guys on dates and texts first and moves forward because I want to. And that means I’ve been called “intense” by way too many guys to count and ghosted a few more. I’m no longer their manic pixie dream girl.
I don’t care though. I’m not letting people happen to me anymore.
I’m here, happening already. Anything more is just extra, which to me is the real magic.