I don’t often receive feedback on my writing. When I do, it’s usually complimentary of my honesty. It seems a lot of people fear vulnerability; (understandable– it can be terrifying) but, it’s also incredibly invigorating. Of all that I’ve shared so far, they’re subjects that I’ve had to constantly process and work through– things I’ve talked with a lot of people about. I write about topics that I don’t fear being judged for (that’s the secret guys, guess it diminishes some of my street cred). I feel, though, that I wouldn’t be representing myself or the openness that I’m becoming synonymous with if I didn’t write honestly about something that truly intimidates me. And since I’ve been on a travel-topic kick this week, I’m going to take this opportunity to rewind the clock four years and write about the month I spent in the UK.
Way back when: I was pursuing a career in English Education, my biggest struggles were processing death, and understanding my depression– oh and the end of my first relationship (had a hard time with that one). I had always wanted to study abroad, but it was a little tricky to fit into my class schedule as I was going to complete the five years of Education requirements in four. The perfect solution presented itself in the form of a June-term in Liverpool. You shouldn’t need reminding of my proclivity for Coldplay— this pretty much encompasses all things British, and a life-long goal to travel there (short life-long goal, I made it there at 20).
Apart from Abby and Dylan who I’d had a couple classes with, I didn’t know any of the other students on the trip. We started meeting for class once a month in the semester prior to our June-term. Fun fact: I was in one of those meetings when I found out that Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow were “consciously uncoupling.” The awesome people in my class didn’t chastise me for how distraught I was, we all joked and they helped me with the news. Yes– I did need help with that, they were my favorite celebrity couple, and I lost all faith in love. Just kidding (not really). While I really enjoyed the people in my Secondary Ed class, I hadn’t become close with anyone there or in the Primary group. I didn’t know with whom I would spend most of time in England. But, I found out pretty quickly at the airport when June arrived.
I feel it’s important to mention that at 20, I didn’t have any dude friends. My interactions with boys consisted of being hit on, or rejected, or lots of flirting that consisted of making fun of my quirks. Guess this is also true at 24. I hadn’t had any positive relationships with men at that point. I didn’t get them, they didn’t understand me, I was content in my solitude, and rehearsing what I would say to Chris Martin when I found him in England. Sadly, he was in Malibu the month I there– the search continues.
Anyway, back to the airport where my travel buddies were becoming clear. Turns out, these two guys wanted to be my friend. I didn’t feel weird about it because they both had girlfriends (one pair engaged now– congrats, y’all). I was unapologetically myself, and they seemed to enjoy spending time with me. They weren’t rude, they weren’t crass, they didn’t EVER make me feel bad about myself. One time, I got blisters from too much walking in rain boots. These guys took me from store to store in downtown Liverpool to look for another pair of shoes. Another time in London, I was way tired and hangry; so, they started speaking to each other exclusively through Coldplay song titles to cheer me up. They even made up a rap on the train about how much I love Chris Martin. They embraced me, and I them, and not having the option of becoming romantic and weird allowed me to gain some respect for this gender I didn’t think very kindly of. Male or female, they were excellent friends to me and my hope in men grew substantially.
The thing is, I was a little closer to one friend than the other. I spent a little more time with him than the other. The conversations we had are among my all-time favorite, and I was quite enamored with who he was as a person. While I was more than content with our friendship, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish he had been single. But, he wasn’t, and that probably would have changed the authenticity of our connection anyway.
One night, he went out with a group to a pub. I stayed back and he came to hang out with me after. It got late and I was tired. He asked something kind of questionable, and I told him to go back to his room because he wasn’t thinking clearly. That was it.
For as open as we were with each other, we never talked about night. Not for the rest of the trip, and not in the times we spoke when we got home. I was so scared to bring it up because he easily could have brushed it off as just being in my head (a very guy thing to do, and I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to stoop there). When we saw each other after the trip, things just seemed weirder. It wasn’t the same. I felt like it was obvious that I’d grown feelings, but he still had a girlfriend, and I wasn’t about to try to mess with that. By the time he and his girlfriend split, I had already started dating my ex. He (my Liverpool friend) and I got drinks to catch up one time after I’d stopped student teaching– right before graduation. I felt comfortable with this because I was so enamored with the misogynistic, manipulative asshole I was dating, and I thought we would revert to the simple-ness of the friendship we shared abroad. While we had an awesome time, it was still a little off.
That was the last time I saw him, and we’ve only shared a few words since. I moved to Chicago a week or so after that day. My life started to suck a lot; and sometimes, when I was feeling hopeful or trying to picture myself out of the abusive situation I was in, I’d recall how dreamy my time in the UK was. I’d remember that I knew these two guys who were not as awful as the person I was spending every day with. I came to terms with the fact that I did have feelings for my friend, and that those feelings were worth acknowledging.
So, I wrote him a letter. I wrote it on paper so that my ex wouldn’t find it when he did his daily combing through my phone and laptop. In the letter, I explained everything. I shared my feelings for him, and I alluded to the relationship I was stuck surviving. I was going to hold onto it until I worked up the courage to mail it, but never did. My ex found the envelope shortly after, and our relationship went from bad to worse. I don’t blame him for feeling hurt by it– I mean, it feels awful to find out that the person you love is interested in someone else. Definitely does not excuse his behavior, or the way he treated me, but I do take responsibility for causing him that hurt.
As I’ve clearly had some other things to deal with since then, my memories of the Liverpool trip were muted. What’s happening now is that they’re coming back to me. As I date and try to force connections with others, I remember the standard that was set. I remember that the last time I settled, my life became awful. I remember the fact that after these four years, I’ve remained too cowardly to express the way I felt about this person. As I continue to create writing that shares my mind with strangers and friends, I could not continue dismissing the opportunity to be vulnerable in this way.
So, that’s all folks. This was a lot harder than any post I’ve written about my brain or my abuse. This is pretty terrifying, but I know that I’ll be happier for getting these thoughts out. They’ve sat with me for too long and that is a very un-Morgan-like behavior.
Wishing you all a very happy weekend and thank you for reading all of these words. Your dedication is commendable.