By Simon Li
I was twelve. I finally found the courage to tell my crush I liked her. She said she liked me too. We started going on dates, and we cherished every moment we had together. We started telling each other all about ourselves. We also talked a lot about our future — where we want to travel, where we want to have our wedding, where we wanted to have our honeymoon, what we want to name our kids — probably way more than any twelve-year-old ever should. From the moment she said she liked me, I never imagined a future without her. I promised her that no matter what happens, I would be with her for the rest of my life. She promised me too. I had never been happier.
This went on for about eight months, then she started to become more distant towards me. At the time, she was about to take the national high school entrance exam, so I thought the stress was causing her to treat me differently. I had no doubt that everything would go back to normal once the exam was over.
She did really well, and she was going to attend the most prestigious highschool in our province. I was so proud and happy for her. She was still cold and distant. I asked her what’s going on, and she told me that high school will be super busy, and we wouldn’t be able to hang out anymore. I knew how busy high school is, especially for her high school. I said at least we will be able to hang out during breaks and summers. She said that she plans to take extra classes during breaks to get ahead, so that won’t work either. I accepted the fact that we won’t be able to hang out while she’s in high school, knowing it’s not a big deal compared to the rest of our lives together. I said that I’ll wait for her until college, or even after college, if that’s what it takes. She responded: “No, you don’t understand. We can’t be boyfriend and girlfriend anymore”.
“What? But you promised!” The naïve thirteen-year-old me did not know promises could be broken. I did not know what to feel. I did not know what I would do in life without her by my side. I could not accept this. One of her classmates told me that she has been getting really close to a guy in her class. I confronted her about him, and she told me the truth. She said that she just doesn’t feel the same way about me anymore, and she can’t help it. She told me that I was too immature compare to the guy she’s seeing now, and that he will be a better boyfriend than I was. I did not know what to do other than crying.
For most of that summer, I would just stay in bed all day and cry. I wanted to stop, but every time anything reminded me of her, I would start crying again. I convinced myself to believe that because I love her, I should be happy for her if she’s with someone who will treat her better than I ever will.
I’m not the best person in the world. I will never be the best boyfriend in the world. There will always be someone who is better than me. There will always be someone who is better than me at everything. How can I ever compete with someone who’s better than me at everything? I can’t. Why would I ever want to love someone when at any moment, someone better than me can take her away from me and there’s nothing I can do? What’s the point of telling anyone how you feel if you can’t even trust the person who promised to love you unconditionally? I don’t know.
For the next several years, I kept all my feelings to myself. Every time I became tempted to ask someone out, I would remind myself of my past. Look around her, there are so many people that are better than me. Why would she say yes to me? Even if she did, what’s stopping someone better from showing up? If I care about someone, wouldn’t I want her to be with someone better? Why bother? I accepted that it was best to be alone.
Junior year, a girl transferred to my high school. I thought she was pretty cute, but obviously a lot of guys must think the same. Why bother? I reminded myself. We have several classes together, and we gradually got to know each other. I saw that she needed help in chemistry, so I offered to tutor her. We started spending time together outside of school, and we became really close friends. I started developing romantic interest in her, and she did too. I told her about my past, and why I was hesitant to start a relationship. Of course, I wanted to date her very much, and I was quite lenient with my own rules. We’ve been together ever since, despite ups and downs. In this relationship, she has taught me that all the self-doubts I’ve had are not true. Here’s what I’ve learned.
No, you’re are not the most amazing person in the world. But neither is she. Still, she seems flawless to you. And that’s what’s important. You can’t be the best person in the world, but you can be the best person to each other. And yes, throughout your lives, you will both meeting amazing new people. But couples won’t leave each other because some objectively better person exists. Life is not a competition for who can score the best possible person, and people, from the worst to the best of us, are much more alike than we are different. It’s not who we are as individuals that’s important. It’s what we can become for each other that really matters.