By Aditha Reddy
“Once upon a time, I believe it was a Tuesday when [you] caught [my] eye.”
Maybe our story has a prologue with the conversations before class or the compliments you’d give me after class on the days I gave a presentation, potentially when I meant more to you than you meant to me. But I think my story with you began after that first club meeting. For years, I never really thought twice about you. But that day, suddenly, I saw you in a different light. You shifted from being a cute face to being the cute guy who secretly watched Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl. I noticed how even though you were talking to me and my best friend, your eyes were on me the whole time. I stopped seeing you in terms of whispers of things you’d done in the past that I’d heard from other people. All that mattered was this really sweet, funny, great guy standing in front of me—who seemed to be into me.
From that day on, my feelings for you grew stronger and stronger… until they came to a screeching halt when you hurt me for the first time. But I decided to look past that and try again with you, because I heard Taylor Swift’s voice echoing, “Nothing safe is worth the drive.”
I started 2016 thinking it would be my best year yet because of you. Even though you hurt me once, I thought we’d both moved on from that and were on the same page this time. I thought that 2016 would be the best because I had a boy who cared about me as much as I cared about him and I was wanted. I was excited to have someone to spend Valentine’s Day watching Valentine’s Day with and I was excited to have someone else besides my best friend to hang out with regularly. But most of all, I was excited at how much I liked everything about you—how you liked spending time with your family and how you got your life together after things went really wrong and how you used the cat emojis because you felt they were more expressive.
Everything felt so perfect and right. I felt butterflies in my stomach when your name lit up my phone. We were texting and Snapchatting constantly. I was losing sleep in the best possible way. You told me little things about you, like the story of your dream journal, and I told you little things about me, like the story of my password journal. We talked about everything like what we’d do if we won the lottery. We made each other CD’s of our favorite artists—you with 10 Kanye West songs and me with 10 Taylor Swift songs—so we could both give each of them a chance. I finally understood those feelings of butterflies, dancing in the rain, and loving the sound of someone’s laugh that I’d spent years listening to Taylor Swift sing about.
But as it turns out, we weren’t on the same page at all. You hurt me a second time, three weeks into the New Year. 2016 felt ruined.
A few weeks later, I made an unrelated decision to alter my plans after graduation. Instead of heading to medical school in the fall like my parents and I had been planning on for years, I withdrew my seat. This decision did not sit well with my parents. I was only a couple months into 2016 and absolutely nothing was going as I planned. I went from being able to envision my entire year to not even knowing what would happen in the next three months.
Getting over you happened in waves. I had really great days when I was in a good place about what happened with us. I’d accepted that it wasn’t meant to be. Then, I’d have a string of bad days when I just missed you and I couldn’t understand how you hurt me as much as you did. I’d also feel hurt that you weren’t making the effort I wanted you to make to stay friends. It didn’t help that it felt like everything reminded me of you or something that we talked about. I heard Taylor Swift’s voice in my head for months, “It was months and months of back and forth… You’re still all over me like a wine-stained dress I can’t wear anymore.”
I wasn’t just working through my feelings about you; I was also trying to figure out if I was doing the right thing by changing my future plans. I grew increasingly confident that while I had a passion for people and health care, medical school wasn’t the right place to channel that. I decided after I graduated in May I would get my Master of Public Health and then apply to optometry schools for Fall 2017. Even though I was really happy about my decision academically, I was still struggling with the fact that I wouldn’t be joining all my friends in medical school in the fall like I thought I would. I wasn’t prepared to leave my best friends in Northeast Ohio, nor was I prepared to have our friendships end. While I was dealing with that on my own, I was also dealing with my parents’ opinions.
When you and I had that last conversation, after you hurt me for the second time, I quoted Taylor Swift when assuring you that I’d be okay… “I’ve found time can heal almost anything.” While I still cringe at myself for quoting Taylor Swift during that conversation, I’ve been learning that Taylor was right—that I was right.
As 2016 progressed, I found myself healing and learning so much about relationships and myself. I noticed my good days spanned longer than the bad days. I began to understand just exactly why I was having such a difficult time moving on from you. You were the first person to ever confess having feelings for me and you were the first person that I ever had serious feelings for. When things ended between us, I wasn’t just having a hard time letting you go, I was having a hard time letting go the feelings you introduced me to. Being rejected by you romantically was really difficult, but it was twice as hard feeling rejected by you when we didn’t stay friends like you said you’d hoped we could. With time, I began to understand that the space you put between us was meant to hurt me less than your presence otherwise might.
I decided to stay in Northeast Ohio for my Masters. This prolonged leaving my friends just a little bit longer, but soon I began applying to optometry schools and found myself getting upset at the fact that goodbye was inevitable. Eventually, it started to become easier to accept that I’d have to leave my friends when I got excited about my future goals integrating my two post-graduate degrees. Most of all, my friends in Northeast Ohio proved that they’d love and support me no matter where I ended up for optometry school—even if it was twelve hours away in Memphis. They helped me see that I wasn’t going to lose friends when I left – I’d just be gaining more friends. As I would talk to my friends about my future goals and plans, they’d get excited with me. I began to see that friendship is not contingent on living near each other or doing the same thing.
Just when I’d come to terms with the fact that I might be very far from my friends, I got accepted into an optometry school only a little over an hour and a half from Northeast Ohio—an optometry school that also happened to be one of the best in the country at a big university that I always wanted to go to, in a city that I loved. My parents, while still not thrilled about my decision not to pursue medical school, finally gave me a metaphorical nod of approval. For the first time in 2016, I felt like I had it all—an accepted spot at my top choice optometry school, friends who loved me unconditionally that I wouldn’t be far from, the possibility of making a ton of new friends, my parents’ approval, and even a new song from Taylor Swift.
I thought 2016 was ruined because I expected you to be the only good thing to come out of it. That wasn’t the case.
You aren’t the only thing to happen to me—good or bad. In fact, I’d like to think I had more good days spent surrounded by people I love while doing things I love than days where I was sad about you. For years, I was never confident that medical school was the thing I truly wanted to do but for the first time, I’m so genuinely excited about my future. That has been better for me than you ever could’ve been. This year was really hard for me because I had to face a lot of things that I was not… but you know what Kanye says – “Everything I’m not made me everything I am.”
After everything, I came out of 2016 alive and absolutely thriving. I got through the days where I felt utterly alone and incredibly hopeless about what my future held for me. I got through the days that I thought I’d never stop feeling hurt by you. But losing you and deciding medical school wasn’t for me made me stronger (you know, like the Kanye song). Kanye also best summed up my entire 2016 with the line, “They say people in your life are seasons. And everything that happen is for a reason.”
Now, I know I’m heading exactly where I need to be—where I want to be. And it’s okay that you won’t be at my final destination.
For a long time there were a lot of things I wanted to say to you—I wanted you to understand every little thing I had to go through this year because of you, on top of a million other things. I also wanted explanations for a lot of things that still feel hazy to me now. None of that matters anymore. Now, I want you to know that I don’t hate you. I never did. I thought I did for a while, but really I was just hurt.
I know one of my best traits is that I can forgive people who have hurt me. I trust your intent was never bad and that you didn’t mean to hurt me as much as you did. I trust that I mean more to you than I give myself credit for. I miss you like crazy and I miss how you made me feel. I hope you miss me, even if it’s only a little. I hope you think of me if you ever hear a Taylor Swift song, the way I think of you sometimes when I listen to a Kanye song from the CD you made me. But more importantly, I hope you’re doing as well as I am.