I sat next to my best friend on her queen-sized bed, surrounded by a mass of pillows doing what best friends do, heart to hearts.
Her words stuck.
“As painful as it was, losing that friendship wouldn’t have mattered if you hadn’t learned anything.”
We were rehashing the loss of one of my closest friendships. My best guy friend. (Let’s call him David.) A guy who in the course of our three-year friendship I realized I was in love with.
We laid out the details like a deck of cards. What had gone wrong. Mistakes made on both sides. The scars it left. What I learned from it. How I was planning to let go and move on.
I had done the unthinkable. I sent a text saying I couldn’t be friends anymore. Then, in order to explain myself, I wrote an emotional note. (A note, might I add, that was written while I was slightly tipsy. Something I highly warn against—drunken notes, texts, smoke signals or not-well-thought-out communication of any kind.)
Rewind to 2016 when I realized that I had feelings for my best guy friend. After three years of a storybook friendship—of long phone calls, of making fun of each other, of seeing each other at our worst, of challenging each other to grow, of rooting for each other, of me calling him to come save me when I needed help, I realized I was in love, and it scared the crap out of me.
After three years of a storybook friendship, I realized I was in love, and it scared the crap out of me.
What scared me was that I knew. I knew how I felt. I knew what he meant to me. I knew if I had to choose, I’d always pick him. It was that feeling that older, more mature couples talk about, “When you know, you know.”
However, I sat on my newfound knowledge of my feelings for a month, hoping I could will them away. I didn’t want to be in love with my best guy friend because I was afraid—afraid of losing him, afraid of the friendship changing, but mostly, afraid of being rejected.
So what did I do?
I hardcore stuffed those emotions, deep, deep down in a dark tunnel that no one could find. I worked out to avoid feeling. I worked more hours to avoid emotions. I slept to avoid emotions. I shopped to avoid emotions. And guess what? The feelings were still there. They didn’t go anywhere.
In the midst of my attempt to avoid reality, a friend gave me some words of wisdom. She told me that perhaps the first step was to acknowledge what it was. I had been avoiding it for so long that coming to terms with how I felt seemed impossible. As we sat, talked and sipped coffee, my heart began to ease and my lips finally released the words that I had been holding captive: I was in love with him.
My heart began to ease and my lips finally released the words that I had been holding captive: I was in love with him.
One crisp, clear L.A. night, with a glass of wine in hand, I took my phone to my apartment’s deck, and I made the call. With shaky hands and a trembling voice, I said the words that I had been trying so hard to bury: I have feelings for you.
Fast forward to present day: The love that I expressed to my best guy friend turned out to be unrequited. He told me while he once had feelings, he didn’t think we were a good fit. It was my biggest fear coming true in real time—falling for someone only for it not to be reciprocated. I felt embarrassed. I felt confused. I felt exposed. I felt stupid. I was hurt.
We tried going back to being friends like we had always been, but it didn’t work out. The phone calls stopped. The witty texts stopped filling my inbox. We saw each other once more in 2016 when we both were home. I thought I could be his friend again, but my heart wasn’t ready.
When I got back to L.A., I sent him a text and said I couldn’t be his friend anymore. He sent me a thumbs up emoji. We haven’t spoken since.
Five years later, guess what? I’m still here. Being honest about my emotions and being vulnerable didn’t destroy me. It didn’t kill me. While awfully uncomfortable, I am still here. To be honest, it was relieving just to be honest. It was like releasing pressure from a balloon. Once it was pierced, it all just came out.
Being honest about my emotions and being vulnerable didn’t destroy me. I am still here.
I fell in love with someone and that love was not reciprocated. Knowing that fact doesn’t destroy me. Oh, most certainly it hurts like all hell, but if it was love, of course the loss of it is going to hurt.
Years later, I surely don’t have all the answers. I still think about David from time to time when I go to fill out my March Madness bracket or when I visit Texas. I wish I could tell him my crazy roommate stories, about my job layoff and working and living in Italy. Throughout the past five years, I have missed our friendship the most. If ever I find myself on a train of thought headed to the past for too long, I kindly take my ticket and head to the Exit door. I wish him well, and I let it go.
Before, I used to wonder why he didn’t choose me. The thought used to keep me up at night. Now, I know that I am enough, with or without this person. Just because one guy didn’t pick me, it doesn’t mean I am unworthy of love or not good enough. I am enough, just as I am, imperfect, beautiful me.
Just because one guy didn’t pick me, it doesn’t mean I am unworthy of love or not good enough.
While there are a lot of things I would go back and do differently, I am proud of myself for having the courage to be vulnerable. I am proud of myself for voicing how I felt. I am even proud of myself for saying I wasn’t ready to be friends just yet because I wasn’t. I know now that that’s OK—that expressing my needs is OK. I only wish I would have had that conversation with him in person and not sent that text. I was hurting and chose the quickest and easiest option. The situation deserved more care and so did he.
Just as we are all in process and imperfect human beings, I have learned to show grace for my younger self. I now know that I am deserving and worthy of love, and that fact does not change because of any person.
Have you ever faced rejection? How did you overcome it?
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography