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I’ve been keeping this blog for some time now and, while many of my posts have revealed elements of my life, I’ve abstained from the more “emotional” personal stuff. For whatever reason, I felt the need to write (and publish) this piece, possibly because these thoughts have been maxing-and-relaxing in the back of my mind for a while, possibly because it’s cathartic, possibly because a recent event triggered it… or, more likely, a combination of the three.
My best friend will be the first to proclaim that, when I love, I love hard. She knows this because she’s also the first to be on the receiving end of my declarations. I don’t want to say that it happens often but, when I fall in love, I will go to the ends of the earth and back for that individual. In many ways, it’s a beautiful thing. I love like I try to live… passionately, intensely, and with no holds barred. I’ve always been a glutton for adventure and falling in love has been amongst my greatest adventures of them all. But, being someone who loves hard isn’t always easy, and my heart has taken some hits over the years. The (cliché) sayings go that “It’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all” and “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.” I’m not sure about the “forever” part, but I do believe there’s a method to the madness that is love.
Though I’ve never deemed myself a romantic, I think my actions dictate otherwise. I’ll be clear though. I was never that girl who grew up dreaming of a big, white wedding or having some man put a ring on it. I was never the princess waiting for her Prince Charming to come along. Most of the time, I’m a-ok doing my own thing. Having said that, when I do dream (a frequent occurrence), I visualize a partner-in-crime who wants to take the world by its head and go on crazy escapades from one end of the earth to the other. That’s what I dream of.
At 30, I’ve lived out my dream on more than one occasion…
At 21, in the northeast of Brazil, I fell in love for the first time. I stumbled upon a beautiful building a stone’s throw from the beach. With an interest in architecture – and a curiosity about what was housed inside – I made my way in. In turn, I got a lot more than I bargained for when I laid eyes on the handsome boy tending what I later came to learn was the Alliance Française. We exchanged words (and numbers) and, as they say, the rest is history. When I wasn’t volunteering, I was learning about the local culture through the eyes and ears of my love. I knew I had fallen when I realized what an incredible sense of humour he had. I thought, if he can be funny in a language that isn’t his own, he must be whip smart. I have the fondest memories of sitting on his rooftop talking until the sun came up, listening to jazz music outside the Museum of Modern Art, and taking over an abandoned sailboat in the middle of the ocean on New Year’s Eve. My more recent memories have taken place in Canada, as he moved to Montreal almost six years ago. It’s been nine years since we met and, though we’ve endured many ups and downs, this boy has grown into a man who is one of my best friends and who I love to this day.
Then came a chance encounter with a Nigerian artist. We “met” when I was 23 and I had shared my photography portfolio on a website connecting young people from around the world. It started innocently enough. He sent a private message complimenting my photos. He was articulate and seemed sincere. I responded. Over the next two years, we confided in one another and became good friends. Even though we had yet to meet in person, it felt like we had been in each other’s presence all along. One day, I learned he would be visiting the United States to spend time with his brother who lived in Houston, followed by a quick trip to New York. He wanted to meet, but the timing was off. He returned to Lagos and sent photos from his travels. I still vividly recall the moment when everything changed and I knew I had fallen in love. It was a photo of him and his niece. He was smiling from ear to ear and radiated warmth. What was more – I suddenly saw him in a new light, for the gorgeous (inside and out) man that he was. I texted a girlfriend, feeling bewildered. “Is it possible to fall in love with someone I’ve never met?” I questioned myself out loud. Maybe. Possibly. Definitely. Shortly after, he and I had a discussion where our mutual admiration revealed itself. Since we had already spent so much time getting to know each other, it felt like a natural progression. Two years later, we met in London (for the first time) while I was studying and he had an exhibit. I could say that being together felt surreal, but that would be untruthful. At that point, he was merely a physical extension of the person I had come to know – and love – over the last three years. As our friendship progressed, so too did our feelings. He now resides in Berlin and I saw him only two months ago. Distance has separated us since the moment we exchanged our first message, but I’ve left a little piece of my heart with him so it traverses the globe each time his work takes him jetsetting off to another exotic location.
My third love is a less-than-easy one to write about. Whenever I think about it, the song “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” comes to mind. It was a bit of a “forbidden” love, one that wasn’t supposed to unfold and, in turn, left some people hurt in the process. It was the kind of love I never thought I would find myself in but find myself I did. It was also the kind of love that happened so organically, naturally, and effortlessly that I don’t regret it, even if it wasn’t made to last. I was 28 and the moment I laid eyes on him, my heart fell to the floor. I’ve always said I don’t believe in soulmates but, if I did, this might be as close to it as it gets. Once the floodgates of conversation opened, that was it for me, and I’m sure he would echo that sentiment. I think this love was a lesson in how “flawed” we, as human beings, are; that our moral compasses point us in the direction of what is socially acceptable when the reality is we’ve made up this code to simplify things, to draw black and white lines, when there are, in fact, so many complex shades of grey. Love isn’t easy; it’s not simple or black and white. It’s gritty and it’s messy, it doesn’t care about timing, and it doesn’t always make sense and, sometimes, it just happens, even when you try to do everything in your power to abstain, to hold back, to follow that compass. This kind of love – and all love, for that matter – is simply a mirror image of the cacophony of life.
And while these men came from different parts of the world, while they had carved out unique paths and had distinct idiosyncrasies, there were common threads that tied them together. Unparalleled wit, a wide-eyed look at the world, and an ability to keep me challenged and on my toes.
So… this brings me to the here and now. The trigger. The reason why this post has come to be. Towards the end of the summer, someone came into my life who was… passing through town. He is a dear friend of one of the people I adore most in this world, and our mutual companion was convinced (and rightfully so) that we would get along well. It didn’t take long to see that his premonition was spot on. I can’t say that it was ‘like at first sight’. For the first five minutes of the conversation, I found myself indifferent if not even a little irritated. I knew he was a citizen of the world whose work took him to unsettled regions, but did I really need to hear his unequivocally animated story about being held hostage, as soon as my bum touched the seat? I couldn’t tell if he was the most interesting person in the room – or perhaps the most annoying. Not the best start, I realize. And while I can’t put my finger on that moment that the switch in my head was flicked, it did flick. This guy was pretty awesome… and entertaining. Sure, he wasn’t hard on the eyes, but he was clearly a lot more than just that. As the conversation unfolded – and flowed – he showed what a fantastic listener he was; he wasn’t, as I had initially (and inaccurately) suspected, a person who just liked to hear to the sound of his own voice. I found myself thinking that I didn’t want the night to come to an end. Like Cinderella, when the clock struck 12:00, this man would get into a chariot that would, once again, take him somewhere far, far away. Not even 24 hours earlier, he had arrived in Toronto after a long-haul, cross-continent flight. He would be departing the next day. I didn’t want him to go. I had no say in the matter. We stayed up for most of the night and I thought that, if I could just scheme a way to make sure the moon remained in the sky indefinitely, I could avoid the inevitable. When he left, I was simultaneously happy and sad. Happy that he had come into my life, sad that he was leaving, at least physically. But I also knew he was someone I wanted around, even if at a geographical distance. We exchanged texts, e-mails, and Skype calls, and a lot of them. He got word that he was wanted overseas again, his dream job on the other end of the phone line. “Of course,” I thought. “Who wouldn’t want this quirky, smart, capable guy on their team?!” And so off he went.
Several months have passed since that night and he still crosses my mind on the regular. I get emotional when I think about him because I’ve hung on to his words and, when I reminisce over them, I smile. I’ll remember something he said and find myself quietly chuckling. Before he departed, we talked about the possibility of growing attached when he would have to up and leave again. Where would that leave us? Where would that leave me, as the one being “left behind”?
Sometimes, all it takes is one time, one interaction… to trigger something much grander. If he had stayed, would it have progressed into love? I don’t know. But I’m willing to venture a guess. It still amazes me how feelings and fondness can flourish even – and in spite of – distance. I’ve discovered that getting to know someone intimately is a direct result of what starts in our minds and translates through our mouths.
I’ve never fallen in love with someone whose mind didn’t make my heart melt.
As I reflect on the men I’ve given my affections to over the years, I bear no regrets over loving hard. I’ve lost and I’ve let go. I’ve had it come back and I’ve lost it again. But my heart is full and intact. It’s stronger than any fall it’s ever taken and it knows how to love no other way.