"Whenever I refused to follow my fate, something very hard to bear would happen in my life... Tragedy always brings about radical change in our lives, a change that is associated with the same principle: loss. When faced by any loss, there's no point in trying to recover what has been; it's best to take advantage of the large space that opens up before us and fill it with something new. In theory, every loss is for our own good; in practice, though, that is when we question the existence of God and ask ourselves: What did I do to deserve this?"
- Paulo Coelho,
I am sitting at my desk in the same room where Alex broke the news to me. Between me and that day there are seven months, countless tears, dozens upon dozens of new friends, innumerable moments of laughter, and so many life-altering experiences that I can honestly say that I am no longer the same man I was that night. That Ty is gone.
What has emerged is someone I didn't even know was there. I found strength inside me that I didn't know I had. I found a God who was much closer than I ever believed him to be. And I found a mercy that has sustained me through every struggle and lifted me through every joy.
It is a bitter-sweet thing to know that the Ty that was with Alex is gone. It is bitter, because it means that the most treasured period of my life to date is finished. It is done, and gone. But it is sweet, because from the ashes of that time I have emerged a new being, much more content with being who and where I am now, more willing to sit with the uncomfortable unknowns of life, more hopeful even when I cannot see the road beyond.
I read the quote above by Paulo Coelho this morning. It struck me as I read it, because I could see how that truth has played out in my life since the breakup seven months ago. When I was with Alex, I was willing to change my whole life around for him. I had applied to several different grad school programs in his home state. I was preparing to build a life with him. Had I been presented with the choice of pursuing a superior program elsewhere, without him, or to go to a lesser program and have him in my life, I would have chosen the latter without any hesitation.
Now granted, relationships (especially long-term ones) require sacrifice and mutual effort. So to a degree I do not find error in where I stood before. However, I was so entirely focused on being with him that I gave no thought to the contribution I need to make to the world. In the language of Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist", I was choosing Alex and tossing my personal legend aside.
I was ignoring my fate. I didn't care what my fate was, as long as Alex would be there. And so I needed a wake up call. And what a wake up call it was.
I tried for a time to fill the hole Alex left by holding on to his memory and the relationship with a death grip. I tried filling the hole with someone else. I tried filling the hole by going dancing at the club every weekend. Nothing worked.
Then came hell week, the week covered by the last couple of posts. That week was horrific, but I finally began letting Alex go. And then something miraculous happened. The very next weekend I met someone, we clicked, and I found myself able to feel all the deep and wonderful emotions again. I worried I'd never be able to touch them again. But there they were.
Once again, however, I began latching on to something, trying to fill the hole of loss, and began ignoring my fate. And so I lost it again. Well, it really never even developed. I recognized to some degree what was going on, so I let go of that boy.
And once again I was capable of feeling those emotions. As soon as I let go, the very next weekend I met a boy at Pride in Salt Lake. We clicked, and it felt even better than the last boy. We went on a series of dates, and everything was incredible. He liked me, he told me that he liked me, and he acted like he liked me. It felt incredible. Imagine my thrill when he texted me and said "Ty, I want to take you to Vegas for your birthday, since you've never been."
I remember lying in his bed, feeling him close to me, listening to soft and soothing music as the summer breeze blew into the darkened room. I took mental photos of those moments. I snapped them, and saved them, because I did not want to forget how incredible it felt to be next to this boy. I remember caressing his arm or bare back as we dozed in and out, marveling over the beautiful boy that lay next to me. I barely knew him, we'd hardly had the time to open up and see the depths of one another's souls. But I felt something real for him. Something young, to be sure. But nonetheless real. And the way he would squeeze me close to him in the night made me feel he felt it too.
But I was ignoring fate once again. We went to bed one evening, drinking wine and talking of Vegas, and when we woke up something had changed. I could see it in his eyes. I could feel it in his texts. For nearly a week I suffered with this distance, and the fear that it induced. Finally we had a chance to talk, and I asked him what was going on. He had panicked. We had moved so fast, things had gotten very real very quickly. And then there was my impending move. I was leaving at the end of August, and regardless of how much I might want to give and commit, I could not.
So that was that.
There have been very short flings since then. But the one loss I still feel is this Vegas boy. I see his picture on Facebook and I miss seeing it in real life. I miss the way my heart leaps when he laughs. I saw him last weekend at a party. I miss the vitality and the terrifying liveliness in his eyes. I'd forgotten the way that when he looks you in the eye, you panic, because there is so much energy there that you fear it'll consume you. Yet, you hunger for it, addicted to the life he brings when he smiles.
Several times during the night I saw him glance across the room at me. I kept each and every one of those glances and hold them still today.
But he's gone, and once again I sit with loss. Coelho's quote today woke me to the reality of what has been going on. To once again use the language of "The Alchemist", God and the universe are pushing me toward Egypt, to my personal legend, that one thing that I and I alone can achieve in this life. I have a purpose, a mission, and I cannot shirk it. I cannot run and I cannot flee.
I have tried for most of my life to find someone or something to make my life complete, and thus rid me of the need to pursue my personal legend. But in the last few years all those things have been pulled away from me. And try as I might, I cannot fill the hole of loss. I must fill it with something new. I must go to Egypt. Or, for me, to Seattle. My future is there. My personal legend is there. My treasure is there.
And so I must let go. Let go of Alex, and replace the loss with love for him and gratitude for the most beautiful two years of my life. Let go of the sorrow, pain, and mistakes of the last seven months, and replace it with the cleansing mercy of a God who understands. Let go of Vegas boy, and replace the loss with gratitude for being able to feel, even if just for a few short weeks, what it means to be with someone who wants you just as much as you want them.
I graduate from BYU in less than a week. In less than a month I will be traveling the winding roads to Seattle. And when I see the city skyline, as foreign and intimidating as it may be, I know I will feel the soul of the world calling me there. And a new adventure will begin.