It wasn’t always easy for me to believe in love, especially during my college years. Most people assign the ‘awkward’ title to high school, but I was really special, I continued to cluelessly oaf around well into my college career! Being from a small town, there simply weren’t endless options for friends and significant others. The small pool of boyfriend material was not ideal. They were not my kind of guys, but at the time I didn’t realize that I deserved better.
I tried to date because I wanted to fall in love. Awwww! But I didn’t know the weight of that. I often felt rejected and alone, not different from high school at all. Companionless and bored I dove into love stories we all have access to, movies (thanks, Hollywood)! The Way We Were, Moonstruck, Thomas Crown Affair (I actually like both the original and remake pretty equally), and most importantly West Side Story.
Dating is tough, especially when your confidence level is in the negative range. I just wanted to twirl around and whole heartedly sing ‘I feel pretty, oh so pretty’! Feeling as though I would do anything to just believe in myself, feel valued and most importantly be able to talk to guys without staring at the floor I was determined to change. I won’t lie, it took me a few years to have a light grasp on all of that, and sometimes I still feel the struggle. Yep, it’s real. Sorry, had to do that!
Let me paint the picture of the scene that inspired me to share this story.
It was the fall of 2004, I was eighteen years old, pimple faced and likely wearing a painfully unique outfit while walking to class, probably biology. I was standing like a statue in the busy lobby of the Lee Drain Building on the Sam Houston State University campus. There were men and women swarming around as class time approached. Even though I was surrounded by people I felt terribly alone. At eighteen I was commuting, AKA still living at home. Being young for my grade I was a most fresh freshman in college having just celebrated my birthday. I didn’t have any friends and spent most of my time walking around campus holding my portable CD player, blissfully escaping my college experience by listening to David Bowie and The Verve.
Yes, a portable CD player. You had to hold it flat or the CD would skip! So, I definitely looked really cool parading around campus displaying my music device like a drink platter. Oh guys, this is kind of painful to recollect! Ha. I do distinctly remember the very first iPod commercial with U2’s Vertigo as the soundtrack coming out that November. Bravo Apple, great advertising. Side note: I didn’t get an iPod until 2007, it was a purple nano and I still have it!
Back to before biology class. I was always nervously looking around, hoping I wouldn’t run into someone I knew. Which rarely happened. But I remember feeling especially lonesome on that day, it was cool out and dead leaves swirled around campus. I can’t recall if anything in particularly bad had happened, but as a freshman I didn’t feel like enough had changed since my high school days. If I wasn’t growing up or evolving, I must have been stuck in a time warp.
When I saw bright, pretty people talking to each other I thought I didn’t belong in their universe. I felt as though everyone was in a clique, or gang, were they a shark or a jet? I turned to hate so often, thinking that these people didn’t ‘get’ me. They thought Wedding Crashers was great cinema and didn’t even know who Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were. I put A LOT of stock in my music and movie taste back then. I was seriously stuck in the past, refusing to be modern if it meant that I fit in with the boring/normal kids at my school. Did I really want to fall in love that badly? Nah, I’ll just be awesome and alone forever.
On that day I was waiting to catch the elevator and suddenly froze. I heard a guy singing behind me. Singing! No one sings in public. To another person. Too shocked and nervous to turn around, I stayed put and perked up my ears.
‘Maria…I just met a girl named Maria…’
Tears welled up in my eyes. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t singing to me, believe me he wasn’t, but I was still overcome with joy. I was too shy to turn to see his face (strong introvert behavior) or figure out who he was singing to but just to hear a song from my favorite movie musical sang aloud, in public, filled me with hope. Sure, he was likely a homosexual drama major but the tears in my eyes held no sexual preference. There were people there at my school who ‘got’ me. Even if I didn’t acknowledge it by conversing with him, I could have exclaimed ‘I love West Side Story too! Screw that Officer Krupke, right?!’. But I wasn’t ready for that.
His singing made me believe in love, believe that there were people out there like me. That ‘there was a place for us (me)’. Someday, somewhere I would belong and maybe even fall in love. I still believe in that kind of joy and hope, especially when flickers of dissatisfaction try to overcome my giddy disposition.
What makes you believe in love?