I was not a rebellious teenager.
I went to school, got perfect grades, had great friends who never got in trouble, and spent my free time immersed in big projects like writing novels and filming music videos.
My acts of defiance, from a young age, were small and unexceptional. In fourth grade, my mom told me that I couldn’t wear my tankini to Beach Day at school, saying it was “inappropriate.” I disagreed, so I wore it under my T-shirt anyway (#badass).
As I got older, my continued deception was that I often left the house after my mother fell asleep. Not to meet a boy or get drunk, but to go across the street to my friend Maria’s house, where she would sneak me in through her bedroom window so that we could eat grapes and giggle, pretending her parents couldn’t hear us.
Tradition dictates that I must have gone wild when I got to college. A few of my friends certainly did – they had a lot of drunken nights, dance floor kisses, and casual sex.
And while I was jealous of the proper college experience they seemed to be getting, my desire for experience never exceeded my restraint. I didn’t start drinking at parties until the end of my sophomore year, and even then in fairly strict moderation.
My relationship with alcohol, filled with fear fueled by my father’s alcoholism, did become much more relaxed in the latter half of my college career. Still, no close friend would ever describe me as a party person (at least not without a heavy dose of sarcasm).
I have always lived my life deliberately, with well thought out decisions and a distinct lack of impulsiveness. Which is why I surprised myself, and pretty much everyone in my life, by moving in with my boyfriend of just four months.
Before Leo, I was never big into dating. The way I viewed it, I valued my independence and my alone time far too much to put energy into dating anyone less than spectacular. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe there were spectacular people out there, it was just that I didn’t have a whole lot of incentive to look for them.
After I graduated college last year, a bunch of my friends and I joined the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel. I liked the design of the app because it was low commitment - there was only one person a day that I had to accept or reject. It wasn’t like the black hole of Tinder, where the seemingly endless left swipes bred cynicism at what the city had to offer. After seven months of saying no to almost every daily bagel, I matched with Leo.
I don’t want to make you throw up from all of my gushy feels, so I’ll just say that he was someone who met my standards, exceeded them, and redefined them. I could go on about how he surprises me everyday with his sweetness and intelligence, about how good we’ve gotten at cooking together, about the time he made me kill the cockroach in the bathroom because he was scared.
But there has been something so nice about keeping it all to myself, about experiencing something so intense and lovely with just one other person; It has been great not to share. Even close friends only get broad strokes and little anecdotes, nothing compared to the detailed play-by-play they hear about most of my life.
I guess it was partly this knowledge that my friends had an incomplete picture of my relationship – like a fuzzy outline with a bunch of hearts doodled in it – that contributed to my surprise at their reactions to my decision.
For the record, if I were my friend, I would have reacted pretty judgmentally. “Mae, what are you doing?” I would have said. “You’ve been with him four months. That’s nothing. That’s a millisecond.”
But that isn’t what my friends said to me (proving once and for all that they’re way better people than I am). Instead, reactions pretty much ranged from, “Congratulations, that’s awesome!” to “When is the housewarming party?”
I was pretty confounded at first as to why these people who love me deeply and know that they can say anything to me were sugarcoating their thoughts on my big life move. So I asked them, “Don’t you think I’m insane? It’s a little bit insane.”
I hoped that my concession would shake the truth out of them, but the universal response was: “For anyone else, maybe. But I trust you.”
Another friend said, “I’m not saying it isn’t bold. It’s bold. But it isn’t insane. Not for you.”
To be fair, some acquaintances expressed concern – “It’s pretty quick…” they’d trail off ominously, waiting for me to change my mind. Others asked what my reasons were, and then never responded when I explained myself (reasons, by the way, that I won’t list here because this piece is not about defending my decision).
But the people who know me well, who have seen me through the really shitty times and the really great times and the moderately okay times, those people just trusted me.
Needless to say, this caused feelings. I felt incredibly supported, but more than that, their unwavering belief in me made me solidly confident about my decision. They reminded me that I don’t fall in love easily, and that anyone who could engage me so completely was special.
They reminded me that my instincts have always been good. They reminded me that I am painfully self-aware, and that I think too much to make any hasty decision. They reminded me to trust myself.
I realized that any anxiety I had leading up to the move was not about misgivings; it was about a lack of misgivings. I was nervous that I wasn’t nervous, confused as to why I felt so sure.
It was my amazing friends who helped me figure out that I was sure because I was me. And it was Leo that made me sure to begin with, who has been incredibly patient with me even when the speed of our relationship has scared me.
Six months ago, I could not have fathomed that I would be living with someone that I loved so deeply, or that I would feel so safe and secure being vulnerable with him. I’ve always loved that other people could surprise me, but this is the first time I’ve surprised myself. And that feels pretty awesome, actually.