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Revisiting romance: Messy, painful, and beautiful lessons on love

Revisiting romance: Messy, painful, and beautiful lessons on love

  • We all learn lessons about romantic love in different ways, but heartbreak and missed chances hurt a little more in your early 20s

Lessons on love are difficult to learn. Like most people, my early 20s were filled with mistakes and mishaps in romance. I grew up in the early 2000s when romantic dramas and comedies reigned. Movies like “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” “The Notebook,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Maid in Manhattan,” and a slew of other feel-good, toe-curling, giggle-inducing films shaped the way I looked at the world and romance (I know, yikes). 

Admittedly, I was a late bloomer. I wanted “the perfect guy” that I saw so much of in the media I watched growing up. It took me a while to realize that “the perfect guy” didn’t exist, which is when I really started putting myself out there. 

And frankly, I was a little too excited to get into the dating game. 

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

In my search for “the one,” I took all the left turns and detours that a single person can make. I looked too hard, showed my cards too early, settled for less, rushed in, pursued someone who wasn’t at all interested in me, and pursued people I wasn’t really interested in. 

That doesn’t mean I haven’t learned a lot though. While my search for “the one” is still ongoing (and honestly, I’m second guessing the search), I did end up knowing a lot more about myself. All the mistakes—if you can call them that—and the painful rejections revealed parts of myself I didn’t know existed. 

The following are a few anecdotes with matching lessons on the lessons I’ve learned while chasing after love and romance. And it’s a lot

Read between the lines

In one of my many past lives, I was a fully-fledged corporate slave. I worked for the marketing department of a company that sponsored many corporate events. It was great for networking and schmoozing with all the “right” people in business, which was how I met Contestant No. 1. 

Contestant No. 1 immediately ticked all my important boxes at the time. He was tall, handsome (enough), well educated, came from a great family, and worked closely with my company. He also happened to be an acquaintance of one of my favorite bosses, which was how the introductions were made. 

I wasn’t particularly attracted to or interested in him, but I thought I could make it work. 

The event’s setup looked very similar to this. Except a little fancier since it was in a hotel. Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

From the get-go, I made my interest apparent. I was right next to him during the entire event, making comments, laughing at his unfunny jokes, and trading stories. He offered his card at the end with the promise to work together on an upcoming project. 

While this specific project didn’t pan out, we kept on talking. 

One of the most embarrassing things I’m willing to admit is how hard I chased after him. 

We agreed to meet up this one time, which I considered to be a date. The initial plan was dinner and drinks, which morphed into dinner with his friends and then drinks, which morphed into something else. 

The first sign that he wasn’t at all interested in me was when he brought his cousin along for the entirety of what I considered to be our date. 

The second sign that he wasn’t interested was when he invited me to a restaurant that almost exclusively sold chicken right after I told him I was allergic. 

If our dinner at that restaurant pushed through, biscuits were the only thing I could eat on their menu. Photo by Jodie Morgan on Unsplash

Still, I kept pressing forward. I’d invite him for dinner and drinks or make small talk over text, completely ignoring his glaring indifference. The last straw was when I asked for his availability and he never replied. 

The first lesson I learned from this experience is reading between the lines. He always told me that he was willing to hang out, but it was never on my terms. The second lesson I learned was not to chase after someone I wasn’t interested in. 

I saw the potential we had as a couple, but I never saw who he was in the first place. He was nice and kind, but our personalities were the furthest thing from matching. I’m honestly just glad we never made it to our chicken dinner. I could have ended up at the hospital out of romantic desperation. 

Yikes. 

Stop ignoring the signs

Divine intervention was afoot and God was working overtime to send me signs that this was not going to work out. And what did I do? Ignore it, of course. 

I met Contestant No. 2 on a dating app. He was Filipino, but grew up in another country and not really my type (a.k.a. he was shorter than me). He was courteous over the phone, but our schedules didn’t match up so we decided to rain check for when he was back in town. 

Dating apps aren’t for everyone. I’ve since made peace with that. Photo by Pratik Gupta on Unsplash

A few months later, he said he was back and we set up a date. 

The initial plan was to go for drinks at a bar that he recommended. He wasn’t aware that I was a regular at that bar, which is an important thing to remember later. 

The morning of our date, I woke up with a swollen lip—God’s first signal. It was a random allergic reaction that happened out of nowhere. Any sane person would have called off the date, but alas, I iced my face the entire day and persisted. 

God’s second warning sign was when it took me over an hour to book a ride to the bar. Three cars and two motorcycles canceled on me (with the latter motorcycle canceling due to an exploded tire). 

Photo by Glenn Villas on Unsplash

After the third motorcycle confirmed my booking, I was off. 

The Lord’s third warning sign came by way of a near-death experience. I was stressed and tired from preparing for the date the entire day that I ended up dozing off in the middle of EDSA. On the back of a motorcycle. 

I was jolted awake by a sudden swerve the driver took to avoid a huge truck. 

I arrived at the bar miraculously on time, but he was nowhere to be found. I thought he’d ghosted me since he stopped replying to my messages, but he arrived an hour later—sweaty and disheveled. 

The date basically went like this: He serenaded me with an off-key rendition of a Sondheim classic, argued with my friends (who ran the bar, by the way), made suggestive (borderline offensive) comments, breakdanced in the middle of a very crowded dance floor, repeatedly invaded my personal space, and left in the middle of the date to go on a walk—without me. 

Turns out, that walk he took was to check on his other date in the area. 

And to add insult to injury, all of the bar’s staff (my very close friends) witnessed the entire thing.

This was honestly the worst date of my life. He wasn’t the most good looking guy (not by a hundred miles), which would have been fine. But he also arrived late and double booked me—which made me feel like I was the ugly one. 

This instance taught me that ignoring signs will only be to my detriment. God, whatever deity is out there, or the universe will always show you the way in one form or another. Sadly, I insisted. I’m just glad the experience fits into one of my life principles: “If something bad happens, let it at least be funny.” 

Chemistry isn’t everything

Multi-award winning singer and songwriter Taylor Alison Swift once said, “Once upon a time, the planets and the fates and all the stars aligned. You and I ended up in the same room at the same time.” 

And that’s exactly what happened between myself and Contestant No. 3. 

After Contestant No. 1’s painful rejection, I decided to lift my spirits (and get my pride off the floor) by grabbing a drink with friends. That very same night, another friend of mine announced a new relationship. That announcement sent me further into my downward spiral of “Am I unlovable?” and “When is it my turn?” To make me feel better, my friends offered their wingman services for the evening. 

Cue the arrival of Contestant No. 3. 

He was exactly my type. He was taller than me, chinito, charming, great job, well traveled, not from the Philippines, interested in me, and had an extra something I couldn’t put my finger on. 

He approached me first as we were lining up for the bathroom, which never ever happens to me—then one of the most memorable, cinematic nights of my life ensued. 

The night felt just like a movie (specifically “Before Sunrise”). The chemistry was absolutely sizzling and we talked about anything and everything. There were debates about politics, ethics, morality, our favorite films, the type of music that we liked, hopes, dreams, and the type of people we wanted to be in the future. 

We talked until the bar closed down and moved to a nearby restaurant where we’d talk even more. Right until the morning sun peeked through the clouds and marked the start of a new day. 

For the very first time in my life, I felt like someone was seeing me. As cheesy as it sounds, I felt like I’d known him my entire life. We flirted relentlessly and he’d say all the right things to take my breath away. 

I mean, I even quoted the gin joints line from “Casablanca” to him (which he wasn’t familiar with).

But from the start, he also made it very clear that he was just looking for a temporary, fling type of thing. 

I insisted on something more, though. Which he promptly countered. 

I also insisted that we kept in touch. Which did not happen—but not for lack of trying on my end. 

Skip to a few weeks later, we ran into each other at the same bar twice in a row. He spotted me from a distance and came over to introduce a friend of his. The moment he moved to make the introductions, he stuttered and admitted that he’d forgotten my name. I don’t remember what I said after that, just the feeling of a chill crawling up and down my spine. 

I was shattered. 

My once in a lifetime type of night, that I held to the highest regard, was instantly exposed to the cold light of day. And it didn’t hold up to memory. 

Was I not worth remembering? Did I do something wrong? Did I not do enough? Was I not enough? 

Those were the questions that plagued me for months on end after that third chance encounter. 

The minute I got home that night, I looked exactly like this girl. Just on the floor crying and listening to Taylor Swift the entire time. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Though we were only together for a few hours, Contestant No. 3 took the longest to get over. I really felt like there was something there. The air of potential for something more—something greater—hung around us the whole time. Well, at least in my head. 

But after all the emotions faded and I was left with just the facts, I realized chemistry wasn’t everything. No matter how entranced we were with one another, if the other person doesn’t want it just as much as you do, nothing will happen. 

And chasing after it will only hurt yourself. 

Love doesn’t belong in a box

After everything that’s been said, the one major thing I’ve learned from all my false starts is that love doesn’t belong in a box. The way love has been portrayed in mainstream media focuses on romance. Platonic love and self love have only come into fashion after my formative years, which means that I mostly equate love to being in a romantic relationship. This is one of the most difficult lessons on love I’ve had to learn.

But that’s not what love is all about, is it? 

Another thing I’ve learned (or am in the process of learning) is knowing my worth. One of the common mistakes I’ve made in all of my romantic endeavors is that I always settled. I settled for someone who didn’t fit me, I settled on someone because I saw their potential, or I settled for the feeling of romance instead of seeing the person as a whole. 

I’m still single as a pringle, but that doesn’t mean my life isn’t full of love. Because, it really, really is. 

All of these things have allowed me to realize my worth, and I’m priceless. 

Rushing things, seeing what isn’t actually there, and being overly enthusiastic were all because I was in a hurry. Life seemingly was moving forward for everyone except myself, but that was just a lie I believed in. 

I’m no longer playing the dating game. Well for one, because love isn’t a game to be played, but also because all the love I have to give has been so well received by the people who actually love me back. 

My family, my friends, my job, and my other passions are more than enough to keep me going. 

I’m still single as a pringle, but that doesn’t mean my life isn’t full of love. Because, it really, really is. 

Nolisoli.ph © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.

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