Contributed by: Anonymous woman (We will name her Leila for this article)
Story from: Canada
This began as a story about love. About the amazing experience that was my first time falling in love. But we ended before I had the chance to say I love you, and I agonized over the question: how can the story just end?
Eventually, I remembered the lesson that I have forgotten time and time again:
everything happens for a reason.
God has a plan, and something else is out there. Not someone, per se; rather there are life experiences and opportunities waiting for me to open the door and breathe in deeply. I will realize, in those moments, “this is what I was waiting for!” although I didn’t know I was waiting for anything.
At this point, I can’t imagine something else, but that’s why we have faith. To give us comfort in knowing that
“what was meant for me will never miss me, and what misses me was never meant for me.” To reassure us that things will always work out for the best.
Maybe, this is as much a story of faith as love.
* * *
I decided years ago that I would rather never marry than marry someone I didn’t love. My friend disagreed: “I would marry someone I didn’t love, if he was a good person and we were compatible. You can learn to care for someone.”
Partly, I was naïvely hopeful. I had set the bar high, and I would wait for my Prince Charming.
Partly, I was driven and independent. I had so many career interests that I knew I would be both happy and fulfilled pursuing my passions.
Partly, I was cynical about dating, relationships, love, etc. I told my parents: “I’m never getting married. Don’t ask me about boys.”
That changed one semester, when I learned to believe in love.
* * *
I first met him in the library at 3 AM. When he asked if I write for the school newspaper, I smiled, always pleased to be recognized from my byline. “Yes! You read the newspaper?”
My sleep-deprived brain later made the connection. The previous summer, I had written the front-page story on Mohammed Ali’s life, legacy, and passing, which was accompanied by a full-sized picture. My classmate reached out to me with this message: “My roommate has your article on his wall. He said to give you a shout-out for writing about Mohammed Ali.”
This was the roommate! My article was hanging on his wall. If that doesn’t say soul mates, I don’t know what does.
The following semester, we began seeing each other around campus. Something clicked – I can’t explain it, but we just had this amazing connection. He knew all the right things to say. He read my articles and quoted them to me. He talked about International Women’s Day.
I wanted to know him.
I am a strong independent woman, I tried to convince myself, and this is the 21stcentury. I know what I want, and I should do something about it. So I summoned all my courage and asked him out.
We went for coffee, our first date, on my birthday weekend. I was so nervous. But he made me feel comfortable. He was romantic, insisting on buying cake to celebrate my birthday. We talked like we had been waiting forever to know each other.
We entered a long-distance relationship almost immediately, as his internship took him to California when I returned to school the following month. Even so, the semester that followed was the happiest of my life. My stress levels decreased drastically. I was confident. My average improved. And I landed my dream internship.
To quote Cher from Clueless, I was “sublimely happy”. There was no space left for stress or anxiety. My heart was full.
I know that happiness comes from within, and that another person can’t give it to you. But he made me happier than I had ever imagined was possible. He made problems disappear. I felt like the world was draped in a new colour, and I basked in the glow of my emotions. It was magical, falling in love.
Still, distance took its toll.
I broke up with him. The short version of the story: I felt he could not make time for me; if this was a problem already, it would only be exacerbated with time. When we met for the first time after months, I was already upset, thinking about the possible outcome of this conversation.
We talked for a long time, and he was so good about it. He told me, “do what makes you happy.” Maybe I should have taken that as a sign – he would do anything to make me happy, including letting me go.
He let me go.
For days, I cried and watched Mamma Mia! on a loop. I didn’t eat or sleep. I remember thinking, I’ll never be able to listen to ABBA again.
By the time I stopped crying, I knew I had made the wrong decision. I knew it was my fault. I tried to talk to him, but he told me that I was right. That he can’t prioritize me. That he isn’t at a point in his life to be able to maintain a relationship.
Although I was the one to initiate the breakup, I couldn’t come to terms with it.
* * *
It’s been two and a half months.
I considered praying istikhara, asking God to give me guidance. But istikhara should be prayed with an open mind, willing to accept any guidance. And I wasn’t ready to hear that we have no future.
Until a couple weeks ago, when I had an epiphany.
I think God gave him to me at a time in my life when I needed someone.
Last semester, I spent a lot of time by myself. I lived alone, I studied alone, and I spent Ramadan breaking my fast alone. I remember my mom saying tearfully when she dropped me off at the airport, “Call me often. I know that your friends won’t be on campus with you this term.” It was true – most of my friends were interning that summer.
But I was okay, because I had him. He was a blessing, and I was so grateful.
People come in and out of your life for a reason. I don’t need to understand why he’s gone now, because I know why he came. Although we had a short amount of time together, those months made a world of difference to me. For my school, career, mental health, self-esteem, and general happiness.
I am reminded of a Dr. Seuss quote that I have always loved: