Comments 40

We Think We Have It All Figured Out

I never thought I’d be the girl that just…fell. I think falling can be good, like when you take a voluntary leap into the unknown, yet somehow, you accept whatever it is you’re about to get yourself into. You free fall for a while and just before you hit the ground, you yank your parachute. It lifts you up, and suddenly you can see the entire world from a distance. Everything make sense because you have the time to absorb it. The fall. It’s a gradual one. That was the girl I thought I was. That was the girl I always wanted to be.

I had no idea I’d become a girl who fell in a completely different way, a girl who let another person blindfold her before pushing her off the ledge.

I met Ben during my freshmen year of college. After a weekend filled with cheap beer and greasy pizza, I volunteered to carry the mountain of pizza boxes crowing the doorway down to the dumpster. Awkwardly, I balanced the towering boxes above my head, against my petite frame, and wobbled blindly down the hall. When I reached the elevator, I pushed the button and waited. The elevator door slid open and as I stepped inside, two boys charged out of the opposite hallway door and made their way around the corner toward the stairs.

I briefly made eye contact with one of the two boys as I stepped inside the elevator, holding my leaning tower of pizza boxes. Just as the door began to close on our momentary eye contact encounter, a hand quickly slid inside of the door, bouncing the elevator door back open.

“Need a hand?”
“I think I’m okay, thank you.”
“I’m Ben.” He stepped inside the elevator and lifted the boxes out of my hands ignoring my answer to his question.
“I’m Carley…” My voice trailed off. It was the first real look I’d been able to get of him. He was handsome, blonde, and tall enough that the pizza boxes barely grazed his chin.
“Are you new? I’ve never seen you around.”

“I just transferred here.”

We made our way down to the dumpster and he tossed the boxes in.

“See you around.” He flashed a smile at me and crossed the street.

And we did. It was like a horrible montage of perfectly ordered scenarios, set to a cheesy, acoustic, Jack Johnson song. We saw each other around campus, quite often actually. We always exchanged friendly passing hellos in the hallway, short elevator rides on the way to class, and across the room waves in the cafeteria. Eventually we began careless small talk, which turned into real conversations followed by continual hang outs, and genuine laughter. We actually had a lot in common, from music preferences to where we’d grown up, in small wealthy beach towns populated by surfers and sea lovers.

We clicked, effortlessly.

As things like this often go, Ben and I eventually became a romantic comedy gone horribly wrong, with no clear boundaries and no clear official relationship established. We were “Ben and Carley” and that’s the way it was. For the next two and a half years we became an on again off again fiasco. Two and a half years of lunch dates at the local café. Two and a half years of tipsy dance parties, clumsy hand holding, and promises to visit each other at the end of every school year.

Two and a half years of truly believing that deep down, he was a good person.

And he was.

But there is a difference between being a good person and being the right person.

You see, he wasn’t a bad guy at all; he was actually a great guy. He made me laugh and he made me feel adored when we were in each others company. Unfortunately, a pattern developed, and this pattern surfaced and resurfaced. Here’s how things went: After months spent together it would get to the point where things were verging on serious, and then the closer we became, the further he would disappear.

Just like that.
No conversation.

And I felt stupid.
And I felt used.
And then I felt furious.
And then I moved on.

I ignored the text messages, and the attempted approaches on campus. I ignored him in front of his friends and in front of my friends. I pressed “ignore” when I saw his calls coming through, even if I knew he could see me avoiding his call. I deleted text messages and flaky apologies. I rejected the puppy dog eyes at parties, and his friends trying to explain his behavior. I moved on.

Somehow, when I least expected it, after space, distance, and clarity, Ben would charm his way back into my life. It always started out the same: A kind gesture, a compliment, and a proposal to hang out. It was usually lunch at that local café, filled with lighthearted catch ups and how have you been’s. It was harmless, except it wasn’t.

It wasn’t harmless at all.
It was toxic, because I had myself convinced that I didn’t care.
And the worst kinds of lies are the ones you feed yourself.

The viscous cycle would begin again. We would consistently hang out, watch movies, hold hands, and have long conversations. I met parents and siblings, and heard family stories. I let myself fall off that cliff even faster and harder than the time before. He would be kind and caring for weeks, and without warning, he would eventually become distant and cold right before I hit the pavement.

During the last week of our sophomore year, we threw a surprise party for a close friend. Toward the end of a night filled with mixed drinks and sneaky kisses, one of Ben’s friends referred to me as his girlfriend, and the appalled look on Ben’s face was enough to make a person want to crawl into a cave. It was apparent that I wasn’t good enough. I grabbed my coat and headed for the door, making my way back toward my dorm in the pouring rain. Surprisingly, Ben chased after me.

“I’m sorry!” He shouted.
“No, you’re not.” I yelled back without turning around.
“What do you want from me?”
“I want you to care!” Finally, I turned around to face him.
“I do care!”
“Stop!” I screamed.
“I’m not good enough for you, Carley.”
“I know you’re not!”

The rain poured down on us as we stood face to face addressing our feelings for the very first time. Frustrated, I shouted, as he tried to be the person he thought I wanted him to be.

Ben told me he wanted me to visit him over the summer. I’d heard this one before. It was an ominous phrase not to be trusted. He asked if he could see me on the last day of classes, before I packed up and went home. I told him that I would be in my dorm packing, but I would be happy to grab lunch at that spot in town if he gave me a call. He told me he’d call me at 1:00, and I told him not to make plans with me if he had no intentions of keeping them.

I finished packing before noon, and I waited.
And waited.
And waited.

By 3:00 it was clear he was not going to call, so I said goodbye to all of my friends and drove two hours home.

I cried the entire way.

Again, I felt stupid.
And I felt used.
And then I felt furious.
And then I moved on.

Junior year I moved into a house with four friends. They of course asked how things with Ben and I had panned out, and I gave them the ol’ I hope I never see him again speech. Ironically, that day after moving into our new home, I ventured onto campus to pick up my books. Sitting on a bench with his feet resting nonchalantly on his skateboard, sat Ben with his friends. I tried to ignore him, but he called out my name. Immediately, I spun in the opposite direction. I developed tunnel vision on the nearest building, in which I did not even have class, and picked up my speed hoping he would not catch up to me.

He showed up on my doorstep two days later promising he’d changed.
And he had changed…for like, two months.

It was pure bliss. After every two or three weeks I sat back on my heels and expected him to run, and each time, he surprised me. The new mutual exclusivity was hard to believe at first. My friends were in just as much shock as I was, thinking that maybe he really had figured it out. He took me out to dinners and walked me to class every day. He carried my books. He told me that things were different this time.

A storm, of course, was on the horizon. We were mutually exclusive, but we still weren’t anything. I wanted to know that the games were REALLY over.

On a Saturday night in November, Ben stumbled into my apartment after a night of drinking, and passed out on my bed. Around 2:00 in the morning, my phone rang. I noticed a girl’s name on the screen who I had not met before. Not wanting to know the obvious answer, I let the phone ring and tried to fall back asleep. Of course, the phone rang again, so I picked up. The confused girl on the line asked if Ben still planned to spend the night with her.

The next night, Ben and I met up at the library to study. I was uncomfortable the whole evening, and despite Ben’s attempts at carrying on like things were normal between us, I had nothing to say. I didn’t want to play games, I was sick of the chase, I just wanted answers. After nearly three years of pretending things were fine, I decided something needed to change, or I needed to leave. I was tired of being the girl that he kept letting go. I grabbed by bag, stood up to leave without saying a word, and Ben followed me out the door.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.
“I need to know something.”
“Sure, what’s up?”
“What we are.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we’ve been doing this dance for almost three years, Ben.”
“What do you want me to say?” I could sense his resistance to the conversation.
“I want to know if we are dating.” The band aid had been ripped off, I thought the worst part was over.
“I can’t do this, Carley.”
“I think I deserve an answer.”
“I’m sorry. I can’t give you one.” He responded.

Everything was clear.

“Then we’re nothing.” I answered.

Ben took a step toward me, and hesitated. He went to speak, and stopped himself. For the first time in almost 3 years, he was both remotely and briefly cautious with his actions. Instead of fixing things, instead of explaining himself, he turned around and walked away, leaving me standing there alone.

I sat down on the stone wall next to the library and watched him walk away from me.

In my head, my own voice echoed, turn around, turn around, please turn around…”

And he didn’t. Not once.

I guess I’m sharing this story because I deserved better. It didn’t matter that everybody and their mother knew that Ben wasn’t good enough for me. I was stubborn. I blatantly disregarded my own feelings in the midst of my feelings being disregarded by somebody else. I was caring a lot about somebody while taking absolutely no time to care about myself. That should have been the first red flag, but there were many more that followed

There are people holding onto the hope that that the person they are seeing will figure things out. They fight “the good fight” and wait patiently for the day that the light bulb will go off. They believe against all odds and advice that things will change and the person will love them back. Sometimes, it’s not enough. Sometimes you’ve done everything right, you’ve done more than you should, you’ve waited out the rain and it only rained harder.

Just remember, YOU are enough, and you shouldn’t wait three years to figure that out. YOU deserve the whole world and there is somebody out there who is going to give it to you.

If you keep chasing the person who is never going to give you what you need, you risk losing the person out there who wants to. Or worse, you risk losing yourself.



  1. Elliott says

    Wow..what a similar story. Except I was you, and my ex-girlfriend/friend/idk what the hell we were was Ben. Glad to see you made it through and are happy with someone now! Definitely a great lesson to learn.

    • That gray area is so shady. It’s amazing what we are willing to glaze over because we think somebody is worth it. Real talk, somebody once told me something along the lines of, “the ones who are worth the trouble, usually don’t cause you any.” It rings true.

  2. Fantastic post, Carley. I have to quote this line: “But there is a difference between being a good person and being the right person.”



    • Thanks Chris! The new John Mayer CD makes an appearance in the 8tracks mix this week! I appreciate your kind words xoxo

      • Of course it does 😉 And which song(s) made it on your mix? I haven’t had a chance to listen to it. Yet.

      • You’ll have to listen!! A little Kings of Leon, a little Ed Sheeran, a little Of Monsters and Men. It’s a good one 🙂 compliments the piece.

      • Loved it. It’s kept me company during my morning, and it will make another appearance this afternoon 😉

  3. Such a great post. I may be starting the same path you went through. I have to figure out what we are & I hope that by reading this I can have enough courage to walk away if the outcome isn’t what I want.
    Thanks for posting, it really helped me out today!

  4. Great post, I think as women we have such a desire to fix/save/help, and that’s a precious attribute when applied to the right situation. You were brave to walk away. Relationships are hard work, but when the bright red flags are there from the beginning it’s usually nothing but trouble.

    • Oh for sure. Every relationship takes compromise and patience, which takes effort on BOTH ends. The right ones put the effort in.

  5. Trials & Tribulations Post Grad says

    Thank you for this post. I have to say that this was exactly what I needed to read tonight. It has been almost four years of a similar game and it is about time I walk away.

    • I can’t speak for your situation, just remember that it doesn’t have to be this hard. If a relationship feels like pulling a tooth, it’s probably time to move on.

  6. Me too, Carley. Except I wasted 10 years…and it was 10 years that ended at a point in my life where I no longer had the youth, courage, or desire to try again with anyone. But when you see the light and accept the truth it is very liberating. Funny how we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear and are surprised when we do see the light. How could I be so stupid! I wasn’t, I was just human.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. You are such a great storyteller Carley. I was definitely in a similar situation in highschool, albeit not for as long. It’s weird to be in a non-relationship like that, where you’re holding on to what it could be, and not what it is. Can’t wait to listen to the mix!

  8. emmyjuneborninmay says

    I just love reading you writing. That is all 🙂

  9. Caitlin says

    I had the playlist on in the background while reading your story for the full effect 🙂
    Reminds me a lot of my past relationships (yes, plural).
    Thank you for sharing Carley.

  10. Lacey says

    I came across your blog on a facebook page announcing they had just given you a new template, I’ve been obsessed with it ever sense. This post especially. I think the majority of people have had that one person that always winds up coming back, I know I have. But your post put it into words so much better than I ever could, and it made me realize just how ridiculous those relationships are. Thank you for this, it was beautiful.

    • I’m so glad you found my blog, Lacey! Cherry On Top Designs created my template, it’s custom made, so I had full input on what I wanted. I love the way it came out 🙂 I’m glad you were able to connect with my piece and I hope you come back soon! xo

  11. As a male commenting on this, I so get it. It is like a co-dependant relationship. Each of you are getting something from it temporarily. Validation of being a person who can be loved, perhaps comfort in knowing you are needed. But somehow always falling short of love itself. A wonderful and compelling story I need to share with my daughter and others as they continue to create their vision of a true and lasting relationship. Thank you.

    • Thanks for reading! Being in a loving, committed, happy relationship now with the person I know I am going to spend the rest of my life it, it would be so easy to look back on this experience and cast it aside, but the truth is, I really did genuinely care, probably more than I should have.

  12. drbls101 says

    Holy. That was awesome… I think just about everyone can relate to this. Why do we all go through it and do this to ourselves. I love that you made an attempt to warn people but I definitely think this is something everyone needs to experience and learn from. Though it can be the hardest lesson…
    Your story could have been mine.
    Loved it.

    • I’m so glad you loved it! Looking back, this experience taught me so much. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t still care about this person. He was a huge part of my learning experience. I did learn, however, how not to love him. That was the most important lesson of all.

  13. Sadie says

    It’s like I’m reading my own life story. Except the guy really was named Ben, and I wasted 4 years. I can say that I learned a lot though, so maybe it was worth enduring.

    • I’m glad you can relate and I’m sorry you also had to go through this. I can’t say that his name was Ben, or that it was a waste, but I definitely learned a lot!

  14. Cailyn says

    Carley, I can’t even explain how much this spoke to me. I had a person like that in my life for a very, very long time. Thanks so much for reminding me that none of it was really worth it. This was a fantastic post.

  15. Pingback: I Got a Pocket, Got a Pocket full of SUNSHINE AWARD « Ranting on the Lolo

    • Thank you, that’s a lovely thing to say! I appreciate your kind words. Hopefully you took something away from your experience that made you a stronger person! 🙂

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