Open Letter To Gayle Forman

Dear Gayle,

I am writing to thank you. I needed to thank you for your words, your books, your stories, and to do this I needed to tell you my own Dutch love story.

I first read Just One Day when I was 18 and travelling through Europe. I had to stop. In comparison to the novel my trip felt restrictive, adventure-less (even though that’s how the majority of Allyson’s trip was too).

I didn’t ever get my one day, not in the three weeks of Europe, and I probably won’t ever. But that’s good, at 18, I wasn’t ready yet. Three years later, I still wasn’t ready. I was a mess after a mess after another mess. I was bruised, and defeated; ready to graduate from university and move on. (For good). So of course, that’s when I met him.

Jordy (prounounced Yordy), was shy and tall. He didn’t look the way he did in pictures. He was wearing cowboy boots and an ugly black sweater with his name printed on it. I couldn’t believe it was him. I started thinking of ways to leave the date early as I led him into Starbucks and sat down. He spoke loudly and with a heavy dutch accent. A farmer, he practically shouted about cows and milking (most of which I began to tune out).

“Sometimes though, when I’m milking I start to wonder what it all means…what the point of it all is, what I’m even working towards or for.”

I looked up. This simple man had caught my attention with his philosophical question. There was something there, something that wasn’t easily seen. I took him back to my place where I forced 20 minutes of High School Musical on him, tested to see how he got along with my beloved pet rabbit, and then booted him out the door with a conciliatory hug.

He texted me the next day, and the day after that, and after that. I was leaving in four months, but I was lonely. I gave him another shot, and another, and another and another. A month later, I introduced him to my family. A week after that he asked me to be his girlfriend,and without hesitation, I said yes.

Fast Forward to Now.

He’s working on immigrating to Canada, and I’m spending hours a day helping with the never-ending paperwork. It’s stressful, and terrible. It’s got us at each other’s throats almost constantly. I’ve wanted to walk away so many times. I wanted to walk away from the paperwork, from the stress, from the process and sometimes even from him. Two days ago, he yelled on the phone out of sheer frustration, and I almost did.

But see, he’s home. He’s my home.

Even though, through his immigration situation, he’s become the source of my frustrations, my stress, and my sleepless nights, he’s also the only person who’s broken my heart wide open.

He’s kind. He’s consistent. He’s extremely patient with me. He’s gentle. He’s caring, and when he walked in the door last night, I could see the how pale he was. How rundown. How red-eyed and dog tired. How terrified. How devastated he was by the situation we were in, and by the real possibility of losing me.

I couldn’t look at him. Not without crying, not really at all. I didn’t know you could actually feel a heart break. I didn’t know you could feel it crack as the cracks were happening. I didn’t realize just how physical, mental and spiritual that kind of pain could be.For a moment, I thought these were pains were sympathy, empathy. But I don’t believe those feelings could ever be born of pure sympathy.

I am sure that what I was feeling wasn’t his heartbreak. It was mine. It was realizing how gutted I would be losing him. It was feeling the pre-loss of knowing in a few months, I might be putting him on a plane to Holland while the paperwork gets figured out. It was the guilt of letting myself fall in love while knowing full-well that love might be the one thing out of and above our control.

Gayle, I didn’t get my one day. I fell into this slowly, and by accident. I fell into it despite an existing plan, despite the risks, despite not wanting this or him, or any of it really.

 Unfortunately though Gayle, I might get my one year. Depending on how this all goes, we might be apart a few weeks, a few months, or much longer. That’s the reality of it. That’s my reality.

And you know, “maybe time has nothing to do with it”.
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

I always told myself the reason I hadn’t fallen in love at 15,16,17,18,19,20, was because I was the type of person who could only have one great love. That maybe, the reason all the heartbreak, and close-calls in the past, were only close calls was because mine was a heart that could only love once. That that’s all I was capable, was to love once, but to love hard and love well.

“Doubt is part of searching. Same as faith.”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

Or maybe that’s bullshit. Maybe he’s not the one. Maybe I was wrong and this is just part of a longer story that ends with someone else. Between you and me though, I hope not.

See Gayle, I’m ready now. That’s why I’m writing this very long letter to you. I am writing because I am almost finished reading Just One Year, for what’s probably the 5th or 6th time, but the first in this new context. And in this new context, I’ve learned a new lesson.

Loving someone is such an inherently dangerous act. And yet, love, that’s where safety lives.”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

In this mess, I have tried many times to escape this immigration prison. And in doing so, I’ve built myself many different ones. In an attempt to deal with, understand and manage my stress, pain and anxiety, I have locked out the one person, locked out the love I am putting myself through all this for.

Sometimes you escape one prison only to find you’ve built yourself a different one”
Gayle Forman, Just One Year

Worse than this, I have justified the building of these prison walls, rationalized them time and again. Convinced myself they were a refuge. I have held onto them for dear life, built them up strong with my resentment towards him for putting me in this immigration prison, for making me love him and in doing so, putting me here.

Yesterday, I tore them down.

I sobbed into him as the reality hit. I took refuge in him and let him wrap himself around me. I accepted he will probably have to leave, probably for at least a few months. I cried and cried, letting him harbor my fears for the months ahead, the pure loss of being an ocean away.

Gayle, loving someone is already such an inherently dangerous act. However, loving him, loving a foreigner, makes something already dangerous, also wildly and uniquely precarious.

When I first went to read Just One Day and Just One Year again, I was initially angry that this wasn’t something you captured, but as I once again reach the ending, I am realizing that isn’t the important lesson. It is the necessary sentiment the book needed to capture. That quote is. That’s the applicable piece.

Because, love isn’t a prison. It isn’t something you protect. It isn’t something you should protect yourself from, nor is it something you can protect from external factors. It’s a risk. It’s something you have to risk. And it’s always a risk, no matter the situation, no matter the circumstances.

That is to say, love is necessarily a risk. The nature of it is such that you must risk. That you cannot protect, because in protecting love, even with purest intentions, you lose it.

For in protecting love, you are protecting yourself from the loss of that love, and in doing this, you inadvertently protect yourself from love, from having love and from being able to love. And so, there can be no protection. There can only be risk.

To most, I think this seems scarier, but your book helped me to understand it better. I understand now, that in protection there is no risk, but there is also no love. In love, there is risk, there is loss, but even if it is only for a moment, there can be love. This is what matters, this is why we must risk.

This is why I tore my walls down, because if I didn’t risk loving Jordy. If I didn’t risk it with him, I’d lose him anyway, probably prematurely.

Thank you so for helping me understand this, for helping me realize this. For helping me love.

Hannah

 

Attached in Your 20s: Being Single vs Being Serious

Remember when we were in middle school and it suddenly felt like everyone was coupling up? When suddenly recess became a receptacle for the holding of sweaty 12 year old hands and illicit makeouts on the pavement.

Well, post-grad feels kinda like that. (At least I think so).

It’s like all of a sudden we all went from making out in bars with people whose names we would never know (or care to know) and taking home strangers, to declaring our love on the internet and making things #FacebookOfficial.

Maybe this is our attempt to adult?

(Step One: Find life partner)
(Step Two: Tell everyone???)

Now before anyone gets offended I too have joined the love-zombie army. (His name is Jordy and he takes up most of my instagram lately). However, being the wildly independent-unattached-don’t-need-no-man kind of girl that I am (was?) my membership to the love club is kind of freaking me out.

Here’s why:

  1. Because my boyfriend is dutch and his immigration paperwork is a nightmare and I love him and want to marry him one day but not yet because I’m only 21 and the idea of that is scary as fuck and also I don’t want a green card marriage and neither does he.(I’m guessing that’s just a me problem though)

    SO ANYWAYS

  2. Because I see a future with him, and suddenly what I want in life, and what I picture for myself and my life is starting to include him.

    Now, that’s not saying my plans are beginning to revolve around him, or even my life, but I’m seeing how easily they could start to, and the ease with which I see this terrifies me. Which leads me to….

  3. I am terrified of compromising on what I want/or wanted because I want him (forever).

    I always prided myself on never letting myself revolve around a guy. Ever. Period. The end. I always made my own choices, my own decisions, and if they happened to be amenable for/to him then LUCKY HIM! If not….then Bye Felicia.

    But I’m starting to think more and more that maybe it’s okay to compromise on some things in the name of being happy, because what you want can change. That what you want in life is allowed to change, maybe even supposed to change as you get older/grow/whatever. Because while you do change, as long as you still are a person you like and that your past self would also like and be proud of, don’t beat yourself up for the change (I think?).

    BUT

  4. Isn’t this is the time when you are supposed to get to know you? Like the solo you? Or are those just articles and lists to make the single girls (aka me 8 months ago) feel better?

    I don’t know. A friend told me a little while ago that in the end you just have to do what makes you happy. (Which is a cliche but still true). And truthfully, I don’t think I’ll ever find someone that makes me this happy (even with the constant immigration headaches).

    My boyfriend is patient, kind, tolerant of my uniqueness (read: weirdness). He doesn’t mind tickling my feet for a whole movie, puts up with me loving my rabbit more than him (sorry babe), and works harder than anyone I know. He’s gentle, sweet, and sometimes he’s even funny. I could go on and go, but I’ll stop there because you probably get the point.

Honestly, despite these things (these GREAT things about being in a serious relationship) I’ll probably always worry a little that I didn’t sleep with enough people, or sow enough wild oats. I’ll worry that I settled down too soon or met the one to early (assuming things work out, knock on wood) (((I really really really hope they do))).

I know a lot of my friends with seriously-gonna-marry-him SO’s feel the same.I guess the grass is always greener right?

Though, in these moments when I have these doubts about it being “too-soon” “too-limiting” “too-much” for 21, I try to remember what it was before him. Sometimes, it was great. I had a lot of fun. A lot.I kissed a few boys (and a few I shouldn’t have). I did some things I’m not proud of and some I still really am  😉 . I spent time alone. I was selfish and could leave my phone off without someone worrying I was mad at them (my friends know I am not a fan of charging my phone). I focused on my rabbit, and travelled alone.

Honestly, sometimes I miss it all. Sometimes I can tell my friends miss single Hannah too. (Though they definitely don’t miss sad-lonely-broken hearted Hannah, the Hannah that often accompanied fun single Hannah.) However, I wouldn’t trade fun-singledom for my serious relationship. I wouldn’t trade what I have with Jordy for anything in the world.

So all that said, what’s better? Single or Serious?

Idk.

See, both single and serious are scary, and though I wouldn’t trade Jordy for anything, I can’t honestly say that one kind of scary is better or worse than the other. Nor can I say that one status is better  (or worse). I guess all I am saying is that just being 21 is scary.

Being 21 and in a serious relationship is scary because you worry that having an SO prevents you from being the 21 that you are “supposed to be”. However, that isn’t to say being 21 and single is any easier. Like I said before, 21 any which way is hard.

For me personally, it’s scary and it’s hard because I’m terrified I’m missing out. I am fearful that being attached means I will not only miss the growth of my 20s, but also that I will lose the best things about single Hannah. Her ambition, her candour, her creativity, her drive, her wit. Though as far as losing these things goes, I don’t think I have. I think I’ve remained the person I am. I think I’ve finally found someone who lets me be those things, the ones I am most proud of. I think maybe seriously-attached isn’t the personality catalyst  I thought it was.

That isn’t to say it hasn’t and won’t be a struggle to remain a whole person outside of my relationship. Not losing yourself in someone you love that much? I think that’s tough, especially for people our age. But then, maybe your 20s are for getting lost?

No, maybe not in that sense. Regardless, I don’t have any plans to lose myself. I like her too much. I think I’ll keep her, or at least the best parts of her around. After all, isn’t that what your 20s are really for? Finding the best parts of yourself, for discovering those things inside you and learning how not to let them go, single or taken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The In-Between Bits

When I first met my now-boyfriend, what was involved with him staying in Canada was both distant and abstract to me. It was something to be worried about if we stayed together, and that if I was around for, I planned on being a passive bystander to.

I’m pretty sure someone famous said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Though cliché, this is where I found myself a few months into dating him: in the middle of my horribly gone-awry plan to be unattached and ready to independently take on post-grad life. Instead of these things, I was not only attached, but also very much in love, and caught up in the messy reality of him having to go back to Holland.

I was sobbing into the phone and then off the phone. Ugly, raw, primal sounds, the sounds a heart makes when it’s breaking. All this made worse by my sudden and painful realization that without my knowing it, I’d fallen in love with him.

Realizing this just as he having to leave was a stupid and bitter kind of irony. It was the kind better left for indie-rom-coms without happy endings. I couldn’t believe my love story was about to be reduced to this. I had flashes of 2011’s “Like Crazy”.

I didn’t want to spend years caught up in immigration paperwork and applications for Visas. I didn’t want to have a relationship spread across continents and time zones.

I mean yes, there is a kind of romance in that, but when faced with the bitter reality of it, the romance all but disappears.

I didn’t want a life that was on hold, that was waiting for him to be back in it again. I didn’t want to be “halved by the halves that halve you halve,” and even a few moments into the reality of it, I knew the bleakness of “Like Crazy” was a reflection of such a situation’s reality. I knew I didn’t want that, but I also knew I loved him more than I’d ever loved anyone.

I’d dated. A lot.

I knew what was out there and it wasn’t a hell of a lot. There almost certainly wasn’t someone as patient, as kind, as gentle, as shy, as anything in the combination, in the way, that he was. I won’t be so dramatic as to say moving on wasn’t an option. It was something we’d talked about very early on.

Late one night over text, he told me that if he had to go back, and go back for a long time, he didn’t want me to wait for him, or to feel like I should. He said, “If you find someone that makes you happy, don’t worry about me or how I’ll feel. Just go be happy.”

We’d barely been dating at this point. We hadn’t said “I love you,” but in that moment I knew. I’d never met anyone that selfless. I’d never met anyone who would so easily put my happiness before their own.

As I sat staring at my phone with bleary eyes, I suddenly knew  that I was  so screwed. I knew that while he might be good to enough to let me go, there was no way I could do the same. I knew then that six months or so later, I’d be fighting like hell to keep him here because I couldn’t imagine being without him.

Today, like the last few days has been a hard one. I’ve cried a lot more than usual. I’ve been testy and on edge, taking my stress out on the people I love most. I’ve also, in a lot of ways, been the best version of myself. A fighter, a negotiator, a caretaker, a clown, a partner, a sympathizer, a girl in love.

Truthfully, I still don’t know what’s going to happen with him or with us, and honestly that’s the worst part. I know what I hope for. I know what I want to happen, but I don’t know what will.

I also know I love him. I know that even with all the stress I wouldn’t trade him for anyone, and I truly honesty absolutely wouldn’t trade what we have for anything.

My Grandma told me the other day that the Lord has a plan, and I should just trust in him. Neither of us are religious, not my boyfriend nor I, but right now that’s exactly what we’re going to have to do. It might suck right now, it might be really hard, but we can only trust that what’s supposed to happen will. We have to believe we have a chance.

Love,

Hannah