Sometimes, you make stupid decisions. It’s a thing that happens. It happens often in your 20s, as you’re trying to understand and establish yourself in adulthood. Hopefully everything works out fine, and you aren’t completely screwed as a result. I’ve made my fair share, but there’s one in particular I consider the stupidest decision of my life thus far.
In college, I had been dating an old friend long distance on and off for a while. Looking back, I think a lot of the endurance of that situation on my part was due to low self-esteem and terrible self-image, but such is life. Approaching graduation, when it came time to figure out what next, we decided to prioritize trying out our relationship for real.
We then decided to do this in the stupidest way possible.
We were going to move to a new city across the country, where we knew practically no one and had no jobs lined up, and move straight into a one bedroom apartment together. Oh yeah, and then let’s throw in a joint pet after a month. Really, we were clearly thinking ahead. We just loaded every stress possible into that one bedroom and somehow we were convinced it would work. Ain’t it great to young and blissfully ignorant?
It seemed logical at the time. It’s what you do when you want to be serious about a relationship, right? It’s the logical step. Well…no.
So, suffice to say, it was a shitshow. Straight up, the worst. We definitely did not click on a domestic style front, we had the absolute worst communication, and terribly mismatched libidos. Pretty much nothing worked. We were both miserable, but we kept trying to make it work. It was complicated because neither of us were making a lot of money and we were living in an expensive city. Our finances and logistics were linked, on top of the emotional history and all of that jazz. Oh, and then there was the cat. In one of the most unfriendly pet cities in the country. There weren’t a lot of good options in terms of living situations. We had dug ourselves into quite a hole.
At moments it was suffocating, feeling as trapped as I did, but I also disappointingly just let myself normalize the unhappy situation. The space itself was claustrophobic, but I felt I had nowhere else to go. So, I just resolved to live with it and deal.
Finally, after three years, he ended it. I will forever be angry at myself for not being the one to call it quits, but the truth is that while I was violently unhappy, I was also scared–I still hadn’t worked out the whole independent adulthood thing. So, when the break finally did happen, I was ready for it but also completely not.
He decided to move back to California (of course, leaving a month and a half after breakup, the whole time refusing to stay anywhere other than our apartment). After he peaced out, I was left to clean up the mess. He never even told a number of his friends he was leaving, so I had to help them process their emotions as well as my own. I also had to deal with everything from sorting through three years of accumulated crap to finding a living situation that fit my life that I could afford (and would allow me to keep my cat).
And the whole time I was so angry—he got to walk away, I had to pick up the trash. He got to avoid any baggage from a bad decision, hands washed of all of it. I had to deal with the fallout. There were nights when I was cleaning out our space and I would just scream over little things, like finding espresso beans he left when he took the espresso maker. Silly things that all signified a larger feeling of being left with the weight of it all. I vowed through that period to always take care of myself, to owe nothing to anyone, and be as independent as possible. That way I’ll have control and not be in a position to be screwed over.
All things considered, it wasn’t all that bad. I made enough money at that point to take a month or two in our apartment to figure out what next. I wasn’t out on the street or otherwise completely screwed. And I came out of it ok. However, there was some residual emotional damage. Some of which I’m only finding out about now.
Let’s fast forward to the present. I live in a beautiful little apartment all my own in my favorite neighborhood in the district. I’ve got all the control and independence I need. I’ve been dating a wonderful person for about a year and a half, and our relationship is almost disgustingly healthy. We both walked into our relationship with a wealth of experience, and we talk through and work on every issue that comes up. He’s become my best friend and a huge part of my life.
So here’s the thing. He lives in a group house with good friends of his, friends that have become mine as well. A couple weeks ago, one of his roommates decided she needed to move out, and so we’ve started discussing the possibility of me moving in. I’d have my space separate in the house and we’d live with other people, so it would be like dipping our toes into living together.
And it seems like a logical next step, this time much more cautious and for real. And at first, I was all about it. We get along so well, and I really love his roommates too. I spend half my time at their house anyway, so it wouldn’t be much of a change, right?
Well, the more I sit and think about it, the more I get crippled with anxiety. What if it doesn’t work out? Once again I’m in a situation where the other party is logistically safe if things go awry, but I’ll be back to nothing. I’d be moving into his space—I’ll be the visitor.
To make this move happen, I’ll have to give up my rare gem of an apartment, and if things don’t work out, I’ll be thrown back into the increasingly-insane rental market, looking for any situation that won’t be completely miserable or bankrupt me. And even if it does work, I’m giving up space that is 100% mine to share with three boys. And I need a fair amount of personal space (plus, giving up my own fridge will be a sad thing). And there’s another cat in the mix, one that generally doesn’t get along with other cats, so what if that becomes a complete disaster? I can’t just get rid of my cat. I’m not that kind of pet owner. There’s just so much to consider.
The fact that I’m even mulling over all these points shows that I’m approaching this with a more adult outlook, but the fact that I’m so caught up in the what ifs shows that I am still carrying scars from before. I can’t even see the good stuff anymore. I start hyperventilating at the idea of ultimate failure. The adult me that wants to weigh the pros and cons and approach things logically is overwhelmed by the anxious me that’s still caught up on stupid, bad decisions from 6 years ago.
We all make bad decisions. It’s a part of life. I guess part of being an adult is balancing out the impact of those decisions. This is a thing that isn’t talked about so much, and something I’m really struggling with. How much of my thought process is about responsibility and how much about panic?
I don’t know what I’m going to decide to do here, but no matter what, things will work out and life will go on. That much I know.