I met a man in Finland who had hazel eyes. He asked me, “So, what’s the longest relationship you’ve ever been in?”
“Oh, you don’t want me to answer that,” I said.
“Really, why not?”
“You just–I don’t–I’d rather not.”
He didn’t make me answer the question. Instead, he returned to small talk, continuing the conversation until finally, he had chipped enough away to where I was voluntarily sharing my experience. This was the first time I could ever recall someone taking the time, having the patience and being determined to hear my story. I was terrified by the truth he demanded. My feelings of inadequacy were met with persistent encouragement, the quiet comfort that what I had to say was important to him, and as such, mattered in this world. It was peculiar to realize the weight of an empty heart just then, and only a moment later, all of its wrenching released when he said:
“Really? That happened to me too.”
“Yeah, no shit. I went through the same thing. I know exactly how you felt.”
I was dumbfounded, validated far beyond my comprehension. I sat there in the stillness of it all, looking at him smiling at me. He must’ve sensed I had a million questions so before I could ask, he said:
“Listen, this is how it’s going to happen…”
And he told me a story of my future life. It was, without a doubt, the kindest thing any human being has ever done for me: offering a way forward when I failed to see the path ahead. My vision had failed me, clouded by doubt and defeat, yet here he was confidently telling me, “This is how it’s going to be, and here’s how you’re going to make it happen.”
Thus, the power of story. He made me believe.
I think of this moment every time I struggle to envision a future. It gives me hope. But it also reminds me how difficult decisions can be at cross roads. Things become familiar on the beaten path, mostly how beaten you feel. “You just gotta break away,” he said. “It’ll be the scariest thing you ever do in your life, but you’ll live. I promise you that.”
Since returning from Finland, there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t thought about that conversation. Things are beginning to repeat themselves, and instead of wondering what lessons I’m suppose to learn this time around, I now know for sure that patience is not one of them. Neither is problem solving.