“I can’t just give all of myself out there. I have to be a little more on the fence. I have to be careful about who I give myself to.”
Note: Jaden and Abigail are pseudonyms to protect the identities of the subjects
When Jaden began working at a noodle bar in August of 2018, he was 19 and
hopeful about love. He had struggled with past romantic relationships, but had a feeling that there was a soulmate for him and that he would find her eventually.
At that time, however, Jaden wasn’t actively searching for a partner. Instead, he was focused on exploring his interests and figuring out what he wanted out of life.
He didn’t expect the immediate attraction he felt to Abigail, one of his co-workers.
“She had good energy about her,” Jaden said. “She was almost like a free spirit. She really liked to just enjoy the moment.”
Because she was 16, Jaden said he didn’t think about pursuing a serious relationship. Yet, as time passed, he began thinking about her more and more. He liked that she carried herself with confidence, set high standards, and was so focused on her own pursuits.
“She glowed when she was at work,” he said. “I couldn’t not pay attention to her after a certain amount of time.”
After a year of suppressing his feelings, he stopped caring about the 3 year age difference, for he told himself they could make a relationship work if they were committed enough. He decided to get Abigail souvenirs from his two month trip to Bali, Indonesia and Hawaii in the fall of 2019 to represent his feelings for her.
“I figured: once I get the chance, once she says yes to hanging out with me or going on a date, and I get to show off my charisma, my waiviness, get to show off who I am, then that would be it,” Jaden said. “She would see me and I would see her and I would win that girl.”
With that assurance, he bought her a pink turtle ornament decoration and a blue bracelet with turtles on it at a jewelry store in Bali. He also bought a chocolate flavored package of coffee at a coffee shop, but an hour drive away, he realized that her favorite flavor was vanilla. Frantically, he searched for a scooter to rent so that he could drive back; not finding one, he called a taxi. Questioning whether he was doing too much, he confessed his feelings to the driver, who teased him slightly before asserting that Jaden shouldn't deny his emotions.
“He was saying something about holding on to her and not letting go and telling her how I really felt and not hiding it and not waiting,” Jaden said. “‘You never know,’ he said. ‘You never know if she feels that way about you.’”
Soon after he returned home, one of his co-workers invited him to a birthday party. There, Jaden saw Abigail again and his feelings reignited.
The two started talking. They joked and laughed. She told him she had missed him and Jaden told her about his travels and how he had thought of her. Later that night, he drove her home. In front of her house, they sat in the car, talking and kissing.
“I told her everything, Jaden said. “I told her all my feelings about her and how much I thought about her and that it’s real. I really feel this way about her. She was reciprocating it and telling me the same.”
As Abigail walked from his car to her house later that night, Jaden stared after her, almost in disbelief. He had felt an undeniable connection—one that he thought she did too—and he felt overwhelmingly hopeful.
A few days later, he texted Abigail to ask her out on a date. She didn’t reply.
“She meant too much to me,” Jaden said. “I invested so much into the thought of [a relationship with her], put too many feelings into it,” Jaden said. “I was coming all to her and she saw that and probably thought she had me wrapped around her finger.”
After a week, Jaden texted her again, asking to meet up in person to talk. He wanted to give her the gifts from Bali and then let go and move on, because his hope had become exhausting. She never responded.
“I’ve been holding onto these gifts,” Jaden said. “I don’t know what I should do with them. I don’t know if I should throw them in the water, in the ocean or something. I obviously misjudged the situation and I misjudged her.”
Afterwards, Jaden’s confidence dissipated and he began criticizing himself. He became depressed and unmotivated.
He said that he didn’t know what to do or how to be comfortable with himself because he spent so much effort trying to devote himself to Abigail.
“I know from experience that I can be a lot with my emotions and put too much out there,” Jaden said.
He realized that he idolized her in a way that was detrimental to his own health. He saw her as beautiful, yet the sparks he felt were largely in his head and the future he imagined with her was all just a wishful fabrication.
“I can’t think everyone’s going to be the one,” he said. “I can’t just assume that. I have to let them show me what they’re about and give pieces of myself along the way. I can’t invest like that.”
He was never truly confident that Abigail felt the same connection he did, yet he was completely honest about his feelings, which left him vulnerable. Now, he “has his guards up.” He fears that quickly opening up to others will ultimately push them away.
“I can’t just give all of myself out there,” he said. “ I have to be a little more on the fence. I have to be careful about who I give myself to.”
While Jaden still thinks of Abigail, he said the heartbreak has gotten easier since he began focusing more on his personal goals, such as learning chemistry, saving up money for a car, and teaching himself how to play the guitar. Although there’s a part of him that still wants to be with her, Jaden said that letting her go allowed him to direct the love he had been trying to give others to himself.
“That heartbreak gave me more insight about myself,” Jaden said. “I gave myself away too much and expected the same in return. I definitely learned to pay more attention to the energy of [attraction] and to have more comfort with myself when it comes to being alone.”