This is Not a Failure. This is a Lesson.

“So what were your dates like?” asked my brother Marcus when we met up for dinner at Mad Hatter in Dupont Circle during yet another business trip.

“Uhhhh…” I started. One second of silence became five and five became ten.

Marcus started waving his hand impatiently. “Are you going to say anything here?” he responded half-sarcastically.

“Wow,” I said out aloud, “the fact I have to stop and think about this is a huge red flag,” to which my brother, with his eyes wide open, nodded his head aghast.

Last weekend, I decided to call it quits with Jeff after dating him for four months. In a way, I would say the breakup was just shy of mutual, that is, he had broached the topic of us not being as compatible as he’d hoped we were.

Now, mind you, I’m not crying. I’m disappointed not so much in the breakup itself, but in the elements surrounding the breakup. The so-called “ABCD” rule did not apply here at all – no abuse, beating, cheating or drama; in no way am I referring to that at all. This was at least in my eyes, drama free. There’s nothing wrong with Jeff; I think there’s another fine lady out there waiting to sweep him off his feet.

Throughout my travelling in January (a time period in which he was gone on his own vacationing as well) I thought about it a bit. And I took this decision seriously that I consulted upwards of 10 of my friends and relatives. Not one, not two, but ten. I needed a variety of opinions, and I avoided individuals who I knew off the gate would be biased in how they felt about the issue.

We come from two vastly different worlds, and it was becoming more apparent as time wore on. But in the longer run, I’m not so sure this would have worked out.

A few months before I met Jeff, I went out with another medical resident and on the second date, he revealed a fact that to me was a dealbreaker: he wanted his future wife to spend copious amounts of time raising the family and essentially be a stay at home mother. Being the pro-career individual I am, that was an easy decision to make.

Here it was harder. For one, when we started dating, he appeared way more interested in me, than I had initially been in him. But the more I learnt about him, the more I liked. I’m not sure where he stood on that scale regarding myself. However, in these past four months, I also learnt a lot about myself. I learnt what is most important to me in life. And I learnt in what I’d like in a partner.

Yes, I have the same dealbreakers. Those haven’t changed. I don’t see myself as a family-oriented person at all still, my own family drama notwithstanding, yet I’m not a party animal. I have a different set of goals and passions, and unfortunately they weren’t ones that particularly thrilled Jeff either. I’d rather spend time on the road working or playing the business world’s power scene and networking and being an introvert, the social scene wore him out. My passion for running drew not motivation but resentment from him, and my 5am workouts drew grumblings from him. (Turns out this is a lot more common that I realized.)

Even worse, discussing graduate school drew not support but sarcasm from him. That pretty much did it.

“You’re going to work and study like this for 4 years?” It was followed by a rather sharp comment about being Asian that whilst sarcastic, showed a bit of ignorance that I wasn’t about to let go unchecked.

“You know in this economy all sorts of people are looking for work, right? You know that graduate school costs money and not everyone can afford to take two years off and do it full time, right?” I also informed him that my incoming class is quite diverse on an ethnicity scale although not by gender: males outnumber females by a ratio of roughly 2:1 if not worse.

I was forced to “grow up” a long time ago, whereas in his case, he’s been through 8 straight years (undergraduate and medical school) of school, so he hasn’t quite realized a “real world of work” routine quite yet. He had stressed to me a “work hard, relax hard” lifestyle and it seemed at least in his eyes, my own passions – and who I was and what I did – only stressed him out.

“He’s a bit too relaxed for you, and he’s likely intimidated by you, plus I’m looking at your Twitter account, Facebook and your blog, I think you’re getting more of a high cooking, baking and spending time with your friends and training for your races with other people than you are with him,” my friend Roy remarked. “I mean, I know you have to hide your relationship from family on Facebook, but the fact he hasn’t shown up with you anytime you’ve hit Rittenhouse is a huge problem. I know you mentioned he’s anti-Rittenhouse, but come on. If it wasn’t for our friends, I wouldn’t touch that neighbourhood with a ten-foot pole! Where was he when we had the all-nighter at Becca’s or Jillian’s party at the Walnut Room?”

“I think he actually had interviews for residencies,” I replied. But then it dawned on me – he was not a dancer, nor would he have lasted anywhere near as long at any of the parties I went to. But then again, I’ve dated other introverts, and these issues have never come up. On the flip side, I’ve spent more than twice as much time with the crew than I did with him.

I know it’s not that way for everyone. But I still have hope. My cousin Adrian, who runs his own eco-friendly business, has to attend to it 24/7 yet he’s found a way to focus his energies on his girlfriend of a year and change. And she loves him for who he is, and Adrian is even finding more time to spend with her even as she completes her masters degree.

(And in case you’re wondering, this is the same Adrian who will run with me in this year’s MCM October 2011.)

But in discovering what’s important to me in a relationship, I also discovered what I can afford to compromise on. I also discovered other elements that I might have more difficulty doing so, but at the same time I am finding more people out there with common interests.

I want someone who challenges me. Mentally, socially, athletically, I’m not even sure it matters how the individual does it, just that he does it.

Work hard, play hard. This goes hand in hand with the above in a way, although at the same time, what I found surprising is that is this is a core element in our philosophy differences that may have driven us apart. Furthermore, he’d cited compatibility issues, and now the more my cohorts, cousins, Marcus and I thought more into it, we figured his lack of effort was most likely the effect of his waning enthusiasm for me.

All in all, I’m still learning, and I’m easily sure Jeff is as well. However, there were definitely occurrences in mine with Jeff that made me a bit concerned as to how much I had been missing out on life and how much it could be – or was – hurting me now. It definitely made me aware of the catching up I had to do. At the same time, there were also occurrences that underscored larger issues, where I should have known better that this probably wouldn’t work out, yet there was a part of me that wanted to see enough of those instances before making a call either way.

End of the day, I have no hard feelings; I had moved on emotionally a month before I actually had broken up with him, and I just needed this done and over with. I knew deep down at this point there was no chance in hell anything was changing course and I didn’t want to be unhappy any longer than I had been. My emotional needs were not being met and it was highly unlikely they’d ever be met anytime soon, I walked and have zero regrets doing so.

In the end, I am confident we both learnt something here, albeit different lessons, I’d think. I am sure someday we both will find what we are looking for in life and love.

No regrets, folks. If anything I’m a lot happier now.

2 thoughts on “This is Not a Failure. This is a Lesson.

  1. I think it’s great that you are paying attention to what you do, and don’t, want. It’s so easy to stay with someone who is OK, but not great. Just chalk this up to learning and it will bring you one step closer to finding exactly what you are looking for. Take care of yourself!

    • Thank you much for the advice Catherine! I will admit it’s taken me a while to get to this level – knowing what I want – and that being all amidst some VERY painful lessons in life. But now that I’m here, that it will be all fine in the end no matter what. Thanks again.

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