Walking Away

Mercedes - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on May 5, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I was waiting for a bus when I first recognized my life philosophy. It was after the demolition of a particularly dramatic relationship, when the dust had yet to settle. The stubborn part of my brain, devoted to memories, had yet to stop reminding me of the moments that had made me part of a dysfunctional, divided twosome. There was one other person waiting for the bus. She was seventy-three, she told me gravely, and touched the inside of my wrist when she made her introductions. We talked about her former country and the promise of my future as I stood on the cusp of college. She told me about her children. They were far from perfect, and while she was proud of them, she also worried. Her daughter had just left her good-for-nothing boyfriend, a situation that felt strangely relevant, and I told her as much. She turned her small body to look for the bus, and then swiveled back towards me, a sudden purpose in her gaze. “You’re a good girl,” she said, “It’s so hard to find somebody to be with, so easy to choose wrong.” The bus came to a groaning stop next to where we sat. Smiling sadly, she said “Sometimes you just don’t fit.”

It should always be so simple: People don’t always fit together. I have always seen humans as imperfect, lonely beings with a huge capacity for love. In searching for it, I’d compromised myself; let someone untrustworthy become a part of my world, and had worked, despite our obvious incompatibility, to keep him there. For me, it has always been difficult to recognize depravity in others, to see that it is impossible to build something sturdy with the self-destructive. But what I’d forgotten was that when the inevitable destruction of the relationship occurred, I alone would be the one running frantically to catch the falling bricks, because I was the only one who had placed them there in the first place.

I think that knowing when something is beyond salvaging is one of the hardest decisions to make. I have yet to calibrate the perfect balance between self-protection and risk. I am not naïve enough to think that I will never again make a mistake, let in someone whose self-interest will outweigh their sincerity. However, I do think that when I discover my mistake, I will be able to more easily identify and leave the kind of situations that make me doubt my own potential and put the things I love on hold.

I do not want a life of quiet compromise. I want to knock down walls and build them according to my own specifications. However, I am no architect. Despite all of my stubbornness and self-proclaimed know-how, I cannot design a structure sturdy enough to last when given only corrosive materials. I believe in trusting myself enough to know what relationships will last, and when others just won’t fit.