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Moments That Define Us

Recently, I have been thinking about moments, events, and people that have had an impact on who I am today. There was a question on an application form for an academic scholarship where I was supposed to write down what I believe that has turned me into who I am today and what my strengths today might be. I wrote something I felt people would expect me to write, what they wanted to hear. I wrote about college and my classes and my interests. I wrote about the character traits I like most in myself and that I believe will help me get to where I want to go. But even as I wrote the words, they didn’t feel right.

So I have been thinking about the moments that have really, truly, irrevocably had an impact on my life, that have changed my mind and my soul’s ambitions, and that have defined me more than any other moments ever have. I kept thinking about how moments change people all the time.

The glances, the touches, and the whispers that carry more meaning than we are truly comfortable with. The lost opportunities, the hesitations, and the almost-but-not-quite decisions that we think back on years later and wish we had met differently. They all show and tell and, sometimes even, scream what we cannot and will not express.  If we consciously chose to deal with their meaning in the moment, whenever they’re happening and threatening to overwhelm us, they might never turn into those defining moments. They are the moments that define us because we don’t define them. We don’t act and we don’t manipulate. We live them, these moments. We live them and we let them happen, sometimes we even let them pass us by. And years later, we realize that they defined us. They defined who we were then and who we became after.

There is one moment I’m sure I will carry with me for a very long time to come. A while ago, years ago even, I was standing on a staircase, waiting for a girl to leave the bathroom at my friend’s house so I could go in. We were at a farewell party of a mutual friend who was leaving the country to go study abroad. It was summer and I felt warm and I just wanted to use the bathroom. I was alone, and then my friend, the one we had all come to say goodbye to, came ambling down the stairs. He was drunk, clutching the banister a little too tightly underneath his hands. He stopped in front of me. We talked for a bit. He brushed my hair out of my face. He said my name in a way that, to this day, I cannot describe because of how it made me feel. And then two other girls came around the corner to join me in waiting for the bathroom to be free. I’m pretty sure he would have kissed me if they hadn’t interrupted. Our long-standing friendship would have changed because I had a crush on him even before that day and he was leaving the country.   

It was one of those moments that defined who I became, and I never had any control over the moment itself. First, it had been him who initiated the contact. Then, it had been the girls who interrupted us. I had no control. I had no way to grab it and hold on. It simply happened, passed me by, and forever changed who I was. We remained friends as we were before. We never had another moment where liquid courage could have made us retake that step, retrace that moment, and finally take that leap of faith.

It was only one moment. It was only one lost opportunity. It was only one might-have-been, but it had an impact on the way I look at men today and on the way I think about romance. It’s a moment that defined me, without me ever wanting it to become so important. It’s exactly the kind of moment I could never write about in an application form. And yet, it’s one of those moments that defined who I am.