One Friday night about a month ago, I found myself in a small, eclectic Gainesville bar, and to my right sat a handsome man. His vibrant blue eyes peered into mine as we chatted for hours without pause, except to sip our beers. Usually, guys bore me; I find them dull or immature, but not Tim*. Tim kept me entertained with his quick wit and cool confidence, which contrasted the usual college guys that I meet in this small town—maybe because Tim was 11 years older.
Since middle school I always fantasized about meeting an older guy, like the dreamy Chad Michael Murray from One Tree Hill or the smooth George Clooney from Ocean’s Eleven. I thought guys my age were just dumb and pimply. Everyone says that older guys act more mature, which is sometimes true, but mature doesn’t always mean ready. But when Tim fit into each box on my dream list, I felt certain that Mr. Right sat beside me that night.
In the beginning, Tim seemed ready for a relationship. We talked about how he felt lonely since just moving to the area and ending a relationship, which was similar to how I first felt when moving from Los Angeles to Gainesville. After our instant connection that night, I knew I wanted to see him again. But after he cancelled on me and two weeks passed without me hearing from him, I sensed something was off. Then, of course, the instant I started to forget about him, his name popped up on my phone: “I’m back and I want to see you ASAP.”
That night, I stepped out of my car feeling enthralled yet nervous to see him again. He stood on the other side of the street waiting for me. As we walked throughout his neighborhood, my nervousness faded because he opened up about his trip back home and how much he missed it all. I, the optimistic one, suggested that he view Gainesville as an exciting fresh start. But he responded, “I don’t want to start over at my age.” I couldn’t deny he had a point. Beginning your life again in your 30s compared to your 20s must feel like taking a piece out of a Jenga tower and watching the whole thing crumbling down. That night I realized he was the one crumbling.
At that point, I hesitated to invest my feelings in him because he so badly wanted out of Gainesville when I just arrived this year. Even though we seemed compatible in many ways, we were at very different points in our lives. But my “Mr. Right Fantasy” didn’t give up just yet, and we made dinner plans for the following night.
Conversation flowed like usual, and I started opening up about family, future plans and religious and political views. He listened intently and never pushed any boundaries, both intellectually and romantically. This time, I was the one confiding in him. I could tell him anything without judgment or fear of pushing him away. Then, my suspicions from the night before happened and my hopes to continue dating him crumbled like that Jenga tower in front of me.
As we left the restaurant, I asked if he wanted to do anything else. He denied. He said he was feeling ill—emotionally ill—and would take me home. Not gonna lie, the ride home was pretty awkward. He confessed thinking about picking up and leaving Gainesville any day and warned that I shouldn’t become emotionally involved with him. Turns out, he wasn’t as ready as he thought. “Timing is everything,” he said.
Of course, ending our brief romance didn’t make me happy, but I knew it was healthiest for the both of us. Looking back, I’m thankful that he maturely communicated his emotions and respected my own feelings instead of stringing me along like most college guys would’ve done. But his statement that “timing is everything” has stuck with me to this day. Even though this man met my middle school self’s dream, he turned out not being Mr. Right because of bad timing. Dating revolves around timing: meeting in the right place at the right time and being at the same place in life. I learned that I shouldn’t write someone off just because they don’t meet my dream standards in age and looks. Mr. Right can be whom you least suspect, if at the right time.
*Name changed to protect privacy.