In the summers between my sophomore and senior years at college, I worked at a steakhouse in my hometown. I needed the money for maintaining a beat up old car, for books, and also to have some semblance of a social life. I started out busing tables, and gradually found my way up to waiter and bartender. I liked the various jobs, and enjoyed learning new skills. More important, though, was the fact that I was exposed to a fresh group of peers from around my area that all had different goals, aspirations, and backgrounds.
One of my favorite parts of working at the restaurant was enjoying the presence of being around some very beautiful women. Unlike the girls at college, my female co-workers were generally middle class, led regular lives, and worked very hard. I was always impressed with their tenacity and courage, especially when things got stressful or customers were being difficult. Had I been in similar situations, my BPD temper would have gotten the better of me.
One girl’s name was Stephanie B. When I first met her, she was working herself through school and dating the bartender/lounge waiter, whom she met at the state college. I was always a little envious of her boyfriend, in part because he was a high school football star, was tall, dark and handsome, and well built. He had all the characteristics most girls would find attractive, and he used them to successfully land a relationship with this beautiful girl. He and I really didn’t talk much, except when working. I think he sensed that I felt ill at ease with him, so instead of reaching out, he preferred to keep his distance, and at times, be standoffish.
Stephanie was French-Canadian, blond hair with blue eyes. Her sister also worked at the restaurant. Her name was Katie, and she had dark eyes and dark hair, a completely different yet equally beautiful look. They were both thin and very physically attractive. Additionally, I could tell that they were both intelligent, especially Stephanie. I respect intelligent women and find them attractive, sometimes even more so when they try to hide it a little. Sometimes I felt like saying, “Don’t be ashamed that you’re smart and special”, but this would have been inappropriate coming from a guy she just met and possibly within earshot of her boyfriend. I called them the “Day and Night” girls to myself, as a way to contrast the ways each girl differed.
When considering future employment and plans, Stephanie seemed to a little more organized than her sister. She was a really hardworking person. When each summer began, I learned that she was progressing through school, gradually working her way towards a degree. It was amazing that she took class during the day and then worked at the restaurant at night. At times, the job was tiring and required a lot of patience.
After the summer of my Senior year, I returned to work as usual, saddened to hear that Stephanie was working at a different restaurant now, although she was still dating the same guy who worked downstairs. Every once in a while, she would appear at night to hang out with her boyfriend. I felt stupid a couple times when I walked in on them cuddling in one of the dining areas when I was cleaning tables at the end of the night. She was really devoted to her boyfriend and he seemed to equally cherish her as well. As the college kid busing tables, I felt a little dumb and at a loss for words, even though the both of them were basically the same age I was.
I stopped working at the steakhouse about 6 months after I finished college, looking to get my first real job. Obviously at this point, I never really saw Stephanie again. I used to hang out with some great guys at the restaurant, and once in a while they’d mention that Stephanie, or her sister Katie, were finishing school and still working hard to pay their own way. Then, when my first job in a supermarket fell through and I left for Costa Rica, I never heard about them again.
Fast forward to January 2010. It was the beginning of my sixth year in Costa Rica, and the days of restaurant work were long gone. One day, I decided to look up some of my former co-workers online and visit their Facebook pages, if I could find them. Sure enough, I was able to track down both Stephanie and Katie’s Facebook pages, and they both looked happy and well situated.
I dug around a bit more: I slowly was able to fill in the lost time between when I last worked at the restaurant and the present, nearly 7 years later.
As it turns out, Stephanie broke up with her boyfriend about a year or so after I called it quits at the restaurant. I think it was because they were both going in different directions. He was studying IT and looking to land a local job, while she was pushing herself towards higher education. Indeed, by 2003, she had finished undergraduate studies and had become a registered dietitian. This was always of interest to me because I frequently met with dietitians throughout the course of my Type 1 Diabetes treatment.
That, however, was not all. Stephanie wanted to do much more. While I was bouncing around Costa Rica and Central America, it turns out she met a new man, who was a radiologist and medical doctor. A relationship began, and she decided to pursue her master’s degree, completing research at one of the top universities in the country. Then, shortly after completing her master’s, she went a step further: she decided to go for her doctorate. She was able to attend school in Switzerland on scholarship, and began working with some of the top minds in her field, while at the same time building an impressive resume that included the ability to speak three languages in addition to English. She had finished her dissertation and was expected to earn a Phd early this year.
When I saw this a month or so ago, I was extremely impressed. What an amazing person, and better yet, what an amazing woman to date. I kick myself for not being more confident or social around her, though during my summers at the restaurant it was clear she was dating the other guy. This girl wasn’t just dating material, she was marriage material. She was the kind of woman that could laugh, cry, hold an intelligent conversation, and impress others with natural good looks. She really outclassed the competition, so to speak.
At the end of her dissertation, she briefly listed some acknowledgments for her work. She thanked her professors and family. The final than-you was even more poignant: she thanked her now husband for giving her the love and support necessary to reach this momentous achievement in her life.
I was stunned and humbled at the same time, and gradually came to some conclusions. While her boyfriend at the restaurant may have been good looking and fun, in reality he was probably holding her back emotionally and intellectually. Her now husband, on the other hand, was an established doctor who not only supported her quest for higher knowledge, but also PUSHED her beyond even her own expectations towards a terminal degree, something that most people only dream about.
More importantly, this little chunk of history that I rubbed elbows with now 8 years ago, clarified an important aspect about relationships: the greatest love is not only one that excites you, supports you, and respects you, but also pushes you beyond all your own self expectations. Clearly, Stephanie possessed the raw intellect and drive all along to earn a doctorate. All she needed was just a little nudge from the right person who believed in her.
If ever I fall in love and marry, whether or not my BPD is a factor, I would like to find someone that inspires me, too. It’s true that a girl with her looks probably got a lot of offers along the way, but she knew when she found just the right man, because he truly, unconditionally, and fervently supported her to reach higher than she ever imagined.
This is what I might call a form of “true love”: a feeling absent of envy, unbridled lust, or competition that is instead replaced by love that serves a higher purpose and pushes us to a higher calling.
If I might be as lucky to find a woman like this.
Congratulations, Stephanie B., you earned it…