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I’m Nobody’s Number One

I had lots of miles to drive before arriving on the east coast of Australia. I received a message from Josh, who I had met in Whistler nine months earlier, and who I was supposed to see in Cairns. I also received a message from Chris, who ghosted me twice. Why does dating have to be so hard?

Days 417-418

I was camping in my campervan rental in the Northern Territory of Australia. I ate some yogurt for breakfast and then drove to Katherine and stopped at the visitor center. 

I asked them about driving highway 1, which looked like the shortest way to Cairns. Unfortunately, that road is exceptionally corrugated and rough, like the Gibb River Road. The woman behind the counter told me that I’d need a heavy-duty four-wheel-drive vehicle, and it would be slow going. The rental agreement did not permit me to drive on a road like that because of the damage it would likely cause. 

Instead, I would need to drive 650 kilometers (404 miles) south towards Tennant Creek. On the way out of the visitor center, I grabbed a pamphlet with rules on what is allowed (and not allowed) when crossing the Queensland border.

The highway was paved, straight, and felt draining. I was getting more comfortable driving the campervan, but it was sensitive to bumps and was sometimes hard to control. As I drove south, the road became more and more empty.

I stopped to use the restroom and get some gas at Threeways Roadhouse. There was a caravan park with a bar, but nothing else around. It was another 25 kilometers to Tennant Creek, and my mileage was limited. I was afraid of going over, so I decided to stay the night there. The road going east was there, so going all the way to Tennant Creek was out of the way. 

The caravan park was run down. It was a dirt lot with nothing there except a few hookups with electricity. I found a spot and pulled my campervan in. Then I made a sandwich for dinner.

As the sun started to fade away, the air outside got cold. I took a shower and then sat on the bed, writing for my blog. Then it got too cold, and I climbed inside the blankets to warm up.

I woke up after a cold night in my campervan. While I ate breakfast, I talked with my friend Debbie on FaceTime. It was great catching up because we didn’t get a chance to chat the previous two weeks. It was 10:30 am, and I needed to hit the road. Before I left the campsite, I fueled up on gas and opened the hood to check the oil. 

The space under the hood was extremely tiny – only about ten inches deep. The front was tiny and looked smashed in. I was struggling to find the dipstick and asked a guy walking by. He briefly looked at it and then said he wasn’t familiar with it.

I pulled the van into a parking spot and continued to look around. I got the manual out, but it showed a picture of a regular engine with a regular dipstick. I googled and watched a video, but it wasn’t helpful. I checked Apollo’s website (the rental company) about finding it, and all it said was to check the dipstick. 

I was about to give up, but after ruining my Subaru Outback because I ran out of oil, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. Apollo also recommended that I check the oil every 300 kilometers. I had the hood popped open and searched around when a woman, Liz, walked by and asked if I needed help. 

I explained to Liz that I couldn’t find the dipstick. She searched around with me, but we didn’t have any luck. Her husband, Tony, walked over and searched with us. My brother-in-law, Todd, FaceTimed me, responding to a message I had sent him asking for his assistance. I showed him the engine, and he was baffled too. 

Finally, I called the roadside assistance at Apollo, and they told me the dipstick and oil cap are under the seats. What?! Tony and I found some areas with Velcro, and then I found a latch hidden underneath the middle console. It released the seats, tilting them backward. We had to hold the seats up to get to the dipstick. Tony held it while I checked the oil, and there was plenty.

Tony, Liz, and I laughed and laughed about how absurd it was that the oil and dipstick were located under the seats because it requires two people. Tony and Liz were from a small town, Violet, about 200 kilometers from Melbourne. They appeared to be in their 60s. We talked about travels, and Liz pointed to her gray hair, “It’s crowded now with all the gray nomads around. We prefer to travel in the summer when nobody else is around.” I told her it still wasn’t as crowded as the U.S. 

Tony and Liz asked me about how I was getting around Australia. I told them about my Subaru and the relocation for the campervan. We talked about the Red Center and the Nullarbor. I told them that the Australian Outback is more remote than Canada and Alaska

After talking for ten minutes, we all needed to get back on the road. They gave me their contact information if I ended up in their town, so I’d have familiar faces. Their kindness was heart-warming, and I was so happy they helped me figure out the oil!

Before I pulled away from the gas station and lost cell service, I saw that Josh responded to my message about me coming to Cairns. I met Josh nine months earlier while I was in Whistler for six weeks. We had spent 16 hours together after meeting at a bar in a restaurant. He was the last (and really only person since my divorce) that I had been intimate with. When I left Whistler, I gave him a letter about how I felt. Since then, we had stayed in touch from time to time.

Josh left Whistler in the spring and spent some time on a live-abroad boat diving in Indonesia. After that, he went to Cairns, where he grew up, to visit family. Josh hadn’t been back in a long time, so he planned to spend three to four months there. I told him that I was planning to drive around Australia, and he told me to contact him when I made it to Cairns. 

I had told my cousin the night before that I had a feeling Josh wasn’t going to be in Cairns. Something told me it just wasn’t going to happen. Even though I told myself repeatedly that he probably wouldn’t be there, and if he was there, maybe he didn’t want to see me after all, I still hoped. It had been a few months since we talked.

As I sat in my campervan about to drive away and lose cell service, I saw his message appear. Josh said he was back in Canada for a few weeks before going to Europe to hike. He had been in Cairns for the last three months and had just left. 

I pulled away from the gas station and cried as I drove. I was hoping Josh would distract me from Damien. The last two years had been nothing but heartaches when it came to men. I haven’t dated a single one. I’ve kissed a few, but they never want to date me. I couldn’t take the constant rejection. Being lonely sucks, but being broken-hearted is worse.

When Damien told us he would check his didgeridoos in the woods, he knew his trick to get the termites to eat them and create the didgeridoos wouldn’t work. He was almost certain he’d find them untouched. He said, “If you want to see me be sad, you can come follow me and check out the logs. I know it didn’t work. I know it’s extremely unlikely, but I still get my hopes up like I always do, and it will hurt when it turns out it didn’t work.”

I resonated with that so much. My brain always knows things won’t work out, and I try my best to give myself accurate expectations. But no matter what I do, there is still a piece of me that holds out hope. Hope for the unimaginable. Hope for the idealistic outcome. Hope for happiness. 

Instead, my heart hurts each time the reality sets in. Dreams don’t come true, and my hope is crushed in a vice. You would think it would hurt a little less each time, but the pain never lessens. Those feelings of rejection and not being enough came flooding back. Maybe it was the combination of Damien and Josh rejecting me within a week, but it was too much. Josh knew I was on my way to Cairns, and he chose to leave before seeing me. Not that I expected him to move around his travel plans, but it was clear he didn’t care to see me. He never checked to ask when I’d be there.

I cried and cried. I was also angry with God. If he was making these things not work with guys because some magical man is waiting for me, why does he continue to put me through this? Why would he continue to put these guys who I connected with in my path? Guys who flirted with me, guys who made me think there was something there. It felt unfair.

I continued driving through the vast emptiness in strong crosswinds. I stopped for a break and ate lunch at Tablelands. After leaving, signs stated, “no fuel for 260 kilometers.” Other signs warned of the “High Crash Zone” with various pictures of cars crashing into each other or animals. Once I made it into Queensland, and the roads became smoother.

I was reminded of the last time I saw my ex-husband, Aaron. It was six months after I filed for divorce, weeks before it would be final. His stuff was still in my garage, and I asked him to pick it up. He had just started dating his now-wife and had that “falling-in-love” happiness about him. We argued about how he continued to lie about seeing her, even though I knew he was. Standing at the back of his U-Haul, Aaron hugged me and kissed my cheek. I was trying my best to hold in tears, but they still fell. He had a smile on his face – a stark contrast to months prior when we both sobbed in each other’s arms when I said I was filing for divorce, and he asked me not to.

He was ok because he had a new love, someone who he’d move in with just a few short weeks later. I, on the other hand, was a mess for the next year. For two years after we first separated, I cried constantly. Growing up, I hardly ever cried in front of people. After the separation, it was like the floodgates were opened. I couldn’t say the word “divorce.” Eventually, I got myself to say it, but my throat tightened, and tears welled in my eyes.

I had read somewhere that you know you’re over a divorce when you can say the word, divorce, without crying. At that time, I couldn’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t cry. It felt like an eternity. Aaron moved on quickly while I was extremely slow. Everyone told me men move on faster, but it felt like something was wrong with me. The pain I felt was unbearable. The loss and sadness were more than I could have imagined. 

There are times when I’m so excited, happy, and ecstatic that I can hardly believe it. Then there are times when sadness takes over. I feel it deep in my heart, and the pain physically crushes my chest. 

It took two years, but I was finally able to say the word “divorce.” I finally stopped crying. At that point, driving around Australia, it had been just over three years since we first separated. In the previous year of travel, I had my ups and downs, but sometimes I was so happy that I had to think about the last time that I cried because it had been so long. 

While I drove, a flood of emotion came pouring out. The feeling of being rejected over and over was too much. It was a cruel joke. I can tell when a guy likes me, and every time, I let myself go to the places of “what ifs” and “maybes.” Even though my brain tells me not to, my heart still hopes.

I didn’t know what the solution was. I didn’t want to close my heart off to people, but I couldn’t keep going through this. I couldn’t keep feeling like someone was interested in me, but only temporarily. If I could at least date them for a couple of months, I’m sure I’d find reasons why we aren’t compatible. Unfortunately, I never get that chance.

As I continued to drive, crying on and off, I suddenly got cell service and saw that I had a message from Chris. He’s the musician from Tinder who ghosted me…twice. After he didn’t show up the night at the campsite in the Kimberley, I sent him a message telling him he should just be honest with people if he’s not interested. He wrote back with a friendly message apologizing and said his late reply was because he’s never on the app. He said he didn’t show up that night at the campsite because he was drinking with friends early in the morning and was too drunk by 6:00 pm and passed out. 

Chris said he had every intention of meeting up with me, but the night got away from him. He wanted to know where I was and how I was doing. I knew he was lying because his location would update while I was in Darwin, and it wouldn’t update unless he opened the app. Damien was right – Chris is not a good guy. The message frustrated me so much. It’s the same story over and over. Lies, selfishness, and guys being careless with my heart. 

I often will talk about wanting a great love like what we see in the movies. What I mean by that is the love that is talked about in great novels and poems (and some stellar movies). The love that is sung about in songs. The love that the bible talks about. I believe this type of love exists, and I’m not willing to settle for anything less. People think I’m silly for wanting this type of love, but I think they’re crazy to settle for less.

It’s not that I expect someone to treat me amazingly, while I don’t reciprocate. I believe both parties have to be willing to invest and make an effort. When I was 19, my first official boyfriend used to leave things on my car while I was at work or kickboxing. One day, he left a giant, clear balloon tied to my windshield wiper. Inside the balloon was a note about how he felt about me. Another day, I had flowers in his favorite color delivered to his work. 

After we broke up, I moved away to a different college three hours away. I mailed him a letter explaining that I loved him; I just always struggled to verbalize it. Months later, he was having a heart to heart with his grandpa and decided he needed to see me. He drove straight to my college town, not knowing where I lived (and this was before cell phones). He remembered the return address on the letter that I mailed said, Ellis Hall. After stopping at a gas station, my ex-boyfriend asked someone where Ellis Hall was. He walked into the lobby of my dorm building and asked where my room was located. They couldn’t give out that information, but they patched him through to my room, and he left a voicemail. 

My ex-boyfriend wandered the six-story building halls. He saw “Christy and Lindy” outside of a door and knew it was my room because Lindy was my best friend. I wasn’t there – I was actually back in my hometown that weekend introducing my new boyfriend to my family. My ex-boyfriend waited around for three hours and eventually left a note that he had written on torn-out pages from his checkbook, and slid it under the door. 

We ended up reconnecting later that summer, but it ended once again. We realized we are better friends, and we’re still friends to this day. I know not every situation will be like that, or not all of the time. But I want humans to start following their hearts. I want humans to be bold in showing people that they care. It’s what the love songs are all about. I do my best to be a caring partner, and I put a lot of effort into relationships. It’s why I made a fool of myself when I gave a letter to Josh, and why I chased Damien to the airport. I just want the effort made in return. I want the big gestures. 

It’s a lonely feeling when you aren’t “number one” to a single person on the planet. My parents have each other and my siblings. My sister has her husband and her kids. My brother has his kids. Friends will always put their significant other ahead of friends. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not faulting them. It’s human nature. On dating apps, I often see people say their kids are number one. I get it, but I don’t want to be number two when they’d be my number one. I’m just tired of being down the list or an afterthought. I have amazing friends and people in my life, but I wanted a romantic partner. It’s what Meredith and Christina always talked about in Grey’s Anatomy. We all need “our person.” Someone who is there no matter what.

A day of crying made me feel better. Sometimes I just need to release it. I thought about what I want in my future. I want a partner who puts in the effort – a partner who wants to be around me. I want someone who doesn’t see me as an obligation. I want a partner who treats me with respect and fights for me. My heart can’t handle these emotional rollercoasters, and I am simply too exhausted to go down this path again. That day, I decided I would try my hardest to steer clear of men for a while.

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4 Responses

  1. I have been there too. However there is a person to whom you are number one and he collects all your tears in a bottle. The day does come, when you cease trying to do it yourself, and it happens when you least expect it, in a way in which you never thought it would happen. Confortare Numquam.Peter

  2. ❤️ I completely understand. I am too in search of my person, someone I can laugh with, someone I can cry with, someone I can tell all my secrets. I believe I will find him.
    I know you will find him as well!

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Throughout her wild 3-week journey backpacking 220+ miles in the California Sierra Mountains, Christy encountered freezing temperatures, pelting hail storms, and losing her way, but found trail family, incredible views, and experiences that would change her life forever. Hiking up and over ten different mountain passes gave Christy a lot of time to think about why her nine-year marriage was falling apart, gave her the chance to truly embody her individualism, time to make new friends, and the strength she would need on and off the trail. Her life could never again be the same.
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