I’m swirling the straw around the remaining bubbles in my tea and sitting between my partner and a friend who has known me long enough to have met several partners. They’re meeting for the first time and that joy makes my herbal tea feel like an espresso. My friend is an ace when it comes to thought-provoking questions and deep, insightful conversations which means I’m not at all surprised when she looks at us and asks, “On the Venn diagram of you and Liz, what’s on your own sides and what’s in the middle?”
I pause for a moment—immediately impressed by my follow through on my 2023 commitment to thinking before I speak—and my partner laughs gently, “I gotta be honest, there isn’t that much.”
Two things happen in that moment. First, I realize that, unlike past relationships, I don’t feel the need to immediately rush in or defend or try to make something sound better than it is. This feels like growth. Second, I realize that he’s kind of right?
“Well, value wise we’re on the same page.” I finally speak. “Like you know that whole thing with the professor and the golf balls? Our sand might be different but we have our golf balls.” [For context: read Golf Balls & Sand Specks, published April 17, 2022 on The Smile Project blog.]
Then, we both begin to brainstorm. “I like to bake and you’ll eat my baked goods so that’s kinda in the middle!” or “You like cats and I like dogs but I do kinda love your cat so maybe that’s in the middle too.” “And it’s kind of nice. I like that you can be working on something for music and I can be reading a book and we can just kind of coexist like that.”
A few weeks later, I was standing on the subway when I noticed someone holding an anime bag. I discreetly snapped a photo and sent it to my partner—anime being something that falls squarely on his side of our Venn diagram. As I went about my errands, I was tickled by this little moment that I would have completely missed had I not been in this relationship. This same scene would play out several more times over the next couple weeks—me noticing little things that would normally mean nothing but that suddenly had attached meaning because of the person I’d fallen in love with.
And perhaps that’s a remarkably underrated thing about falling in love. You retain your side of the circle, you bond where the circle naturally overlaps, and you get the opportunity to explore a side of a circle you didn’t even know existed.
Anime will likely always fall prominently on his side of the diagram. But the stuff I’ve watched with him has been really cool and it’s been nice to learn more about something he loves. But more than that, it’s been fun to see anime bags on the subway—little reminders that sometimes falling in love can expand your horizons and teach you something new. Little reminders that it can make us better.