I was 11 when I had my first crush.
We went to the same elementary school but he was a year older than me. We ran into each other often, but the crush developed a little too late. It was at his graduation ceremony when I really noticed him. I checked his Friendster profile when I got home and found out that he loved Good Charlotte too. I immediately felt like we had so much in common, and at that moment, I decided I was in love.
Realizing that he was about to start 7th grade at a different school soon, I sent him a message a week later saying I liked him. No, I didn't even bother say "Hi" first. It was straight to "hey, I like you." He never replied. Looking back, I think the experience built character. I’m glad I learned how being "left on read" feels at such an early age.
After that I didn’t have another serious crush for a long time. I found my calling as a serial monogamist in 7th grade, but almost all of my relationships were built on the foundation of liking someone back. I wasn't used to having a crush since all I ever did was reciprocate. I know I may sound smug right now, but unrequited love was a foreign concept to me. I could never relate to my classmates who were head over heels for our seniors in high school. Why did they sign up for that kind of life?
Fast forward to the present day, I realized that it was the wrong question to ask. Most of the time, you don’t sign up for a crush. Your life and theirs just collide head-on. This year I finally experienced once more the shattering feeling of developing a crush just to have them not like me back in the end. Now that I'm pretty much recovered from it, I stand by my opinion that crushes are good for nothing— except drying your skin out and temporarily ruining your life.
First some context: I like to think that I’m not an obsessive person. I like everything casually: I’ve never been an obsessive fan. I’ve only finished watching maybe two TV series from start-to-finish in my life. It basically takes a lot to get me invested in something, so having a crush is so exasperating because you get can carried away with it pretty quick.
Why do people have crushes? Do they hope that they will eventually end up with the person and start spending time with each other 24/7? Most of the time, yes. In my case, I still have no idea what I'm trying to get out of it. I guess having a crush prolongs my life because I’m going out of my way to continue to live just so I can see where we end up. I spend each day trying not to die so that I won't blow my chance of one day having dinner with my crush. Which is a good thing, right? I used to think so, but I think I know better now.
I tried so hard and exerted so much energy to try and get them to treat me like a human being that at the end of the day I was left with nothing for myself.
In retrospect, there might be more cons than pros in having a crush. Having a crush kept me on my toes at all times. I kept trying to look at myself from another person’s perspective. In theory, it’s good for self-improvement. In practice, I found myself taking more selfies than usual. Not because I looked good, but because I was trying to make sure I don’t look bad to them. I didn’t say certain things in front of my crush because I worried that those things would make me sound stupid. I’m pretty bad at managing my self-esteem issues as it is, and constantly making sure that I didn’t embarrass myself on top of that was A LOT to deal with. I had to guesstimate which side of me I could show first and when, so that the person wouldn’t get weirded out too early. This alone aged my face by 20 years, I believe.
It might start out cute, but the whole thing quickly turned into a game of who texted first and who got "left on read" most often. Figuring out whether I should initiate the interaction or wait for the other person to do it kept my anxiety at an all-time high. Plus, I interpreted everything my crush said the way that I wanted to hear it—almost always overlooking the bad parts. Suddenly, I was deciphering all their social media captions like I was on Genius. When they sent me random links to videos at 2 am, I saw it as them basically asking my hand in marriage. My closest friends didn’t tell me that I was reading too much into it, because they were afraid of bursting my bubble.
But because I had all these expectations and I had deluded myself into thinking they liked me in the same way that I liked them, I was unconsciously setting myself up for disappointment. I tried so hard and exerted so much energy to try and get them to treat me like a human being that, at the end of the day, I was left with nothing for myself.
There are only two possible outcomes for this kind of situation: the two people involved end up together or the crush stays one-sided until the end. To the surprise of no one but me, the latter happened, putting an end to the uneventful few months of one-sided adoration. I should’ve seen it coming but I chose not to because I was too busy being happy that they asked what I was doing for once. And once I realized how stupid I had been, it was pretty hard to remember a time where I wasn’t this gullible. Why was I so eager to let people step all over me, both literally and figuratively? (Don't ask.)
Having a crush is exhausting. If I was to one day run the world, my first rule would be that no one should ever like someone else first. I would do anything in my power to make sure that all feelings appear organically and are automatically reciprocated, so that the word "crush" would only mean "to destroy" and not "someone unattainable that you’re emotionally invested in, but who will eventually destroy you." But maybe I’m just being bitter because my scars are still fresh. Or maybe having a crush really is a prehistoric practice that needs to die out in order for humans to have a better quality of life. I'm going to choose the second option because I don't ever want to go through this again.
Rock Bottom is VICE Indonesia's on-going column on mental health, depression, and how to deal with it all in a country where frank discussions of mental illness are still pretty taboo.