All my life, I have been told to never doubt the universe's timing. Everything will come together for you, just when you need it to. To truly believe in your intentions and the reason why you want something to work out, and it will. Pure and intentional faith and belief will more - or - less guarantee the outcome you want. And so, I have continued on my path, exploring the depths of the universe, and learning the ebbs and flows of this powerful entity.
I considered myself lucky; getting into the Ivy League university of my dreams, the Dean’s list, and the cushy job on Wall Street. I felt safe and secure with my hard work and complete faith in the universe. Whatever I want with all my heart, would come together for me. But there is one thing that I haven't had much luck with learning how to manoeuvre: the timing of matters of the heart.
I am convinced that humans are extremely confusing to understand, because of our emotions. We are unpredictable and frankly, very unreliable. It is tough to measure one's true intentions and determine your next course of action. And this is where I think the universe, glitches.
Despite this, I always thought that with time and effort, I could learn to understand people. The more you understand people and their intentions, the easier it is to work with their ways. It worked for me in every aspect of my life.
Until I met him.
He was a junior, and I was a sophomore, speeding up my degree to graduate a year early to break into the big wide world, I quickly caught up to graduate at around the same time as him. Little did I know, that a stargazing boy would one day become my, right person, wrong time love. We all have one. My best choice, but simultaneously, my greatest regret.
It was a miserably cold evening, basically a normal New York City winter night, as I walked home from the dining hall. After a lively debate with my politically correct and socially aware friend group, my brain was buzzing with ideas and inspiration for my next ethics class essay.
He was sitting on the stairs, a college student tradition, holding a mug of tea and gazing at the stars. It was a gorgeous clear sky night before the clouds drifted in. His straight posture and curly hair, all that I could identify in the dimly lit environment, seemed all too familiar. He was the quiet boy from my Economics class.
I didn't make much of it, thousands of students a year, probably just another one I’d end up connecting with on Linkedin. I quickly scurried towards Broadway, my tropical self can't bear the cold. "Imagine sitting outside in this cold, couldn't be me in a million years!" I thought to myself and laughed it off. As I reached the middle of the path, a cold raindrop fell on my eyebrow. Rain in a cold environment is nothing short of bone-chilling. I swung my bag over my shoulder to remove my sturdy umbrella, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw him.
His tall and perfect posture, quickly folded into a ball, huddling as a gust of wind ruffled the leaves of the trees.
"um, hi! Do you need an umbrella? Happy to walk you to Broadway" I asked, wondering if approaching a young boy in the darkness of night was a bad idea. As if the wind blew, just at the right time, that short exchange, changed my life.
We walked in silence, an awkward gait as I was a head shorter than him, and my thick coat restricted my arm from raising the umbrella too high.
"Hey! Listen, it's pouring and we are quite far from the dormitory, do you want to stop for a cookie? It's the least I could do to thank you?"
We huddled into the shop, I was busy trying not to bring the storm in and gently placed the umbrella in the corner. By the time I turned around, he was already seated at the table, with the cookies, chugging his tea.
"Hi! I am Taylor, thank you so much for saving me from the rain, uh aren’t you the girl from Dr Jackson’s Economics class?"
That was the beginning of everything. Who knew that a cookie and a rainstorm would be the beginning of everything that I considered safe and happy. We spent the entire evening talking until they kicked us out at 3 am. It felt like divine timing.
The next few months flew past, a whirlwind of laughter, arguments, memories and lots of chicken katsu and curry. The cookie shop became our regular late-night date spot. We spent hours in the library, chasing our different dreams, together. We discussed our goals, planned our path, and even imagined a future together. Met each other’s friends and spent nights coming up with ways to save the world. He knew how I liked my coffee, and I learned his favourite song on the piano. Summer was the best, during the week, we were occupied with our big city internships, but over the weekend, we were just two lovers, lost in New York City; eating bagels and reading books in Central Park until the sun spilt a vibrant orange on the horizon.
The world seemed like a brighter place, and time flew by. However, just like everything in academia, it came with a deadline.
It only hit us until we were standing on the steps, where we met for the first time, in our robes and posing for our graduation photos. The click and the flash of the camera took me back to that rainy day. We still hadn't talked about where we were headed after university. What felt like such a distant eventuality, was just 18 hrs away.
Our personal dreams were coming true. I was going to start my dream job, in the greatest city on earth. My parents were glowing with pride, as if I secured them a safe retirement, like a good little Asian daughter. Everything worked out…except for us. We met on the steps on a rainy night, and now it was a sunny day; a different timing, but the wrong universe.
A few weeks later, he was all packed up, as we sat in silence and I drove him to Newark International Airport to catch his flight to London.
“Can we please give long distance a shot?” He whispered, with a quiver in his voice, and a tear fell down his cheek. We hugged each other, and refused to let go, holding onto what felt like the last moments of our naive childhood.
We tried everything in long-distance: endless trans - Atlantic flights, virtual date nights, early morning calls and texts. But eventually, the tired smile on the screen didn’t fill the empty homes we returned to after a long day. Our hearts broke apart before we did. “Right person, wrong timing”, we whispered to each other before pressing the red and white button for the last time.
A few months after the break up, we lost contact. Busy with the ebbs and flows of corporate life in the biggest and busiest cities in the world. Friends and family took over our time and energy. The growing pains of learning how to swim in the tumultuous ocean that is called, adulthood. Quickly, we just became another joyful chapter of the past. But in every relationship, I fould myself looking for him. Nothing could replace the cookie-shaped hole he left in my heart and soul.
Months turned into years and one day, with a promotion and relocation bonus in hand, I was headed on a one-way flight to Singapore, with a quick stopover at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Hoping to live my Crazy Rich Asians dream life in the warm and tropical paradise, with a brief intermission for a croissant and coffee, I grabbed my iPad and mind-mapped my goals in the airport lounge. A habit I have nurtured since I was a teenager.
"Ugh, it's absolutely pouring outside, why do I always get stuck in the rain?", a voice behind me muttered under their breath, but just loud enough for me to recognise it. Slightly different, with a subtle British accent, there he was; my wrong timing love. Standing in a puddle and looking around for a seat. A face that looked so familiar, brought back memories of older days as if it was yesterday; late nights at AJ's eating burgers and drinking the thick vanilla milkshake, running around New York City, the feeling of claiming to know everything, but in reality, knowing nothing at all.
I took a deep breath, it felt like a miracle, an old chapter revisiting, just as I embarked on a new one. His face looked a bit more mature, aged with the stress of 80-hour work weeks, dressed in a white shirt and black jeans.
"Over here, sweetie ", a voice from the other side, and a hand waving in his direction. He looked up, smiled, and walked towards her, his suitcase leaving a wet trail behind him.
And just like that, the memories went trailing behind him. It didn't matter how many times we tried reconnecting, our jobs took us to other ends of the world, and our galaxies were spinning further away from each other in this universe.
In life, if you wanted something, I always believed that you should work for it. Commit to it, learn every single tiny detail about it. But, with Taylor, that wasn’t enough. We practically grew up together and I knew everything about him. The way he scrunched up his nose when laughing out loud, to the way he liked his toast a wholesome golden brown in the morning. I studied this book so well. But, the universe didn't let me take this one home.
Right person, wrong time. Or wrong timing, right universe? I cling onto this with the hope that one day, the timing will be right, for matters of the heart are up to the universe’s timing.