We nestled together on the rickety top bunk of a small countryside French hostile, sharing our grand ideas and youthful world views.
We laughed, heads bobbing together—but never an inappropriate touch. He was too serious and respectful for that. I was only 19 and we knew each other for only a short segment of our separate travels, in that quaint French village. Still, the affection and potential were palpable. I let him cut my hair.
Before we parted ways, he with his camera and adorable Australian accent, me with my train ticket and oversized backpack, we wrote intimate words in each other’s journals. He left me warnings to not get too lost in my own mind, tender passages that could reach across time and space in a pre-internet world.
And then he was off, his shoulder-length hair bouncing in time to the cadence of his step as he walked away.
Since then, I’ve occasionally returned to read what he wrote in my journal. Sometimes, I like a shot of romantic nostalgia free of disappointment or heartbreak. I love the story of two star-crossed lovers kept apart by circumstances beyond their control.
In reality, most missed connections are not so dreamy.
Usually, the forbidding circumstances are complex and painful, with unpredictable endpoints like a recent death, messy breakup, or job loss. A pandemic. Instead of romance, you get tragedy because transition is not a time for healthy relationships. You just feel lonely.
So, I’ve figured out another way to nurture my own romance during what is otherwise bad timing for either person.
The “Maybe Later Lovers.”
You know, those people of interest we seem to meet at the wrong time, in the wrong way, and everything is all wrong except that little spark between you that doesn’t happen often.
Not now, but maybe later.
There is no active pursuit, expectation, or action with a Maybe Later Lover. They are merely a seed of potential. Maybe Later Lovers allow me to hold a little dream close to the heart, some little flicker of joy inspired by that wonderful, yet inaccessible, person. It’s fun to imagine what could be…maybe later. Hope is a good thing.
Hope is also a temptation. Because even a Maybe Later Lover can ignite a yearning—that pull for something so basically human, not just for companionship, but real intimacy—especially during times of vulnerability and transition when loneliness can haunt rational thought.
The temptation of hope reminds me to stick to the realm of Maybe and not a “Hopefully Someday.” With a Maybe, I learn to trust the bad timing and avoid wishing for what cannot be now. It requires self-restraint and an honest assessment of what I can give and receive. I have to honor the same in others.
I give up self-pity and pining.
Because in reality, it matters less if later will ever materialize with a Maybe Later Lover. What matters is carrying even the possibility of maybe.
Maybe grants patience and perseverance. Maybe is part of what inspires us to move forward, to do the work in personal transformation, and become a better version of ourselves. To be ready for later. To be ready for definitely, not maybe.
To be ready for “Just Right, Right Now.”
The possibility of Maybe also inspires confidence in and compassion for others working through their own transitions. An unrealized connection is forged, one based on the shared human experience of temporary turbulence. We may never speak of it or even be fully aware of it. This is an entirely different form of romantic love that transcends the material world. And it is dreamy.
So whenever I’m in the nebulous—and yes, idealistic—realm of Maybe Later, I’m not actually waiting for later. I’m certainly not waiting for the Australian photographer to cross my path again. I’m moving through my own journey. And I’m open to the chance that the universal love clock will line up with my own personal growth clock. And someone else’s.
If I can trust the bad timing, I can trust the good timing, too.