I used to think romantic relationships were built on matching Top-10 lists: favorite foods/tracks/presidents/numbers–anything that I didn’t want to have to disagree with someone else on. I assumed if you found someone whose fingers you wouldn’t have to incessantly shoo from the radio dial, you could figure out the rest. You could spend the time you weren’t using arguing over whose turn it was to update the Netflix queue learning how to make the big things–careers, complicated families or cities of residency–work.

I was wrong.

I will always love the boy I called my BBF. He was my best friend and lover, my biggest fan and most honest critic, my first date, my first kiss and my first love. But for too long, he had also become my last hope. I thought if we decided to love each other and had all the same tic marks on a psych-magazine personality test, we could make it work. That we had to.

The realist (who can often be found moonlighting as a pessimist) in me has always reminded me all interpersonal relationships are hard. Notta one comes with a cheat sheet or without disappointment, no matter how much love there is. But I’ve come to realize that should be the quiet truth–the resounding one is that most days are easy. They’re fun and fulfilling. They’re what get you through the not-fulfilling ones.

The realist in me has also taught me everything happens for a reason. If I believe in past lives (and maybe I do?), I know that I musta been a grade-A, certified-impatient basketcase many suns ago and that I was brought back for Take Two to learn how to chill the f- out.

After very nearly 10 years of waiting and struggling to be patient, I think I’ve finally got it down. I’m not the same person I was at 25, let alone 17. In fact, I think I learned my lesson so hard, I ended up forgetting that sometimes there’s a limit to how long you should wait. A watched kettle won’t boil, but neither will one sitting atop a single match.

That’s not to say an independent matchstick is weak or useless–there’re are plenty of things it would burn right up. Given the proper kindling, its flame can become a beautiful, powerful force. But you gotta know how to tend to it just right. Some materials, no matter how hard they try, will just never know how to make a lasting blast with it.

Separately, a single match and a big teapot will move and shake molecules until they’re a hot fiery mess–so long as they find the right conductive counterparts. That doesn’t mean they can’t still be friends.