There’s a knock on the door in my head, a voice speaks through the door: Ask yourself: what do you know about this person?

It’s easy to forget we met just four months ago because meeting her has been the biggest event in my life to this point. Not that I haven’t had things happen to me. It’s just the things I’ve experienced don’t fit the bill of what most would share.

I can’t put on a dating profile that I supported myself for a year working as an arsonist-for-hire. I can’t bring up at parties that while secretly squatting in the basement of the house my estranged mother uses for her psychology practice, I saw her having sex twice, after choosing unfortunate hiding places. (I still can’t think of her by her given name, Marjorie. She’s Beverly in my head, for reasons I can’t revisit—again, that therapist would come in handy.)

Rachel comes along, and BAM. All of a sudden the random goop of my life means something. It has a center around which I can organize myself. I get to see, first hand, how a successful person engineers their life. I see what proactive participation looks like, so endless drift doesn’t take root and cast runners into every plot of one’s thinking, like it has mine.

Another, more immediate reason Rachel has been so big in my life is that I’d always considered myself a below average person in every way: physically, mentally, and spiritually. I now see that this diminished estimation of myself has become the crutch I use to stagnate on. During one of our first dates, Rachel said something that really stuck with me: People are like plants, they grow to fill the space they inhabit. I realized at that moment I’d been keeping myself in a small, plastic pot my whole life.