To "catfish" is to lure someone into a relationship by adopting a fictional online persona.
We are now in 2015, and this experience is becoming as common as going through puberty.
Although every experience is different, there are many aspects of catfishing that all victims can relate to.
My story is fairly unexpected in my eyes. Yet, it's one I don't believe you would expect from a lonely teenage girl who spends most of her free time roaming the Internet.
It all starts with social networking sites, and the Internet is full of them.
Luckily, the one I happened to encounter my catfish on no longer exists.
On March 10, 2013, I began exchanging messages with someone who happened to catch my attention on the site.
Things move fast when all you have is time and a world full of words.
It's like falling in love, minus the physical affection.
Although that may be hard for someone who has never been catfished to comprehend, those who have been will understand that statement perfectly.
I found myself engulfed by the conversations we would have, and I felt like I could tell him my darkest secrets and things I had never told anyone before.
Even if he judged me, it's not like I'd met him yet.
The element of impressing him was there, but it wasn't as pressured as sitting in front of someone, hoping you don't say something that causes a face of disappointment.
All in all, I felt I could be me, entirely.
He made me believe he felt the same.
Although, when it came to getting to know him the same way he was getting to know me, there were details that would leave traces of doubt in my mind.
It eventually amounted to doubts I couldn't get off my mind, and his explanations just didn't seem believable enough.
Still, I didn't walk away. I didn't ask the questions again for reassurance. His answers would have to suffice.
Months passed. I'd never spoken to someone as much as I'd already spoken to him.
But aspects about what we would call “us” had changed.
He kept trying to cut me out of his life without telling me why. His reasons for wanting to finish what we'd started were confusing and unfair.
It was as if his only aims were getting to know every crevice of the person I was and making sure my feelings had grown toward him.
I felt emotions that could be associated with love, belonging and wanting his presence in my life, even if it was simply through a screen or a voice on the other line.
I honestly felt like he knew me better than some of the people who had known me in the flesh for years because he took the time to listen to me. He was interested in what I had to say.
But he wanted the conversations to come to an end.
It was already unlike anything I'd ever experienced before, and he had unexplainable control over my emotions because of it.
He wasn't a bad person. I know, deep down, there is good in him, but he knew he was lying to me and manipulating me.
He was ultimately going to hurt me.
Everything changed after that point.
His attitude and behavior changed.
He became cold and obnoxious. I felt as if I couldn't step a foot out of line or he would attempt to abandon ship.
All I wanted to do by this point was meet him in real life.
Sometimes, he would agree, and we would get excited about finally meeting each other. Other times, he would go on about how disappointed I would be.
It's not like he lived next door, anyway. We were approximately 1,500 miles apart.
Having said that, no distance was going to put off my determination.
We were in the middle of a call one night when he admitted he'd lied to me about who he really was.
He continued by telling me he was, in fact, transgender.
It meant he was born the opposite sex from the one he felt inside. He knew I had no problem with this because we'd spoken about the topic before.
So, here it was. I now had the explanation I'd been seeking for months.
This is what made him want to run away, instead of confronting me with it and seeing what would happen.
Surprisingly, I wanted to continue, although I felt my trust in him was severely damaged.
I knew I should've stopped it there.
It's hard to explain how the situation between us changed yet again. At times, it would be exasperating having conversations with him about finally setting a date.
Eventually, it became more complicated for him to say no. I had moved, and I was now only three hours away by train from where he lived.
At this point, there were no longer any excuses.
One night, I brought up the subject for the millionth time. He agreed to meet me the following morning.
On the morning of June 29, 2014, I was going to be standing face-to-face with the person I had spent over a year talking to online.
I remember how I felt arriving at the train station, where he was waiting for me. I hope I never feel that nervous ever again. I was truly petrified of what I was about to face.
This was the moment, and as I walked through the glass exit doors at the station and took a glimpse toward my left, I could see him standing in the near distance.
He approached me as I stood at a complete stop. Before I had any time to think, I was wrapping my arms around him.
It couldn't have happened more perfectly.
I would love to say the relationship came swiftly after meeting each other, but that wasn't the case. Like any other relationship, this one had its problems too.
The truth is, him being transgender wasn't ever an issue. It was the way it made him feel that was an issue throughout.
I slowly came to find out he had lied about so many more aspects about himself.
He'd lied about family members, his birthday and other simple details.
I started to doubt everything he had ever said.
It became inevitable. I found myself at a dead end.
I didn't feel trapped, but I didn't know what to do. After six months of dating him and trying to see past the lies and bumps in the road, I felt so many mixed feelings toward him.
I loved and hated him at the same time.
But it had to come to an end. The relationship had become toxic.
At the end of the relationship, I honestly thought I had never felt so confused and lost among my thoughts and feelings.
But as always, I had no idea how wrong I was.
The months that followed the breakup really gave me a chance to see the person I'd become. A feeling of emptiness resided in me, and it put me in one of the darkest places I've ever been in.
I'd never been given so much to deal with mentally.
I don't regret him or anything he and I created, but I do regret not saying enough is enough. I reached a limit I never want to reach again.
I wanted to show this person that despite the lies, I could believe him.
I wanted to show him that despite his secret, he could've been the person he was from the very beginning. I would've accepted him anyway.
I wanted to show him that he was never a disappointment. I loved him anyway.
None of this mattered because it had all been destroyed by lie on top of lie, argument after argument and a lack of motivation to carry on fighting for whatever we had become.
But I wish I'd known the real him from the start. I loved the real him more than I ever did love the person he was before the truth.
I hope anyone lying to someone about who he or she is realizes love means nothing if you aren't being the real you.
I have learned so much from this experience, but more than anything, I have learned no virtual connection will ever be worth more than the connections I have within touching distance.
Don't forget life isn't meant to be lived looking at a screen.
Life is all around us.
You don't get a second chance at spending time that has already passed, but that's no reason to spend more time regretting the past.
After all, we're nothing without the lessons we learn along the way.