It takes a very special sort of person to fully captivate my heart. Like most 23-year-olds, I've experienced love-at-first-sight, fleeting crushes, failed long-term-relationships, and awkward first dates. I've been through the throes of unrequited love and tend to fall victim to overt romanticization. I once told a guy how I felt about him only to have him respond with, "you know what you should do? You should go to law school." It's only natural for one to approach certain non-platonic relationships with a sense of caution after being let down so many times. The truly tragic thing is that I have more stories like that up my sleeve. My love life hasn't been quite as pitiful as say, Bridget Jones's, but it's had some pretty pathetic moments.
Do you remember the first time that your heart shattered into a thousand pieces? For me, it was a gradual decline of unanswered affections that led to an eventual breakdown. Throughout my life, I found that my objective was not for love but rather for attention. Even in my elementary school years when girls were starting to develop crushes on boys, I just wasn't into it. I remember a conversation that I had with a girl in my class. She asked who I had a crush on and I couldn't answer her. Not wanting to seem too disinterested, I said the first name that came to mind. She asked why. I said it was because he was a good soccer player and a worthy opponent. (I was one of the boys myself.) She didn't get it and neither did I. As I got a little older though, I noticed that other girls were getting attention in ways that I was not. With each and every passing summer, the boys were less interested in our usual activities like playing hockey in the street and biking to the school to play soccer and more interested in calling girls or going to the local skating rink to do icky things like holding hands or, GASP-- KISSING. I had no interest in such and I felt like a loner.
A lot of things changed when I met Brenden. I had been pulled out of the New Jersey public school system and was being homeschooled. This newfound love for education and knowledge set off a renaissance of sorts in me. Rather than shaping myself into the vision of somebody else in order to fit in, I could truly "do me." Something was different about him. I mentioned in our "love story" that he was the first boy to ever show an interest in me, despite the fact that I was choosing to embrace my various quirks instead of hiding behind some societal norms or stereotypes. Though I love him more than life itself now, I can say that after years of contemplation, from the start, I was more in love with the idea of him and so on and so forth. After five years of companionship with him (some of those years "dating," some of them being "just friends") the day we decided to call it off was a deafening blow to my heart but more so, my ego.
The five years that followed were a series of peaks and valleys for me. While dealing with my own mental stability, I was looking for something, or rather, someone to fill that void. I'd spent my formative years getting affirmation and validation from somebody else and I didn't know what to do with myself once it was all gone. I made some dumb decisions, I was unwilling to accept the vulnerability that comes with true love, and I beat myself down until there was almost nothing left. It's as if I was treading water, viscously grasping for anything to hold on to but ending up with fists full of sand and water. I would hit what I thought to be rock bottom yet continue falling deeper and deeper into the endless haze of anxiety. After getting burned time after time and through the grace of God, I came to the realization that I could never experience love through the eyes of another if I couldn't first love myself. With that epiphany came others. The work was far from completed though, because I had only scratched the surface of an insurmountable self-destructive pattern of behavior.
I've never really thought about the various other men in my life. I tend to dwell on things a moment too long so I try to leave the past in the past. I acknowledge them as having existed but they are merely shadows moving about in a past life-- specters and nothing else. Getting engaged and all of the butterflies (and uncertainties) that come along with it, however, have unearthed some of those forgotten moments and I've been dealing with some repressed memories. I often contemplated what "forever" would mean for a relationship. It would be great to never experience heartbreak ever again but a selfish, lovelorn, and creative part of me had thrived on that pain because it made me feel human and it incited some beautiful music, prose, and art. Much like I was addicted to affirmation, I became addicted to heartbreak. I was a glutton for punishment. Such a propensity to self-shame has permeated through all parts of my life. For whatever reason, I deemed early on that I deserve a certain amount of pain in order to survive. I still don't know what that is exactly but I do know that I am in recovery. Instead of viewing past relationships, trysts, crushes, and unrequited loves with anger, I'm thankful that each and every one has led me to the realizations that made me who I am now.
I was able to trace my need for heartbreak back to a sense of worthlessness. Do what it takes-- work out, see a therapist, leave yourself a note that you will see every morning when you brush your teeth-- remind yourself that you are worthy being loved and capable of loving. With these daily reminders along with a pretty fantastic fiancé, I no longer crave that sadness. I no longer seek it out and finding comfort in it seems like an impossibility. I'm learning that vulnerability is beautiful and the cornerstone of any successful relationship. I've shared my favorite quote about this on here countless times before but for good measure, here it is yet again:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
- C.S. Lewis
I still feel like I'm stumbling along but I'm headed in the right direction. As always, if any of you need or want to talk, I'm here. This post definitely got heavier than I expected but I'm thankful that I have such a forum to be open and to be an encouragement to anybody who may be going through the same thing. I love you guys and I'm excited to share the rest of my journey towards married life and all of my weird thoughts with you.