Real Love

At the age of twelve, I wanted to be a famous poet. I wanted to move to my own quaint apartment in the city with my English bulldog and a whole wardrobe of outfits I’ll never be able to repeat even if I wanted to. I wanted to drive a bright red convertible with leather seats and spend my weekends adventuring in faraway countries. I wanted to obtain so much knowledge that it scared everyone who came into contact with me. And lastly, I wanted more than anything to fall in love with the man of my dreams. As silly as it sounds, my dreams seemed so real to me, as if I expected them to unravel at my feet when the right time came around knocking at my door. So simple. It would just fall into place, like a light switch I would be able to reach one day. Not yet, though. I still had a few more inches to grow.
But as I got older, I realized that these dreams, though still tangible, were unrealistic. After blissful years of developing my writing skill, I realized that making it big in the real world as an author meant that you had to have a voice unlike anyone else’s. And though I did not lack passion, I was and still am unveiling the beginnings of that voice. It takes time. It takes patience. Apartments, convertibles, an endless wardrobe; all of these things cost more money than I could ever even dream of. And the world was vast, and I was so young, just a wide-eyed dreamer with an expanse of knowledge limited to what she had grown accustomed to. The world was far more complicated than any idea I could have conjured up, and because of this, I pushed all of these dreams into a tiny little cardboard box shoved away in the back of my bedroom closet. But I kept one. I wanted to find love. In the form of a boyfriend, a relationship, something a lot of other girls talked about in the locker rooms but something I was hardly acquainted with. It seemed so foreign to me, but something I was capable of experiencing. And I was right.
I tried to envision what love would be like before I had understood what the word even meant. I thought of someone, perhaps a mysterious, tall figure with messy hair and blue eyes, who would do all of the cute little boyfriend things, such as surprising me with chocolate or sending me long good morning messages. I thought love meant everything positive, everything wonderful, and everything easy.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I had tried to find love in the form of chasing after people who only cared about me when it was convenient for them. And because of that, I had been left behind with nothing but the breath stolen from my lungs and my knees shaking from trying to stop them from running away from me. And soon, after they had lost interest, I was left with my own dwindling self-esteem, wondering what could be so wrong with me. There had to be a reason why they kept disappearing, shutting me off when they had finally gotten sick of me. Now, it felt like more of a countdown. Seconds ticking until one day, they would decide that enough is enough. And then they were on to the next girl, someone probably more beautiful or more interesting than me.
It’s quite perplexing, because love doesn’t always come in the form you expect it to arrive in. It’s as if I had created for myself an image of what love would look and feel like, and because of this undeveloped mindset, I ended up becoming more and more disappointed when I ended up with nothing but the absence of what could have been. No one could ever love me. I wasn’t beautiful enough. I wasn’t as confident as the other girls my age. I wasn’t as outgoing, or interesting, or good at the things everyone else was. I had my knacks and strengths, but they seemed to be everything BUT what everyone else was looking for.
So I stopped looking, and thank God I did. Because the second I stopped chasing and searching and validating myself based on what had happened before in the past, I was able to focus on myself. I was able to focus on people who actually treated me like I mattered, like I was beautiful enough, like I was worth it.
And when love was standing in front of me, this time it was different. He had been there the entire time, the funny stranger in the background with the big personality and the even bigger heart. He was there in the background to give me a hug every time I’d see him, the one dancing in the center of the circle at homecoming because he simply didn’t care what anyone else had to say about his own fun. I had been so busy searching that I was blind to the beautiful boy who loved God and all of the people around him.
Love looked at me in the eye. The others only saw me for my talents, my face, my style. But he really saw me. He saw that I was afraid to let my walls down, afraid to get attached and have to cope with the loss. But with him, I lost nothing except track of time. And that was all I needed. It’s almost as if I had spent so much energy covering up who I was in front the people before him, people who couldn’t appreciate me for the weirdness that I was, for the streak of passionate madness that overcame me whenever an idea would strike me. People who would see me in my truest form and disregard the fact that I was open. They existed only to close me up.
It was vulnerable, a state of realness that haunted me and flipped my stomach over a thousand times before I was able to realize that I was falling. I remember apologizing profusely for being myself. I’m sorry for being awkward. I’m sorry that I’m bad at conversing most of the time, and I’m sorry for being so indecisive. You’re going to get sick of me, I promise. I was a broken record.
This time, though, he looked at me with honest eyes and told me, at the very beginning, that there was nothing wrong with the person I was. To please, just stop apologizing. You have nothing to be sorry for, Embrace who you are, because that’s beautiful to me. I am not going anywhere.
He taught me what I couldn’t understand before him. That I am beautiful even on Saturdays when I’m too lazy to get ready, when I’m all dressed up with perfect makeup, and when I’m just hanging out with my hair tangled and rocking the sweatpants. He taught me that everything I have to say is important, and that my worth is not measured by what other people have to say about me. He never stops reminding me of the thousands of reasons why he loves me, even if it takes a three hour phone call and our parents telling us that it’s a school night, get some sleep. He catches me every single time I fall, or even trip, for that matter. I can laugh with him, head thrown back and sides aching. I can cry with him, the kind of cry that people are embarrassed of because it shows weakness. But he taught me that there is no weakness in letting loose. There is only beauty.
My Instagram is practically just pictures of us now, which bothers a lot of people. My nights consist of long text messages and cheesy FaceTime calls, my weekends spent wrapped up in the safety of the arms I have grown to become familiar with. We philosophize together. We let our minds wander to places we’ve been and have yet to go. I can’t even write about him because it’s not enough. It’s all-consuming, ever-growing, and even more beautiful as our story continues to unfold. The happiness I feel while with him is unlike anything I have ever felt before, but that’s not why I’m in it.
No longer am I just a girl who wanted love for herself. I want to spread it, because he taught me that love is selfless. Love pushes boundaries and it does not simply exist to be enjoyed by one person. It is meant to be shouted at the top of our lungs, to echo against the walls we have put up due to the subtle cruelty that exists all around us, and to be given even when it is hard. Because love is the opposite of easy, but I will keep giving it because that’s what it’s all about.
So here we are, almost four months since the first time we stared up at the stars lying down on the grass near our church, staring up at the constellations we didn’t care about, because we had each other- and for the first time, everything else in the world seemed small.
And love, though it is hard, is worth it. There are days I have to hold him tight when he hurts and when the entire world seems like it’s going to collapse around him, but I won’t let go.
How blissful it is to have something worth fighting for. Someone to celebrate, struggle, and grow with. How amazing it is to have someone you choose, who never ceases to choose you first.

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