According to my friends and family, I've been pegged an all out hopeless romantic. Looking back at my childhood, I suppose one could lay blame on the endless viewing of Disney Princess movies and sappy boy-band ballads saturating my boombox speakers. Suffice to say, my views have definitely been tested and have changed quite since that time. It has taken a few hills, twists, bumps and loops, but I feel like I'm in a place where I can now speak confidently about my experiences, and where I want those experiences to take me from this point on.
I've said this before, but my four years of high school felt like living in a sandbox; it seemed like there weren't a lot of options, especially when it came to dating. I liked a few guys, but I think I was more attracted to the idea of them, rather than being attracted to their personality or the way that they carried themselves. On the other end, I don't think that any of them were ready for me, because as much as I tried to deny it, I wanted something that's almost unheard of when you're fifteen or sixteen years old.
Thus far, I have fallen in love at least one time. Although I was young, I believed he was absolutely perfect. The circumstances made things difficult though, being that he was hardly every single and therefore I could never express how I felt. And when I became comfortable enough to do so, we we already heading in different directions. I invested a lot of time in him, and I learned a lot from it. However, not everybody is meant to stick around forever.
The whole concept became more confusing as I was introduced to the casual hook-up culture the often permeates college campuses. As hard as it is to say, I constantly tried to convince myself that no strings attached was what I wanted, simply because I thought that's what you were supposed to do as a freshman. There were only two, but that was enough to make me hate it in the end.
Thankfully, neither encounter that I had went very far, and their true colors became visible early on (or should I say, right when I was willing to admit to myself that I actually felt something deeper than physical attraction). It did initially hurt that I wasn't wanted, even if they weren't genuine reasons. But as I've gotten to know myself, I've seen that those failures were God's way of saying "this is not you, and this is not what I want for you."
I'm not passing judgment against anyone that does partake in that kind of thing, because I think a lot of it has to do with where you're at in life and whether or not you can emotionally handle it. Some can, and other's can't. I realize now that I need something deep and intimate, not shallow and superficial.
Of course there's that whole debate about experience and how you won't know what you want unless you experiment. I may not have had the most conventional experiences, but I don't think one has to exclusively be with someone to figure out what they like or don't like.While I may not have been seriously involved with anyone, they have definitely been relationships in their own right. It's almost like I've learned more of what not to do then what I should do. Like beauty, experience is all about how you see it and what you choose to take out of it. I have friends that have a ton of experience with the opposite sex, but sadly they act like they haven't learned a damn thing.
So far, the most profound truths have not come from years past, but from this particular year in itself.
This has become a bit of cliche saying on this blog, but I honestly believe that we'll never be able to give love to another unless we treat our own person the same way. You cannot be with someone and expect them to reassure you all the time, nor should you live to constantly build up someone else. You have to be able to look at your own reflection and realize that you're worth getting to know, and you're with taking the time to fall in love with. More importantly, you have to allow others to see that.
With that being said, you should also love yourself enough to be truthful about what you want, as well as setting limits and boundaries. For a long time I didn't do any of that because I didn't want to be critical or picky. By not doing so, I enabled pretty much anyone and everyone to treat me like crap. When I finally thought about it (and wrote it down) it gave me a clearer picture of the kind of people that I want to have in my life, as well as the ones I'd like to keep out.
I won't go into all the details, but it's really important to me that a man stays true to his word, and allows an equal exchange of giving and taking. It shouldn't just be about him taking care of me or vice versa, but we take care of and teach each other different things. So many women complain about not having their needs being met, but I've always felt a little frustrated by the fact that I'm hardly ever given the opportunity to give advice or just be a shoulder to lean on. I don't want any of this one-sided stuff anymore. At least not after we've known each other for a good amount of time.
The second insight has a lot to do with the biggest regret that I have in regards to any guy from my past, especially with the one that I seriously fell for. If nothing else, I wish I had taken the time to enjoy what we had instead of focusing so much on the future. I was either in a state of wanting or in a state of worry. And while doing the opposite may not have changed the direction we were headed in, I would at least have felt more at ease because I soaked in and cherished as much as I possibly could.
It is why these days I am very much an advocate of learning to be friends first before becoming lovers. It enables you to really get to know the other person while building a solid foundation. So if for whatever reason it doesn't work out, at least there is a friendship there.
Personally, I really like the concept of taking it slow. I think being vulnerable is important, if not essential at some point, but there is also the right time and place to let your guard down. I once had it in my head that the sooner I opened up to someone, the closer we would become and therefore, it would last. Unfortunately, that has proved not to be the case most of the time. Whenever I did, he would leave sooner or later.
Don't get me wrong, I do have my share of fears, and I think it's healthy to be a little afraid. Yet, I don't want to go into a situation always thinking that I'll get hurt. You have to be able to find both a healthy balance between using your head and following your heart. Don't be afraid to seek advice, but there is such a thing and second guessing.
I know that love is not a fairytale, nor is it the ultimate key to happiness. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work, and there's no way to avoid ever making mistakes
When all is said and done, you have two choices: You can either close your eyes and hide your face until it's over, or you can throw your hands up, smile, and appreciate what you have for what it is.
Let me be clear that I don't know everything, and I still have a lot to learn. I don't know when love will happen or how often; but that's all right with me because in the end, I choose quality over quantity.
But when it does happen, I'll be ready.