I’ll never forget what my college best friend said to me as I sat in her passenger seat, my feet up on the dash and hand floating lazily out the open window. We were driving down the I-5, heading back from what would have been a lovely girls’ day filled with memories of flowers, sweets, and sun, when she turned to me, shaking her head. She had that ‘know-all’ look in her eyes, scoffing as I told a story about my current boyfriend and his plans to move back across the country and start our life together. “You’re always in love,” she said, “I think you’re being foolish.”
Perhaps, in some ways, she was right. I was always in love. From one monogamous relationship to another (with few substantial breaks in-between, mind you) I wasn’t looking for ‘casual’ or ‘no strings attached.’ I was looking for the real thing.
And so, in my mind, that materialized into relationships where I felt things and fell hard.
I loved because that’s what I wanted: a relationship that mattered. Above all, I desired the type of love that wasn’t about the temporary or the moment, but something meaningful — phone and FaceTime calls, long distance, fighting against time zones and expectations, and moving back across the country with heads filled with hope for making things work.
My friend was speaking with logic. I’ll be the first to admit, even now, that my track record with men has been less-than-stellar. In the past I had fallen for boys who weren’t sure how to love, for guys who took me for granted at every opportunity they could, and even for a man whose toxicity was frightening. But even in her bringing up this past, I wasn’t ashamed.
In each one of those relationships, I believed in something and went for it. I gave that man my intensity and trust. And I loved, unapologetically and fully.
Despite the final outcome, all of that felt worth it to me.
In some respects, my friend’s caution was valid. At the time I had only been dating my boyfriend for six months, and he came with what the world considers ‘baggage’ — a nine-year-old son that lived with him full-time. To her, I was perhaps ‘throwing away’ a life of well-deserved selfishness, or trading my freedom for the ‘unfathomable’ occupation of motherhood in my twenties.
What she didn’t realize, though, (and what most people observing from the outside don’t) is that when you love someone, their past isn’t dead weight. Their lives, children, and decisions are not burdens. And the conversations you have behind closed doors shape your story far more than perceptions from people who aren’t in it ever will.
My friend was worried about me falling in love again, and falling for another ‘wrong one.’ She was afraid of having to pick up the pieces of a broken-hearted friend who had foolishly given everything to a man who could potentially only be a ‘maybe.’
What she didn’t see, is that loving this ‘maybe’ was worth every risk.
Love, to me, has always been all or nothing. When I choose to give someone my time, to let him in my life, it’s not half-assed. If I choose to pursue a relationship, it’s because I see myself in this man’s arms permanently, because I’ve taken the time to envision if this is what I want and said ‘yes,’ and because I believe in something greater than myself — with him, with us.
See, the world wants to caution you to ‘be safe,’ to ‘wait for the one,’ and to ‘protect your heart’ at all costs. While this is useful advice, it’s also weighed down by fear. If you’re stepping into the waters of love with only your toes, you’ll never fully feel how beautiful it is to be swept up in the waves. If you’re always waiting for this grandiose love to fall into your life, you’ll miss the person standing right in front of your eyes. And if you’re looking to protect yourself rather than fall, you’ll never know who’s truly wrong and right for you.
Every mistake brings you closer to the person you’re meant to be with. Every person you fall into only teaches you, heals and strengthens you, and grows you into the person you’re already on the way to becoming.
People will caution you with every decision you make. They will tell you to hold back, to be a little less, and to stop leading with your heart over your head. But you can’t let the world change the way you love.
Sitting in that car with the windows down and the sun on my face, I knew I didn’t have the answers. I couldn’t predict the future, and I didn’t know whether my boyfriend and I would become forever.
But loving him was a chance I would willingly take.
And I haven’t regretted it since.