Love is a word we all encounter every day. The symbolism of love comes in many forms because it means something different to everyone. Especially when love for a significant other is being established and being experienced for the first time, it can be the most fragile, the most confusing, and the most painful kind of love you will ever experience.
My first love was just that. Fragile, confusing, and painful. And nothing I could ever have prepared myself for. Especially when entering high school at the ripe age of fifteen. We met during our freshman year of high school and instantly became best friends, but it wasn’t until our sophomore year of high school that we started dating only after he had built up enough courage to ask me to homecoming. After that night, you couldn’t find one of us without the other for the rest of high school.
Graduation had come around and we had both chosen different colleges. We were going to be within the same state, but with an 8-hour drive between us. As cliché as it sounds, we really thought we could make it work. We thought our love and our relationship was stronger than any distance (a naïve thought very common amongst girls in college.) We were inseparable our first year in college, making trips to see each other as much as possible, talking on the phone for hours, and skyping every night. Things were great. But then the trips became further apart, phone calls were being delayed, hours or even a whole day would go by without us speaking. I figured something was up, but honestly, I was blind sighted by love. I kept telling myself everything was fine between us and I had nothing to worry about.
Eventually, trips started to become awkward, new friends came around in his life, and things just weren’t the same between us anymore. Every day I started to feel more and more like I was no longer fitting into his life as perfectly as I once thought. They were awkward. But my mind was so fixated on our relationship and making it work that I overlooked all of this. I told myself that he was just busy with school and once he graduated and moved back home everything would go back to the way it was. We would go back to normal. He had been the center of my universe for six years. No way was I giving up on us.
But one day, he decided that I wasn’t his universe anymore and he gave up on us. I was devastated and completely blindsided. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me after all these years, after all the laughter and the love and the traveling and the family holidays spent together he gave up on us. He gave up on me. My heart was broken, I was broken. The world I had once known and had become so dependent on had disappeared.
I didn’t know what to do. Not only had I lost my boyfriend, I lost my best friends. He and I had been together since high school, so naturally, we had all the same friends and formed the same circle. They all disappeared when he disappeared. I was in a place that I had never known before. I was lonely, I had no one to talk to and no one who really cared. So, the only real feeling I knew was hopelessness.
Waking up every day was so mundane and lifeless. I had nothing real in my life. My parents really didn’t understand what I was going through. They didn’t know how to deal with their eldest and only daughter who had just gone through her first real heartbreak. They were each other’s first loves, so they had no real idea how it felt to lose one.
When word of my breakup got around, an old roommate from college reached out to me to see how I was doing. She made me realize there was more to life than him. Throughout our relationship, I always put him first. Losing friends was my fault because I never attempted to make my own. We had our friends and that was good enough for me at the time. But now, I realize that was not the right thing to do. You see, he was my whole life, my universe as I said, so I never really had a life of my own. He was my life. When he left, he took my life with him.
Finding friendship with my old roommate brought me back to life. She came back into my life at my lowest and weakest point and she truly revived me. She let me vent to her for hours and cry to her whenever a song came on that reminded me of him. The closer we got, the more I realized how much friends really matter in your life. She taught me that friendships are the most important relationships that you will ever have in your life, besides the relationship you have with yourself.
With her love, support and friendship, I found myself. She helped me take back my life. She taught me how to stand up for myself. We went to the beach and had horror movie marathons and sleepovers and ate more pizza than anyone probably should. But, it was the most liberating feeling to find out who I was again.
Finding a best friend actually taught me more about myself than losing my first love. They say breakups teach you a lot about yourself, but that wasn’t the case for me. I threw myself into my friendships and blossomed into a better version of myself. It was as if the breakup had made me realize I wasn’t reaching my full potential. I had grown so much and learned so much about myself in that year, it’s hard to recognize the person I was during my relationship. I depended so much on my boyfriend for happiness, that I never realized all I needed to truly be happy was myself.
Being single has been incredibly therapeutic. I have discovered more about myself than I ever have before. I have grown to become independent, vivacious, and spontaneous. I once was timid and thought my only happiness was when I was playing the role of someone’s girlfriend. Being single is being able to pick any show on Netflix, eating a whole box of pizza by yourself (or still having to share it if your bestie is there), and enjoying time with people you love. Family and friends have become the center of my world. I now realize how important they are to me, and how they should be to everyone.
I’m not saying relationships are terrible and you need to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend immediately to fully become independent and to find yourself. But I want you to know that the most important thing you need to do is to take time and figure out who you are. Go discover yourself. Go on adventures, meet new friends, travel, eat a lot of pizza and binge watch as many shows as you want and know that you are an independent woman who doesn’t need any version of a man to exist. Love doesn’t only come in the form of “significant other.”
Love yourself. Love who you are. Love your friends. Love your family. Love your life. That is the key to finding who you are. That is the key to happiness.