As I rolled over in bed, I woke up to that sleepy-headed man that I fell in love with so many months before. The room was still dark and the sheets were splayed across the bed with no particular order to the chaos. In those small and quiet moments, I began to imagine a long life after with this man lying next to me. But it wasn't simply those moments that ignited these dreams inside of me. It was those moments where we maneuvered through the bathroom with toothbrushes in hand, just trying to make the small space big enough, for both our bodies and the love that was bursting within them. It was in the way he poured my morning coffee and sat next to me patiently until the sleep fell from the corners of my eyes. It was in those intimate, yet simple moments that I could envision a life with him.
I met a lady last night that told me stories of how her fourteen year old granddaughter thought she was "in love." As I began to giggle at the silly little things she would say about this situation, I began to see myself in them as well. When she stopped talking, I told her how I used to think I was in love back at that age too. I recalled the moments, even in middle school, when I believed I was in true love. Then the moments in high school when I was convinced that i was going to move five hours away from my family to be with the man of my dreams. I remembered all the silly little promises I made back then, all the whispered "I love you's" at the end of late night phone conversations. I remembered all the highs of being "in love" so young. And then I finally remembered all the heartbreak that followed. I remembered realizing for the first time that I didn't want to uproot my whole life for this man so far away. I remember the moment that I finally understood that true love wasn't supposed to hurt that bad and true love wasn't supposed to break me. I remembered that morning in church that I could barely even breathe. I remembered it all. And last night, I prayed to God that this lady's granddaughter didn't have to go through nearly as much heartbreak as I did. I prayed that when true love comes, she would recognize it. And when love shows up, it would be exactly how she has always imagined it.
In the moment that my friend told me that her views had changed, there was less judgement and more concern. I didn't jump straight to thinking that she was wrong, but rather I was worried about her wellbeing. She is young, naive, always has been. A year ago, she would have been me and I would have been her. You see, I was always the one with a sort of self-destructive streak inside of me. Sometimes it was never intentional, but it was a part of who I was. And after a few good years of living my life, having "fun", I was starting to realize that my views were wrong. I was stealing away the possibility of happiness for myself later on. And now a year later, my friend is doing the same thing. The only thing that has changed our lives is that I have found people in my life who support me in the right ways, while she has simply found one person who is leading her down paths she vowed never to visit. It is just sad, really, because I see myself in her. She has no clue how much she is going to miss those pieces of herself and how hard it will be to get parts of them back. She doesn't even realize she will lose some aspects of herself forever from this point of decision.
Isn't it crazy how we train our minds to remember only what we allow? For the past four years, I have trained myself to become a different person. In no way is this a bad thing; it's just that it hurts a thousand times worse when the past finds a way to catch up with you and forces you to remember what you so neatly tucked away in the back of your mind. For me, it was something as simple as a tv show. As soon as that horrible scene flashed across my laptop screen, my head became flooded with memories. I suddenly remembered the struggling and the screaming and the guilt I felt for months after. I remember being scared to even walk outside of my house in fear that you would be right next door. I remember the months of panic attacks when someone would touch me from behind or even touch me without my consent. I became my own worst enemy. I was scared of everyone; I was trying to protect myself even from the people who didn't even want to harm me. I remember the scars that came along as a result of the pain that I felt in that moment. That moment seemed to last for too many months to count. That moment broke me until I rebuilt myself years later.
As I walked across the stage, I didn't feel my life change. Everyone has always told me that today would be some magical day. But really, I was just counting down the minutes until I could go home and curl up next to the man I love. I wasn't interested in being surrounded by hundreds of sweat-covered adolescents who never seemed to care much for me either. For half of high school, I don't feel like I was ever really there. Freshman year, I was chasing an older boy who lived five hours away because I sure he loved me. Sophomore year, I was just trying to find someone to give me love and ended up chasing right back after the same older guy from the year before. Then junior year came, and I swore I was done begging to be loved by a guy who didn't seem to love me at all. In turn, I fell in love with a guy who tried to give me his all but came up just a little too short. He wasn't quite capable of loving me fully because he too had once loved a little too hard. I spent half of that year heartbroken and searching. By the time summer came, I found the love of my life. I spent my summer then my senior year consumed with this amazing guy. I would count down the days and then the hours until I was out of that place to just spend a nice, quiet night with him. I spent my high school experience chasing after guys and giving my heart away far too easily. But once I met the one who made it all count, it seemed as if these big moments were insignificant. My life didn't change by simply walking across a stage. My life changed the moment when the people in it really started to matter.