Growing up I was enamored by fairytales, awed by what I was taught to be real life’s magic – love. I was obsessed with the concept because it taught me that there’s hope in romantic love, most other areas of love were already too tarnished by fear and violence for me to believe in them. “Love” as I understood it, meant giving something first – perfect grades, perfect manners, and perfect everything – if not, it meant screaming matches and silent corners. This infatuation with romantic love led to a considerable stack of notebooks full of hearts and cheesy badly written poetry revolving around the one-true-love of the week – or the month in special cases.
By eighth grade, I fell head over heels for my friend’s boyfriend. I’d love to tell you that it was magical and so sweet it made my teeth ache when it was so traumatizing I still remember screaming myself hoarse into my pillow and locking myself in my room and refusing to eat till I passed out. I discovered the terms “fuckboy”, “rebound”, and “whore” then. That was the first time love’s spell was broken and I saw it for what it was, a chance to get hurt. Love’s spell was broken many times since then.
You see, I don’t have any exes but I have too many almosts to count. Almosts are fleeting but full, they’re the person you’d get to know at a party or through your best friend’s Instagram, you’d start talking and you won’t quit for at least a couple of weeks, you know virtually nothing about them, but they excite you or at least, the idea of them does. Almosts are destined to fail, but if you’re as easily bored as I am, they’re all you’ve got. Fast forward to 11th grade, love suddenly became some distant dream, something that I consciously always questioned, which led to falling down the rabbit hole of psychoanalytic literature, and finally my complete conviction in the idea that love does not exist.
Love brought war to my doorstep, it brought me to my knees before the people who least deserved to see me vulnerable, it left me sobbing for something – anything – to make the pain in my chest go away, to dowse the inferno in my heart, to make it all stop. It started becoming a word that made bile rise in my throat and my gut clench with sheer dread, it left my mouth bloodied, attempting to hold the words back, I locked myself within my hurt for years in fear of love. It is absolutely wretched. It is the worst thing you can do to yourself, because then, you don’t know what to do with people’s kindness or compassion or care, you become an exposed nerve, the slightest touch zaps the life out of you, it leaves you gasping for air and trembling with absolute fright.
I used to preach “be everything to yourself” till I became a mere shell of everything I could’ve been, choking on words I no longer knew the meaning of, scrambling for any idea as to what to do or who to trust or how to function around people. All I knew was fear and it so easily translated into unimaginable fury, and so I raged at anyone – stranger, friend, or family. Disbelieving in love damaged me, more than I ever thought it could.
I think I’ve always believed myself to be hard to love. I’ve always projected the wrong image. I’ve always tried to be something with people that wasn’t really me. I created so many faces, with so many stories, thinking they’d stay that way, they never did. Oh God, stay, what an ugly fucking word. I’ve thought that word so many times I think it’s etched in my skin, scarred forever in my bones, I’d scream it in my head sometimes when I fucked over with someone, it makes me feel broken, but I think it anyway.
I never realized that moment was my salvation, the start of opening up, the start of healing. It’s been a year of warring with myself, stay locked within the comfortable and familiar hurt, remain bitter, and live in fear forever? Or take the risk, open up to love again, get hurt again, but have faith that just like everything else in the human body – a broken heart can mend itself? I didn’t even know till around a month ago that I had subconsciously chosen the latter. So, for the past month, for the first time in over a year, I feel things besides the darkness that consumed me and I’m trying my hardest to open up just a tiny bit more each day.
I can’t explain it, it feels like you’ve been drowning and someone suddenly pulled you out, it’s too many things to identify but it feels good nonetheless.
The entire purpose of this long story is that love is neither destructive nor constructive, you choose what to make with it – much like anything else. Yet, I find myself wishing you believe in love, not in the absurd mass mediated bullshit you see in “classic” rom-coms and chick flicks, but love in the way it is supposed to be seen, a combination of respect and compassion.
Love is not showering you in gifts, it’s making sure you consent to anything you both do. Love is not just romantic, it translates into all aspects of your life. Love is not 3AM calls and red roses, it is always making time for the people you love and always supporting them in their endeavors. Love is not just sex, it is about more than the body. Love is supposed to be boundaries, consent, tolerance, acceptance, respect, empathy, and compassion – whatever else you experience is also love, but it is materialistic love, abusive love, or even toxic love. Cynicism will only drive you further into bitterness and desolation, I’ve been there, and I’d rather never be again. Love is not “pure” or “all-good” or “magical”, this has not made me an idealistic naive woman, it’s just that love is whatever you choose it to be. It is so easy to confuse fear and love the way we were brought up, but there’s always a choice. I choose it to be about mutual respect, healing, growth, joy, compassion, and insane amounts of ambition.
That’s what I choose love to look like to me – what would you choose? Think about it, then cultivate it, and thank me later.