“First Love Lessons”

Your first love might not be the love of your life, but they’re always an introduction to the wonderful and painful duality of romance.

            In a few years, my first love will walk the aisle and marry the love of his life – a woman who, by the way, isn’t me. Though he and I have not spoken, my friends continue to bug me about whether or not have I moved on. In fact, whether anyone believes it or not, I’m truly happy that he has made all of my old teenage dreams come true: he has become a man.

My first love broke my heart in ways that nobody else ever will. But even now, with the romance goggles off, I can tell you that he remains to be one of the people whose presence impacted my life in the most profound of ways. I am going to write about first love today and I refuse to do so sadly. I’m going to write about it, about the time my heart went free-falling into the unknown, with complete gratitude for everything the experience – and the boy – has taught me.

(So, V, though you will probably never read this, thank you. This is for you.)

            I was 18 when I met my first love. Believe it or not, he was like the movies told me he’d be – tall (since he is a basketball varsity player), handsome, rich and arrogant boy who liked teasing me at every possible opportunity. In fact, he’s an exact opposite of my ideal guy. If someone had sat me down back then and told me that he was the boy who would give me my real taste of love and heartbreak, I would’ve angrily objected. With that, I have to tell you that that was the first major lesson. I had pigeonholed love and attracted into neat, careful boxes. It was a refreshing surprise to find that love does not discriminate. Instead, it keeps you open. Love does not care if you have a type; it isn’t concerned at all about the story you carefully built up in your head. And when it happens, when first love hits, it’ll be more than happy to ruin everything you thought you knew. So the boy least likely to ended up winning my heart.

My first love did not romance me right away so I got put in the friend zone for a really long time. A lot of people hate this and fear that being friends means winding up on a dead-end road, but I disagree. While it was difficult to deny my growing feelings for this boy, our friendship was too delicious to feel bad about. We were held together by secrets and really long telephone conversations, and a hundred inside jokes. At the end of the day, it was a wonderful thing in itself to simply connect with someone and know, for sure, that they were on your team no matter what. The simple beauty of having a pal – my first love taught me that.

When the time came that we slowly started falling in love with each other, I was terrified. We were stepping into volatile territory, stepping into spaces we could never turn back from. What if we were wrong? What if this–everything–was wrong? But it was in those moments that my first love taught me something that I’m happy to carry to this day: that there is nothing wrong with joy. The fear existed because of questions I could not answer unless I willingly embraced the unknown. So I did. Or rather, we did. And while we were undeniably scared, that terror was trumped by something far greater: utter elation. It is a joy to hold each other in the free fall, to cross the great dividing line and hope against hope that you both make it. Only a few other feelings rival falling in love and they are: a cold glass of water after climbing a really high mountain, being told by your parents that they are proud of you, and riding an airplane to a completely new destination. The sensation it brings covers life in a wave of temporary golden goodness and the best one could do while caught in the moment is to simply enjoy it. And to this day, even our bad breakup (though there was never an us) cannot mar how great and awesome it was to fall together.

We were together for a time… until we weren’t. Things happened along the way (there are some things that even joy can’t fix) and my first love broke my heart. Even after I was left hanging, I continued to love anyway, hoping that love itself would be enough. The problem with me back then was that I was heavily fixated on being loved back. My first love moved on way before I could, which made me think that what we had gone through together was pointless and irrelevant. One morning I woke up and realized that it didn’t really matter how he felt about us or about me. Nobody could change, refute, or deny the fact that I had exercised my young fragile heart. I had opened it up. I had let it be vulnerable. I had allowed both grief and joy. For a brief of moment in time, I had become part of a miracle: I had loved. And just like that, my first love taught me that love doesn’t have to be reciprocated for it to be real.

The first time you fall in love, you push off the cliff without a parachute, confident that hope and idealism will be enough to save you. But the reality is that your first love is often the one who knocks you to the ground and leaves you emotionally winded. They teach you the beauty of romance and how beautiful things don’t always last. And when it’s all over, when you’re finally ready, they teach you one final thing: that it’s okay. That you can recover from the worst. And, when it’s time, that you can love again. Perhaps it is even better than the first time around.

 

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