The most amazing thing happened last year: I got my heart broken for the first time!
It was a sh*tty time, so you’re likely wondering what’s up with the exclamation point. It is likely the single most impactful thing that has happened up to this point in my growth, and I am really freaking grateful it happened. I had spent seven years, including the first few years of adulthood, in an unhealthy relationship with my best friend. You could say I learned a lot, both from the relationship, and from the break up.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2015 (nearly six months post-break up and finally feeling positive about moving forward); an old friend—someone I’d chronically had a crush on—contacted me to ask for some friendly advice. My heart did cartwheels. We both were in such different places geographically, but started to chat fairly regularly, realizing there was a joy in sharing funnies with the other.
I cannot lie; my heart hadn’t felt so full in a long time, the day we made plans to have lunch while I was home visiting family. Beyond that lunch, I didn’t assume much communication would happen, especially with him heading across the world for a holiday. I was wrong. We continued to chat and share music, laughs, goals, and long late-night conversations.
If I’d had a crush on him before, what the hell was this? We were chatting nearly every day, and my heart swelled whenever I saw a message from him. I was far too shy to actually say anything so somewhere during spring or early summer, we stumbled on making plans for him to visit.
I started feeling nervous. As. Hell. He is someone I had long-wanted but didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to pursue. This was terrifying. I was not ready. As strong as I’d felt in January, I started to see the gaps I had when it came to loving myself. I started to see the improvements that needed to happen before I could let myself attempt something beyond friendship with anyone, especially him: the guy my friends from high school and even college could tell you I had been gaga over for forever.
Part of me started pulling back, reigning in my feelings because I was fearful.
Not that there was any clear indication that he felt romantically toward me. I had to take a trip to Central America for graduate school in July and he planned to visit about a week after I returned. It is incredible what that trip to Belize did for my nervousness. I had two weeks to make great new friends, get out on the ocean (my happy place) and meditate under the stars.
August 1st, 2015 was the day he was coming to visit (and stay with me for a week). It was also one year to the day that my seven-year relationship had ended. Things felt full circle and surreal. For the sake of brevity I will say this: The feelings of attraction and desire to pursue each other were mutual. We had a wonderful, extended visit, and then I followed up his August visits with a trip in September to the West Coast to see him. That’s when it happened.
The thing that I felt had been so great about our connection was mutual vulnerability. We were both open, both honest, and honestly, neither of us was really ready to focus on a romantic relationship. Distance isn’t easy, but I would say that wasn’t really my personal concern.
My concern was that I didn’t love myself enough yet to be any good to a partner. The only way I could fix that was to continue to work on my goals, my strengths, and continue to acknowledge my weaknesses, without worrying about building a life around someone else or a relationship. I had to think long and hard about the fact that the trip to California was bittersweet, because we started the trip with a talk about why this can’t happen right now.
Though I still enjoyed his company, I was trying to keep myself together because I was hurt that we had become so close, so intimate and now we were taking steps backward. This felt like being kicked in the teeth, not by him, but by the situation. I am always open with people in my life, but I had been vulnerable with him effortlessly.
Vulnerability is hard when you’ve been hurt before.
Throughout the past year, I have read so much about the importance of being vulnerable if you want to truly love and be loved by someone, so I decided I would risk it. When I first returned from California, I felt like I made a huge mistake being vulnerable with him, letting myself have a taste of something I wanted someday but not now.
I felt overwhelmingly melancholy, which is not in my typical nature (I am frequently picked on for my resting nice face). I challenged myself to examine whether I was deeply saddened for a good reason or because I just couldn’t have something I wanted (there is science about desirable — I’m not making that up!). I could not find a reason why I shouldn’t be sad.
The mutual feelings were there, and knowing my track record of liking this dude, I don’t expect them to disappear. I ultimately felt sad because I was seeing no way it could ever come together in the future, this taste was all I’d ever get, and we likely wouldn’t come back around to explore this connection further.
I’d realized on the flight back from California, that I was in love with him, and I felt like a total fool to feel love that could give me no guarantees of reciprocation. Because, surely, love is supposed to have a happy ending, and despite the cuteness overload that was “our story” up to this point, I could not count on the manifestation of mutual love.
So, let me tell you why all of that bullsh*t doesn’t matter. Love doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t make us sad. Not true when it’s genuine love. What was aching was my ego. My ego felt bruised but my heart felt full. My heart still feels so full when I think of the time I did have with him because it was raw. I felt seen and appreciated and for that I am grateful.
I thought I knew about love because I had been with my ex for so long and through so much turmoil, but honestly, I am only just learning what it is to truly care for someone. I am not sure I will ever tell this person I love him. I am not sure I need to.
I think it is wonderful to lean in to my feelings and ache a little and become more self aware of how human we all are in our quests to find love. Don’t try to find love. Be love. Love yourself, radiate that love onto people around you. No experiences with genuine love will leave you sour. They will only leave you better than they found you. You will grow and maybe so will the other person.
It is a beautiful thing to exercise your heart, but don’t forget to listen to your mind as well. It’s okay to let things be what they are for the sake of making yourself a priority. My heart is full and my memories are rich. I am able to refocus my energies on loving and growing myself so that someday I will be ready to share tremendous love with someone else.
Make sure you are wholly in love with yourself. Self love is a gift that keeps on giving.
Author: Megan Baillie
Photo: Jose Manuelerre/Flickr
Editor: Jean Weiss