An article about love caught my attention, which was a surprise. I am not a sappy person. I don't read romance novels, look for romantic gestures, or prefer romantic comedies. Yet this one had a message that spoke to me deeply. I don't know that I agree with it in its entirety, but it certainly made me think. It said that we get three loves. The first is a puppy love that makes us feel like everything about love is ideal. The second is the love that demonstrates how you don't want to be loved. The third is the love that shows you the strength of it, how love can change you.
As with all people who cross our paths, these loves have a specific purpose. According to the article, the first love is more for show, it is what you think love should be like, even if you're not convinced that it's as great as you make it look. I disagree. I recall my first love. I was in eighth grade, he was in tenth. I had known him for years and not thought much of him until the day he told my neighbor that he was into me. All of a sudden, I liked him and wanted to be his girlfriend. In an unexpected turn of events, my parents allowed me to date him. There were a ton of rules, but we got to know each other and I saw him in a different light. I liked that he was older, that he was into sports, how he tried to impress me whenever he could. Looking back, it was definitely an innocent love. There was no pressure, we focused on spending time together when we could, but had most of our memories in a group with our families, cousins and friends around. It taught me that love doesn't have to be complicated. We broke up when I entered ninth grade and felt torn between spending time with him, and tending to my education. I chose education and learned that I was strong enough to choose myself when it came to matters of the heart. That is a lesson I am grateful to have learned young and with my first love.
My second love, the more toxic one came during college. I went back and forth with a guy that deep down I knew wasn't right for me. We even talked about marriage and a future. While my gut rejected that idea, my smile tried to convince me otherwise. I liked so many things about him, and isn't the plan supposed to be to find a husband in college and get married soon after? That's what I thought I was expected to do. At the same time, I wanted more for myself. I wanted to live on my own, start a career on my terms, live wherever that career took me, and experience living on my own away from family and the safety of a college campus. The fear that I wouldn't get to do all those things drew on the courage of my first love and when graduation came around, I was able to walk away and be true to myself and to him that we did not have a future. It was hard and I missed him. I missed the idea of having someone and sharing all the new things that were happening in my life, and I sometimes doubted my choice, but in time, I knew it was best.
As life often does, my third love came completely unexpectedly when I wasn't looking or even thinking about a man in my life. Warren was my friend for a year before telling me how he felt about me. I was completely taken off guard, but like my first love, once I knew how he felt, I began to feel it, too. We dated for another year, and were engaged for another before we were married. In that time, the love felt worlds different than any other. It was all encompassing. I loved loving him and being loved by him. When we talked about the future it was impossible to think of it without him in it. I didn't want anyone else. I knew with everything in me that this was my ultimate love. It would be the one that permeated all aspects of my life and made me into the woman I wanted to become.
In that love I learned what I want out of a partner. I learned how to intertwine my hopes and dreams with someone else, and how to support theirs without sacrificing mine. It was eye-opening to say the least. Our relationship wasn't perfect by any means, but the love still feels like the perfect love. It is the love I look for in all other loves. By that I am not only talking about romantic love. I want to learn and grow from and love loving all the loves of my life - from family and friends, to my passions and dreams. Loving them fiercely and without shame gives my life gusto. Being loved as I was lifted me to a place where anything seemed possible and I want to give that in return. Having felt that love so purely and all encompassing, I know it's out there. Unlike the article, I am not limiting my life's loves to three. Love is ever-evolving and comes with all kinds of new experiences, people and interests. Looking forward to 2017, it feels like the best time to think about how to let love flow and allow myself to be loved as I know I can be - whether that be by others, or by loving myself.